Tania Leon, composer and conductor
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New York Times Music Review
Earthy Cuban Sounds, Rendered With an Urban Complexity
by Allan Kozinn

If you've been curious about the state of new music in Cuba, Sequitur offered an answer of sorts in its program at Merkin Concert Hall on Monday evening. But it was an answer with an asterisk, for although the six composers on the program were all born in Cuba, and most began their musical training there, they live elsewhere now.

Still, most of the music keeps its Cuban roots clearly in focus, even when techniques and textures are as eclectic as can be. In ''Conjuration'' (2003), Jorge Martín begins with an alternation of slow, tolling sections and bursts of manic energy, but the score melts into an essay in transformed folk melody. Lyrical clarinet lines and rustic violin themes are accompanied by piano and cello figures steeped in Latin rhythms, yet the more acerbic writing of the opening section is always close at hand.

Keyla Orozco's ''Para Tí Nengón'' (1998), a transfixing percussion work, elaborates on rhythmic patterns typical in nengón, a form native to eastern Cuba, from which the later popular styles son and changui evolved. Ms. Orozco's four-movement fantasy begins with comparatively simple, light-textured patterns, played on wood blocks, but its rhythms grow increasingly complex as the players — Matthew Gold and Eduardo Leandro — move to bongos and tom-toms, then to bell-like instruments and percussive vocalizations.

Percussion peeks through a large ensemble to provide much of the Cuban accent in Orlando Jacinto García's ''Musica Para Segovia'' (1994) as well, although the work's muscle is more cosmopolitan. At first, Mr. García's music is a study in sound and silence, with aphoristic phrases — sometimes only a single chord — surrounded by rests. But the silences fall away as the phrases grow longer and blossom into thick string, woodwind, piano and percussion textures that, for all their heft, are rarely louder than mezzo-forte.

Elizabeth Farnum, the soprano, brought a welcome suppleness to Sergio Barroso's ''Verdehalago'' (2006). The vocal line is essentially lyrical, but with occasional leaps that give it a hint of angularity and keep it from becoming predictable. Just as striking, though, is the instrumental writing, for violin, percussion, bass and electronic sound that mostly mirrors the instruments and voice.

The program also included Ileana Perez Velazquez's ''Cípres'' (2003), in which a prominent flute line yields an almost Gallic flavor, and Tania León's ''Toque'' (2006), a rhythmically vital score in Ms. León's characteristically ebullient style.

Paul Hostetter conducted the works by Ms. León, Mr. García and Mr. Barroso, and the Sequitur musicians played with consistent precision and verve.

Read the article at the New York Times' site: