And the first American to conduct in Cuba is…

And the first American to conduct in Cuba is…


norman lebrecht

July 14, 2015

Marin Alsop.

She is due to lead the National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba in October.

The concert was set up by CAMI Music as a Lang Lang promo, with a local duet pianist and a US conductor.

The Minnesota Orchestra broke the musical ice with a Cuba trip in May, conducted by Osmo Vanska. Marin will be the first US conductor to raise a baton on the island since the Obama thaw.

Marin Alsop, David Rimelis, Dan Trahey at the premiere of Rimelis' OrchKids Nation


  • Yoel Gamzou says:

    Dear Norman,
    I don’t mean to be pedantic but technically it isn’t quite accurate. I conducted a CD recording with the National Orchestra of Cuba in 2009 (Brahms’s first piano concerto) – and I am a US national… but it isn’t essential, really. Just for the record 🙂
    Best wishes,

  • Theodore Kuchar says:

    Dear Mr. Lebrecht,

    I am very happy for this event among Ms. Alsop’s numerous activities but in the spirit of correctness and out of respect for my title as the Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the Orquesta Sinfonica de Venezuela I did conduct this orchestra in Havana, Cuba in 2011 in a program of:

    Castellanos: Santa Cruz De Pacairigua (Suite Sinfónica)
    Tchaikovsky: Variations on a Rococo Theme
    Prokofiev: Symphony No. 5

    Subsequently, on the following evening, the Orquesta Sinfonica de Venezuela combined Orquesta Sinfonica de Nacional de Cuba to present a large-scale program of Venezuelan and Cuban classics, the program being shared between myself and Maestro Mesa, the Cuban orchestra’s Principal Conductor.

    All best wishes,

    Theodore Kuchar

  • Marg says:

    Cant think of a better person to be the first US conductor there since the agreement to resume relations.

  • Caroline Rae says:

    Nicolas Slonimsky conducted a Pan American Association of Composers concert in Havana in 1934; Varèse Ionisation (2nd performance, Cowell at the piano) and works by Amadeo Roldán and Alejandro García Caturla.

  • Walt says:

    Actually there have been various Americans coming across over the years. As it was illegal (US law, not Cuban) for US citizens to travel to Cuba, big names would not risk their careers by going. I do hope that these US groups will not kill classical music on the island by tempting the best players and teachers over there. That would be a tragedy: there are some 12 professional orchestras on the island: they play on crap instruments and earn 20 bucks a month but you know what? They sound amazing!