On Sunday afternoon in Barnsdall Park, a kind of culturally based equal-time proposition unfolded in the womb-like theater downstairs. Here, Cuban-born pianist Nohema Fernandez, presented in recital as part of the Cuban Cultural Festival "Cuban Presence in Los Angeles," showcased rarely heard examples of classical piano repertory from her homeland.
The idea of cohabitant cultures proved to be the prominent theme of the afternoon, as the pianist traversed a rich, informative program of music.
Fernandez engagingly covered Cuban music of the past two centuries, framed by the anonymous "San Pascual Bailo," the first piece officially published in Cuba, and Los Angeles-based, Cuban-born composer Aurelio de la Vega's 1987 piece "Homenagem (In Memoriam Heitor Villa-Lobos)," the concert's most atonal and ear-opening work.
Of special appeal was Cecilia Arizti's "Reverie," Opus 16 (c. 1897), Chopinesque meditations lined with seductive melancholy. The comfy-chair familiarity of Ernesto Lecuona's music added up to little more than populist confection, but spirits were raised by the alternately folk-hued and impressionistic works of Alejandro Garcia Caturia and Joaquin Nin-Culmell.
Carlo Borbolla's 1934 "Son No. 11" presented undulant waves of energy, while La Vega's finale neatly bridged an arid, modernist harmonic language with the undeniable thrust of Latin American rhythmic and gesture.
Fernandez's recital was designed as a set of numerous short pieces, the better to increase the scope of this survey. But one longed to hear longer, deeper playing than the circumstances allowed. She is in command of a nimble technique and can boast infectious energy and rhythmic elan, even if her performance on this occasion wasn't consistently note-perfect.