Exploring the patterns, figures and flowing ideas of Leo Brouwer



The  history  of  Cuba  in  the  twentieth  century  has  directly  affected  artistic development in that country. Following the Cuban revolution of 1959, Fidel Castro came to  power  and  with  him  a  communist  regime  whereby  almost  all  events  were  directly controlled  by  the  government,  including  artistic  expression.  This  made  it  increasingly more  difficult  for  artistic  creators  to  have  their  own  voice  as  the  government  imposed sanctions on their creativity, similar to the artistic control exercised in Russia at the same time  with  composers  such  as  Dmitry  Shostakovich  (1906–1975).  Communism  did however encourage a deep sense of nationalism in the arts and Cuba was no exception.
Perhaps this was the reason for the large Cuban folk influences in Brouwer’s music. After the  revolution,  it  became  increasingly  more  important  for  Cubans  to  establish  a  culture that  was  distinctly  their  own.  As  Brouwer  lived  through  the  revolution  and  probably received much financial aid during Castro’s regime,this need to create a distinct Cuban voice  was  strong,  as  can  be  discerned  from  the  composer’s  writings  in  his  book  La Musica: The  solution  for  a  colonized  country  is  in  suppressing  the  defining  features  of  the oppressing culture and not the common features withthe universal culture.Brouwer, Leo: La Musica, lo cubano y la innovación,(Havana 1982), 25.

This book will subsequently be referred to as La Musica. Brouwer’s  unique  and  exceptional  talent  for  innovation  through  the  assimilation  of  the ‘universal culture’ has certainly changed the common perception of Cuban art music and earned him  a place among the world’s  greatest  composers. Through  Brouwer’s diligent work  as  a  composer,  administrator,  teacher  and  performer,  the  true  cultural  identity  of Cuba has been firmly established.  In his music Brouwer manages to fuse traditional Cuban music with European ‘art music’, a concept that was virtually unheard of prior to his innovations in the field. Many of Brouwer’s works employ classical European forms such as the sonata and fugue, which are integrated with popular rhythms and sounds fromCuba, both African and Spanish in origin, as the composer himself explains…)

Alec O’Leary

Exploring the patterns, figures and flowing ideas of Leo Brouwer



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