The great Manuel Saumell

Countless are the names that Cuba has contributed to world culture. If it comes to music there is a person of unquestionable creative and interpretive value that can not go unmentioned: Manuel Saumell Robredo.

Saumell is one of those rare geniuses who self-taught music … he didn’t need to go to schools or have European-style dogmatic teachers. After starting in the musical world in a fortuitous manner he later received piano instruction from the renowned musician Juan Federico Edelman Alsatian, and when he became an adult Maurice Pyke, director of the Italian opera, taught him the basics of harmony, counterpoint, instrumentation and fugue.

At the young age of 22 he set out to write an opera with a Cuban theme, that will take place in Havana in the late sixteenth and show scenarios and background capital of the time, thus bringing back to life elements of the Cuban identity that had been lost or silent in Cuban music creation.

He is considered the precursor of what is known as musical nationalism, or the way to take to the musical genres, whether existing or newly created, elements of our Cuban identity … what makes us unique in the world. Saumell is also regarded as the father of the contredanse and other musical forms like the habanera, danzon, guajira, clave, the Creole and many other variants of the Cuban song.

It is not difficult to recognize Manuel Saumell within the Cuban musical spectrum  … musical creations as the violin and piano piece named “Idilio” (Idyll), in addition to the contredanses  “Los ojos de Pepa”, “La niña bonita”, “Recuerdos tristes”, “La nené”, “Los chismes de Guanabacoa” y “La amistad”, place him as one of the most prolific artists in the history of Cuban music.

The maestro was also president of the music section of the Havana’s Santa Cecilia Philharmonic and founder of the Literary Artistic Lyceum along Spanish pianist José Miró.

The work, life and music of Manuel Saumell Robredo have reached our days. His work is pounding at the Conservatory of Music in Havana that bears his name, where hundreds of children and youngsters take their first steps into the world of music under his invisible but enduring guidance.
 

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