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La Música

(Havana, 1948-1951)

Prepared by Esperanza Berrocal
Online only (2009)

La Música [MIC] was published in Havana by the Sociedad de Ediciones Cubanas de Música [Society of Cuban publications of music]. The journal’s run consists of eight issues published over a span of four years (nos. 1-4 in 1948; no. 5 in 1949; nos. 6 and 7 in 1950; and no. 8 in 1951). Each issue contains between twelve to twenty-seven pages, each printed in a two-column format. MIC is an indispensable source for understanding the cultural richness Cuba enjoyed in the late 1940s. The journal’s content is consistently ordered in two parts: the first contains four technical (scientific) articles on music; the second part contains national reviews treating Havana and the Cuban provinces, and foreign news. A one-page essay on topics related to music concludes each issue.

The contributors associated with La Música are associated with the members of the Grupo de Renovación Musical which was created in 1942 by José Ardévol (1911-81) for dissemination of contemporary music in Cuba, including Adrévol’s own compositions and those of his disciples at the Conservatorio Municipal de La Habana. Curiously the year MIC begun publication, 1948, coincides with the disintegration of the group. This fact did not prevent the journal to count among its contributors Ardévol and the members of the Grupo Renovación: Serafín Pro, Edgardo Martín, Argeliers León, Harold Gramatges, Hilario González, Dolores Torres Barrós and Juan Antonio Cámara. The journal’s well-known editor Alejo Carpentier (1904-80) is acknowledged today as one of the pioneer music historians in Cuba.

The journal focuses primarily on the activities of the Grupo Renovación; giving detailed accounts of first performances of compositions by its members, and includes analyses of selected works written by the composers themselves (for example, Ardévol’s Tres sonatas, Martín’s Fugas para cuerdas and Argeliers León’s Concertino para flauta, piano y orquesta de cuerdas. The subjects of leading articles deal with a variety of topics related to the then current state of music in Cuba, including reports on the activities of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Havana, symphonies composed by Cuban composers, and the cultural policies of the Cuban Government; biographies of Cuban musicians (such as Florentino Herrera); and reviews of publications on Cuban folklore and music history (notably Fernando Ortiz’s Preludios étnicos de la música afrocubana, vols. I and II, and Alejo Carpentier’s La música en Cuba). In addition to offering extensive treatment of contemporary music by Cuban composers, MIC also contains articles and reviews of compositions by international contemporary composers, for the most part of North American, French or Spanish origin.

The Cuban ballets flourished at the time of MIC’s publication and occupy a significant space in the reviews, offering illuminating information on the creation of the company of Alicia and Alberto Alonso—which continues to enjoy an excellent reputation to this day— and the careers of the dancers Mariemma and Luzuriaga, and the company’s repertoire. MIC shows particular interest on current trends in paintings and cinema. There are significant articles on the renowned Cuban painters Wifredo Lam (1902-1982) and Roberto Diago (1920-1955). International cinema is consistently treated in reviews of film scores, and includes reference to prestigious filmmakers such as Eisenstein, Rossellini and Buñuel.

The review section focuses on the numerous musical ensembles and associations active in Havana and the Cuban provinces at this time. Most notably the journal covers the concerts by the Orquesta de Cámara de la Habana—founded by the journal’s instigator José Ardévol—the Sociedad Pro-arte Musical, Sociedad de Conciertos, Orquesta Filarmónica de La Habana , Amigos de la Música and Asociación Cultural. This section contains valuable information on the performances by international musicians such as Bruno Walter, Yehudi Menuhin, Adolph Baller, Claudio Arrau, Rosita Renard and Rudolf Serkin; and local musicians Josefina Megret, Hilario González, Carlos Agostini, and Jorge Bolet.

MIC has a unique perspective in the space it devotes to music and musicians from Latin American, aspects that are noticeably missed in other contemporary Spanish music journals. Thus, the journal discusses the activities of Argentinean composer Juan José Castro as conductor in residence of the Orquesta Filarmónica de La Havana; reviews the Three poems for voice and piano of Mexican Manuel Ponce and the Sonata n. 2 by Brazilian Claudio Santoro; interviews Mexican composer Carlos Chávez; gives a pertinent note on the first performances of two Argentinean composers’ compositions, Alberto Ginastera’s Lamentaciones de Jeremías and Juan José Castro’s cantata Martín Fierro. The activities of Instituto Interamericano de Musicología created by musicologist Francisco Curt Lange in 1938 are described.