Andres Alén

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The usual insipid international politics have figured heavily into the career of pianist, composer, teacher, and musicologist Andres Alén. He learned piano from his father, Osvaldo Alén, himself a performer…
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The usual insipid international politics have figured heavily into the career of pianist, composer, teacher, and musicologist Andres Alén. He learned piano from his father, Osvaldo Alén, himself a performer and instructor in New York City between 1955 and 1961. At that point, Osvaldo Alén moved his family back to Cuba and the dreaded fear of Communism started clouding the picture. The talented son published his first composition for solo piano as a teenager, but was totally denied access to the American market. His career then followed an admirable if predictable pattern for that period, his choices set with the rigidity of sugarcane due to the political scenario.

During Alén's years of study, Cuban classical performers who exhibited promise had the option of being underwritten by the former Soviet Union's cultural moneybelt. Eventually, the pianist received a scholarship for the P.I. Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow -- the ensuing heady nosh of the Russian classical school became another aspect of this artist's fascinating mixture of musical influences. Already present was a love of the diverse Latin music scene he had been exposed to in New York City as well as the vivid quilt of Cuban popular music influences that his father had provided, keeping Alén's musical toes from ever getting cold. It is no wonder, then, that this artist's career has included a traditional charanga ensemble, Christmas music, Latin jazz, choral music, and contemporary classical solo piano, as well as the keyboard pieces of Chopin and Liszt -- not to omit a major involvement in nueva trova, a socially relevant Cuban movement of the '80s influenced by folk and popular music.

Alén's performing career essentially began when he returned to Cuba from the U.S.S.R. in 1976. He performed as a piano soloist with various major orchestras and worked wherever he was allowed to according to how political dominoes were tumbling. Besides touring in the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia, he also performed in India, Germany, and Poland. In the '80s he increased his prominence in his native country as both a composer and teacher, and by the end of the decade had joined forces with the legendary Cuban trumpet player Arturo Sandoval as both keyboardist and arranger. Alén performed with a contemporary music group called Perspectiva for four years beginning in 1991. He was nominated for a Latin Grammy in 2001, more than a mild sign of the change for musicians from his background since the fall of the U.S.S.R. Alén has subsequently begun performing prominently in the United States; among the honors has been a visiting professorship at Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA.