In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, I wanted to list some of my favorite performances of a Classical Musician who happens to be Hispanic/Latinx. Growing up, I didn't really see too many Classical Musicians that 1) Spoke Spanish and 2) Were playing/singing with a major orchestra/opera company. If you're wondering where my heritage is from, I am first-generation Cuban-American on both sides. I would like to start by saying that Hispanic is all Spanish-Speaking Countries including Spain and Latinx (Latino) is all the countries in Latin America including Brazil. So, the purpose of this blog is to introduce people to musicians that you may not know that are Hispanic/Latinx and I'm not just talking about Flutists (even though Flute is my main instrument). I am talking about all Classical Musicians (Including Opera Singers and Conductors).
1. Alondra de la Parra
Alondra de la Parra (b.1980) is a Mexican-American Conductor who has conducted all over the world and most recently, she was the Music Director of the Queensland Symphony. I first heard about her back in 2015 when she was brought in as a guest conductor with the Miami Symphony Orchestra (MISO) for one of their concerts. I have heard various performances of hers on YouTube but my personal favorite performance of hers would be her 2015 recording of Danzon No.2 by Arturo Marquez where she conducted the L'Orchestre de Paris because every time I hear this recording, it gets me excited and I get goosebumps. Another thing that impresses me about her is that she conducts with so much passion and it's pretty cool that she is one of the few female conductors that I have encountered.
2. Daniel Barenboim
Daniel Barenboim (b. 1942) is an Argentinean Pianist and Conductor who has performed and conducted all over the world and his career spans about 70 years. He is currently the Music Director of the Berlin State Opera and Staakaspelle Berlin and he has previously served as the Music Director of the Chicago Symphony, Orchestre de Paris, and La Scala. He also stills tours as a concert pianist. I first heard about him around late high school/early undergrad and my favorite performances of his are his recordings of the Beethoven Piano Sonatas but out of all of them, my favorite would probably be the "Waldstein" Piano Sonata No. 21 in C Major Op. 53 . There's something about his interpretation of this sonata that leaves me mesmerized.
3. Clara Andrada de la Calle
Clara Andrada de la Calle is a Spanish Flutist who is best known as being the Principal Flutist of the Frankfurt Radio Symphony. She also has traveled around the world as a soloist and is an active recitalist and chamber musician. I first heard about her during my first year of grad school when one of my flute friends showed me her recording of the Ibert Concerto for Flute and Orchestra that was recorded back in 2018 with the Frankfurt Radio and I was instantly mesmerized by her sound.
4.Juan Diego Florez
Juan Diego Florez (b. 1973) is a Peruvian operatic tenor who is heavily associated with the Bel Canto Operas and has been singing with the Met since he made his debut back in 2002 when he sang the role of Count Almaviva in Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia (TheBarber of Seville). I first heard about Juan Diego Florez back in 2014 when I watched the BBC Documentary What Makes a Great Tenor? My personal favorite performance of his is of the aria Ah mes amis from Donizetti's opera Le Fille du Regiment (The Daughter of the Regiment) which was recorded back in 2007. I've heard various recordings of other tenors singing this aria (Pavarotti included) but none come close to this one.
5. Martha Argerich
Martha Argerich (b. 1941) is an Argentinean-Swiss Pianist who has traveled around the world as soloist, recitalist and chamber musician. She rose to prominence in 1965 when she won the International Chopin Piano Competition at age 24. I first found out about Martha Argerich when I was finishing my undergrad studies at New World School of the Arts/University of Florida, I had several pianist classmates recommend that I listen to her and now she is one of my favorite pianists to listen to. I have heard many recordings of hers but my favorite is her 1977 recording of Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No.3 in C Major Op.26 with the London Symphony under the baton of Andre Previn. For me, this recording was the one that made me think that she is "The Lioness of the Piano"
6. Paco de Lucía
Paco de Lucía (1947-2014) was a Spanish Guitarist who mainly played Flamenco Music but he also recorded some things for Classical Guitar. Sadly, he died in 2014 and for his last album, he posthumously won a Latin Grammy for Album of the Year. I first heard about him when I made my Pandora account when I was still in high school and I fell in love with his playing. My favorite recording of his is the 1991 recording of Joaquin Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez with the Orquesta de Cadaques under the baton of Edmon Colomer. It gives me goosebumps every time I hear it.
7. Viviana Guzmán
Viviana Guzmán (b.1964) is a Chilean Flutist who is best known for being one of the few musicians who sustains a solo career where she gives over 50 concerts a year in 127 countries. She delves into other genres of music and plays on different World flutes, She is the Co-founder of The Flute View Magazine, and she became Professor of Flute at the University of California at Santa Cruz. I first found out about her when I was in my undergrad and I watched one of her Ted Talks where she talked about her musical journey and she played on different flutes from around the world. Out of all the recordings that I have heard of hers, my favorite is her recording of Doppler's Hungarian Pastoral Fantasy because it's mesmerizing.
8. Gustavo Dudamel
Gustavo Dudamel (b.1981) is a Venezuelan Conductor who is best known for being the music director of the LA Philharmonic and the director of the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra (Orquesta Sinfonica de Simon Bolivar). I first heard about Dudamel when I was still in high school which was also the first time I heard about the LA Philharmonic in a PBS special where they performed an all Gershwin program and I was hooked! He has several great recordings that I like but my favorite would be his 2007 BBC Proms recording of Shostakovich's Symphony No.10 in E minor which he performed with the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra ( then called the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra).
9. Montserrat Caballé
Montserrat Caballé (1933-2018) was a Spanish Soprano who sang professionally with several opera houses around the world from the mid- 1950's up until her retirement in 2003. She was heavily associated with the bel canto repertoire (Donizetti, Bellini, and Rossini) and the works of Verdi. Sadly, she passed away in 2018. I first heard about Montserrat Caballe I believe right around the time that I started my undergrad and I love the tone that she had in her voice. I have several recordings of hers but my favorite recording of hers is an aria from Verdi's Opera La Traviata called É strano!... Ah, fors'è lui che l'anima... Sempre libera degg'io and it exemplifies the character of Violetta.
10. Ernesto Lecuona
Now I can't finish this list without mentioning the famous Cuban Pianist-Composer Ernesto Lecuona (1896-1963) because he is a staple in every Cuban household. I grew up listening to and loving his music. I felt that it would be a mistake if I didn't include him and some of the pianists that I went to school with in my undergrad played his music a lot. It was a little difficult to find recordings of Lecuona playing his own music but my favorite recording of his is of him playing two movements of his Suite Andalucia called Malaguena and Andalucia because every time I hear those two pieces especially it reminds me of the music of Chopin for the virtuosity and of the music of Liszt and Rachmaninoff for their Romantic, Passionate and almost nationalistic.
Here I decided to add some honorable mentions to my list of favorite performances by a Classical Musician of Hispanic/Latinx descent.
Nelson Freire (1944) is a Brazilian Pianist that travels around the world as a soloist and has recorded frequently with Martha Argerich. My favorite recording of his is of him playing the Schumann Piano Concerto in a minor because his playing to me is perfect for Schumann.
2. Nadine Sierra
Nadine Sierra (b.1988) is an American Soprano of Puerto Rican and Portuguese descent and she has been singing with the Met since 2015. I recently discovered her singing and probably my favorite performance of hers is of her singing Heitor Villa-Lobos' Floresta do Amazonas,W551- 4. Melodia Sentimental because she gives me chills with this particular song and I think it's worth checking out.
3. Marco Granados
Marco Granados (b. 1960) is a Venezuelan Flutist and Pedagogue who performs as a soloist and teaches masterclasses around the world. My favorite recording of his is his 2016 recording of Paul Taffanel's Grand Fantaisie on themes from the Opera Mignon because his sound suits the style of this piece very well.
Disclaimer: I do not own any of these videos and you can find more of each musicians' performances on YouTube.
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Hasta Luego Amigos!!
See you later Friends!!!