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Ignacio Cervantes (1847 - 1905)



Ignacio Cervantes (July 31, 1847 – April 29, 1905) was born in Havana, Cuba. He was a virtuoso pianist and composer. Cervantes was notably influential in the creolization of Cuban music. His music is essentially a hybrid between the European romantic piano style of the composers he admired (i.e. Chopin, Schumann, Beethoven, Weber, Mendelssohn and Liszt), and the rhythms and songs of his native Cuba. He was one of the first composers in the Americas to regard nationalism as the consequence of a people’s distinct character and temperament. He was the precursor to composers who later followed in this trend.

His first notion for piano was from his father. As a child prodigy, he was taught by pianist Juan Miguel Joval, and by composer and tutor Nicolás Ruiz Espadero in 1859, and later by the visiting American composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk. Gottschalk encouraged Cervantes to study at the Conservatoire de Paris (1866-1870) under Antoine François Marmontel and Charles-Valentin Alkan, where he was awarded first prizes in composition (1866) and harmony (1867). In Paris, he also met Liszt who admired his playing. He also received accolades from Rossini, and Gounod.

He returned to Havana in 1870 and began his artistic labor. He gave regular piano recitals and concerts, and began to conduct operas. In 1875 Cervantes and the Afro-Cuban violinist José White left Cuba when warned by the Governor-General: he had found out that they had been giving concerts all over the country to raise money for the rebel cause in the Ten Years' War. In the USA and Mexico, Cervantes continued to raise money by giving concerts until the Pact of Zanjón brought a cease in the conflict. He returned in 1879 and took up the baton, and began to take on students, one of whom was Eduardo Sánchez de Fuentes, who would become one of the more important Cuban composers of the twentieth century.

He left again in 1895 when the Cuban War of Independence started, being forced into exile for political activities. During his exile, Cervantes toured the United States extensively (1875-1879), and also began composing his long series of Danzas Cubanas. This exile led to one of his most beautiful piano compositions, the melancholic and nostalgic Adiós a Cuba.

Throughout his life, Cervantes' musical output remained light as he wrote two operas Maledetto, (1895) and Los saltimbanquis, (1899), various chamber pieces Scherzo cappricioso, (1885), zarzuelas, El Submarino, (1889) and the famous forty-five Danzas Cubanas, (1875-1895). He wrote his one symphony, the Symphony in C, (1879). He also conducted for the Opera company at Havana's Payret Theater. His Fusión de Almas was written to his daughter, María Cervantes (1885-1981), who became a well-known pianist. The later work dates to the period when Cervantes lived in Mexico (1898-1900). Cervantes returned to Cuba in 1900 and died there in 1905.



Recordings
Danzas Cubanas