The Russian-American pianist Alexandre Moutouzkine was introduced to Cuban music by his Cuban-born, New York teacher Solomon Mikowsky, took the inspiration and ran with it, and has produced an album of fascinating music by composers who, except perhaps for Léo Brouwer, are almost unknown outside of Cuba. The big name, Ernesto Lecuona, is omitted. The pieces are all short, and they're in various styles, but without exception they combine elements of vernacular and concert music. This is true even of the tiny, early 19th century La Valentina of Tomás Buelta y Flores, and the variety of possible combinations increased exponentially as time went by. You could dip in anywhere, but try the Zapatéo Cubano of Héctor Angulo (born 1932) for a taste of how deftly these composers manipulate their popular music heritage. The Zapatéo is apparently a Cuban relative of the Spanish and Mexican Zapeateado tap dance (a slightly more detailed set of booklet notes would have been desirable with music this obscure), but here the dance rhythms are slightly displaced from their normal configuration, and rhythmic and tonal tensions are introduced. Moutouzkine's performance benefits from fine sound, captured by Steinway engineers at the label's namesake Steinway Hall in New York. A real winner, of interest far beyond the circle of Latin American classical music fans.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim