Search Results for Emporium

Aldo López-Gavilán’s Personal Fusion of Classical and Jazz Comes to Napa

Aldo López-Gavilán

Jeff Kaliss on July 20, 2021

When we connected with Cuban pianist-composer Aldo López-Gavilán last week, he was being driven by his local host, arts patron Rick Swig, to a rehearsal for Festival Napa Valley’s Novack Concert for Kids, at an amphitheater at the Culinary Institute of America’s Copia site in downtown Napa. López-Gavilán, featured at the festival over several years and in more of this year’s events, would be performing three winning compositions by Napa Valley public school teens and would also accompany the young audience’s experience of composer-vocalist Nia Imani Franklin, a former Miss America, singing Puccini’s “Quando m’en vo.”

The 41-year-old Havana resident is well acquainted with the delights of youthful exposure to music. Raised in Cuba by esteemed conductor Guido López-Gavilán and the late concert pianist Teresita Junco, alongside his 6-year-older brother and violinist Ilmar, young Aldo started chording on the family piano at age 4 and began studying music in school, as is the case with many Cubans, at 7. A Danny Kaye International Children’s Award, created by UNICEF, had him performing an original composition in Holland when he was 11, and the next year he made his professional debut on piano with the Orquesta Sinfónica de Matanzas.

López-Gavilán matured his improvisational skills alongside his classical studies and appeared at the Havana International Jazz Festival; he was declared “simply a genius, a star” by Cuban jazz titan Chucho Valdés. López-Gavilán has recorded a half-dozen albums covering his multi-genre repertoire and has toured globally, sometimes in the company of the Harlem String Quartet, where his brother Ilmar is principal violinist. His infectious exuberance and romanticism are showcased in both his compositions and in performances of his and others’ works.

The longed-for reunion of Aldo with Ilmar, who has long lived in New York, is celebrated in the documentary film Los Hermanos, directed by Marcia Jarmel and Ken Schneider and screened as part of Festival Napa Valley, as well as earlier this year by San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club. It will be seen on PBS stations in September. López-Gavilán is fluent in English, some accent and idiosyncratic usage extant.

I understand you’ll be doing a Q&A with the kids following the music today. They might be a bit curious about, and envious of, your early start in Cuba.

I guess that’s true, though I know you have music schools for kids.

When Rick and I were kids, we had more in the way of music education in our public schools. Now we have the wonderful Crowden School in Berkeley and the pre-college program at the San Francisco Conservatory, but they’re both private. Is it public in Cuba?

Absolutely. In Cuba, there are zero private schools.

Some Cuban musicians I’ve interviewed told me that though Western classical music was maintained after the communists took control in 1959, that other genres, like American jazz and pop, were repressed or discouraged in your country.

Those musicians were probably referring to the time before I was born. I’ve been able to be surrounded by all kinds of music, including hip-hop. But in Cuba, jazz is way more popular than many other genres of American music, especially because of the [Havana Jazz] Festival running every year [inaugurated in 1978]. And there are fusions with Cuban dance forms, and other styles.

You appeared at that festival with Chucho Valdés. Wow! Were you onstage with him?

I was 14, and we actually had a two-piano duet, with members of the legendary band Irakere [founded by Valdés in 1973]. And I performed, together with Chucho, one of my earlier compositions, called “Black Magic.”

Early on, did you find yourself composing in classical forms or jazz or some kind of fusion?

It was a combination. In general, my way of composing has a lot to do with improvisation, with jazz techniques and phrasing, harmonies. But the structure is somewhat close to concert music, meaning it has solid classic structure. It’s all written down, and it should be played as written. But when I’m performing, there are substantial parts with improvisation. [He’s also improvised during Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.]

Can we talk about your piece Emporium, which you’re performing later here, with Festival Orchestra Napa? Tell me about the piece and how it sits within the genres.

Let’s start by saying that this is a piano concerto, with full orchestra and piano solo and the classic structure: three movements. But of course, it’s very influenced by jazz and by Cuban and African culture. The whole thing is based on a theme that I dedicated to my daughters [Adriana and Andrea, with his wife, conductor Daiana Garcia] for their birthday, when they were 9. I improvised this theme [formed on an alluring rippling ninth chord] in the middle of the night, just to give them a surprise. [Adriana and Andrea both won the top award last year in the Pequeño Pianista category of the inaugural Concurso Latinoamericano de Piano.] Later, I started to play what would be the first movement with my jazz trio. It was more like a jazz-structured piece, where I could play the theme, then improvise around that. Later on, I decided to orchestrate it [as a concerto], because I was invited by the late great conductor Joel Revzen to perform at Classical Tahoe [in 2017, where López-Gavilán also appeared with Joshua Bell and in jazz settings]. You find that main theme from the first movement throughout the whole entire work, but with variations. I didn’t tell you that my daughters are twins, so they are always told that they’re so alike, but in a lot of details they are very personalized, and I tried to achieve that in my work.

Do tell us more. Will this piece be recorded?

We are planning to record it properly next year. The second movement is more lyrical, it tries to blend two different styles that I think are connected. One is the Black church music, like spirituals, the other is what we call in Cuba the vieja trova tradicional, beautiful romantic songs with amazing poetic lyrics, always describing love and beauty. I tried to embrace the idea of uniting the cultures. The final movement has more dramatic, unsettling rhythms, changing keys, more jazz elements [and reggaeton]. It’s very exciting but also carries the beautiful things from the first movement.

Any place for Cuban percussion in the orchestra?

There is not. I try hard to make it more universal. That’s one of the goals of my career: to not try to impose my culture over the true message you want to send, which is the beauty and deepness of emotional and spiritual language.

And the love of family seems a standard for you. Last night, the Festival presented the movie about you and your brother Ilmar, Los Hermanos. For those of us who haven’t seen it yet, tell us a bit about it and your take on it.

First of all, I’m very happy that the film was shown here, in the Cameo Cinema [in St. Helena]. I want to especially give thanks to my friend Rick Swig, who was the mind behind this. It’s hard for me to describe, because it’s about me and my family, but it’s basically about love to the family, love to music. And it describes many events of our lives, and how we got to reunite in the U.S., to tour and perform in different cities of this country, with my brother and the Harlem Quartet.

Were you two separated for a long time?

He went to study his violin in Russia when he was 14 years old and I was only 8, so he left home. Then he studied in Madrid, then came to California, and he finished his studies at the Manhattan School of Music. He basically stayed here, made a life and a family. He would go to Cuba to visit our family every year, but he was only visiting, we were not living together.

Does the documentary talk about the lifestyle differences between the two countries?

A little bit. In a very nice way, though. It’s all covered in love.

What’s been your reaction to the news over the past couple of weeks about protests in Cuba? Are American media looking for another way to make communism look bad?

First of all, I will say that I am very sad to see my people suffering so much violence between them. The people of Cuba have suffered scarcity for a long time. And, of course, there are different interests from the Cuban government and the U.S. government, especially in the Florida community, which I don’t want to talk about, because I don’t have full knowledge of that thing. What I can say is that I wish this leads to a better solution for our country.

A solution from the Cuban government?

I’m not sure that they can or are willing to. But I am not a politician, and I don’t know many of the laws that make the government do what it does. What I do know is that the people need to be heard, though there are some who just want to take advantage and make chaos. And I’m against any brutal response of the military and the police.

Is there anything in Cuba that’s like Napa?

Oh, I don’t think so! [laughs]

You’ve become a regular in Napa, and you also played the San Francisco Jazz Festival in 2014.

It was a beautiful set of concerts, in the Joe Henderson Lab, a piano solo recital, and I really enjoyed the response of that wonderful audience.

What did you play for them?

Many of my own solo piano compositions. I knew I was in a jazz venue, so there was a lot of improvisation, but you will always find in my compositions this fusion of concert and jazz and Cuban music; it doesn’t matter where I do it or how I do it. [For an example, a musical quote from the venerable Cuban son “El manisero” is audible in López-Gavilán’s performance of his Pan con Timba, with the Harlem Quartet.]

Anywhere we should be looking for you, later?

Oh, yes! I’ll be touring with the Quartet and my brother, and you’ll find that information on my website, [The Harlem Quartet, with Aldo López-Gavilán, will perform at Kohl Mansion on Oct. 31, and the brothers will appear as a duo for Cal Performances at Zellerbach Hall on Jan. 23, 2022.]


Aldo López-Gavilán: Concerto Offerings for 2021-22 and 2022-23


Keyboard Concerto in F Minor, BWV 1056
Keyboard Concerto in D Minor, BWV 1052

Noche en los Jardines de España

Rhapsody in Blue

Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op.16


Concerto No. 13 in C Major, K. 415
Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major, K. 488

Concerto No. 1 in D-flat Major, Op. 10 – video with Claudio Abbado and Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra
Concerto No. 3 in C Major, Op. 26

Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 30
Variations on a Theme of Paganini

Concerto in G Major

Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, Op. 23

Aldo López-Gavilán: Sample Recital Programs for 2021-22 and 2022-23

Classical 1

Mozart – Sonata A minor K310
Beethoven – Sonata No. 8 in C Minor, Op. 13 “Pathétique”
R. Schumann – Symphonic Etudes, Op. 13
Prokofiev – Suggestion Diabolique

Classical 2
Debussy – Images Volume 1
Brahms – Rhapsody in B minor
Mussorgsky – Pictures at an Exhibition

Mixed Program
Debussy – Images Volume 1
R. Schumann – Arabeske, Op. 18
López-Gavilán – Oddudua
López-Gavilán – Woodpecker
López-Gavilán – A mi Hermanito lindo
López-Gavilán – Campanero
López-Gavilán – Pan con timba
Churchill – Someday My Prince Will Come

European / Cuban Classical
J.S. Bach – Partita No. 1 in B flat Major
Brahms – Rhapsody in B minor, Op. 79 no. 1
Harold López-Nussa – Herencia
Cervantes – Danzas Cubanas
Fariñas – Sones Sencillos
López-Gavilán – Oddudua
López-Gavilán – Suite

Possible repertoire substitutions:
Beethoven – Sonata No. 21 in C Major, Op. 53 “Waldstein”
Gershwin – Rhapsody in Blue
J.S. Bach – Complete Sinfonien
Strayhorn – Take the A Train

Please note: programs are subject to change

‘Bamboozling’ piece anchors Boulder Phil concert

Cuban composer Aldo López-Gavilán performs his ‘Emporium’

Michael Butterman, conductor of the Boulder Philharmonic, was sitting in his driveway, thinking “What on earth is going on?”

“It was just an amazing mix,” he says of the music he was hearing on American Public Media’s radio program Performance Today. “I was trying to guess what it was. Whatever it was, it was exciting and intriguing.”

It turned out to be Emporium for piano and orchestra by Cuban pianist/composer Aldo López-Gavilán, and Butterman decided he wanted to perform the piece with the composer on the Boulder Phil’s season.

The title gave Butterman the key to the wildly eclectic style of the piece. “When they said that the title was Emporium,” he says, “I thought, OK, it’s a cornucopia. It has influences from every possible genre and place that I could imagine.”

The title also suggested to Butterman that one could play almost anything with it, but he settled on music that had a stylistic relationship to López-Gavilán’s Latin American roots: Tangazo by Astor Piazzolla, the Variaciones Concertantes by Alberto Ginastera and Ravel’s Boléro.

Reflecting the eclecticism of his score, López-Gavilán performs many different kinds of music. He appears as a guest artist with orchestras, including performances of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue with the Colorado Springs Philharmonic last April, and plays jazz both as a solo pianist and with the Harlem Quartet, whose first violinist is his brother Ilmar Gavilán.

Butterman’s description of Emporium is intriguing and mind-bending. “It sounded like a little bit of Philip Glass, and there were moments that sounded like the Downton Abbey soundtrack,” he says. “In the last movement I thought this is almost like ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ by Queen, or Prokofiev. It was like all of those different things.

“He’s hard to categorize. I love that about him.”

López-Gavilán confirms the significance of the title. In his program notes, he writes, “I named it Emporium because I wanted to describe a place where you could find many different things from all over the planet.”

The first movement is based on a tune the composer wrote as a birthday present for his twin daughters. The second includes post-revolutionary Cuban songs and American country music songs, combined to symbolize peace. The finale is highly rhythmic and polytonal, bringing together music from all three movements and ending in a grand final statement of the main theme.

Butterman suggests that Emporium is not an easy piece to play, at one point describing it as “bamboozling” in the way it mixes meters and rhythms. “It looks incredibly challenging,” he says. “The outer movements [are] very rapid [with] a lot of figuration, a lot of mixed meter, where the meter feels one way and syncopated against it is something quite different.

“That makes it challenging for us on stage, but it’s always exciting to have a composer involved in the performance of a work like this.”

Of the other works on the program, Ravel’s Boléro is certainly the best known. The score’s long, slow buildup over a single repeating melody is notoriously hypnotic. “It’s all about pacing and concentration, and maintaining intensity,” Butterman says.

Tangazo by the Argentinian tango master Piazzolla is a piece that Butterman has done many times, including his first year in Boulder. “It’s one of the few things I’ve repeated in my time here as music director,” he says. “I love it. It takes us through a wide range of tempos and unusual sounds for a symphony orchestra: ‘whip’ effects, quick glissandos up, tapping on the instrument.”

Tangazo will be accompanied by a pair of dancers, Gustavo Naveira and Giselle Anne of the Boulder Tango Studio, performing in front of the orchestra. “I don’t know what they will do,” Butterman says, “but I’m always interested in hybrid art forms and bringing different elements into concerts.”

Ginastera’s Variaciones Concertantes is a notoriously difficult piece, with separate variations for individual players in the orchestra that are often featured on advanced auditions. “It’s one of those pieces that gives all the principal players a chance to do something rather impressive,” Butterman says.

“The variations are all over the place in their tempos and style, everything from very subdued and lyrical in the horn, kind of rhythmic and accented in the trombone and trumpet, and flying all over the place virtuosic in the clarinet and flute. And perpetual motion for the concertmaster.

“It’s a piece that there’s a lot of variety packed into a short time,” he says. “To me it’s a very appealing piece, but one that is extremely demanding for the orchestra.”

ON THE BILL: ‘Latin Fire and Boléro’ Boulder Philharmonic. Michael Butterman, conductor with Aldo Lopez-Gavilán, pianist/composer. Gustavo Naveira and Giselle Anne, tango dancers. Astor Piazzolla: ‘Tangazo.’ Lopez-Gavilán: ‘Emporium’ for piano and orchestra. Alberto Ginastera: ‘Variaciones Concertantes’ Ravel: ‘Boléro.’ 7 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 3, Macky Auditorium, 1595 Pleasant St., Boulder. Tickets: 303-449-1343,

Cuban pianist and composer Aldo Lopez-Gavilan headlines sold-out North American appearances at Festival Napa Valley and Classical Tahoe

Celebrated young composer to perform world premiere of his first concerto for piano and orchestra, Emporium, at Classical Tahoe on July 29

HAVANA, Cuba – July 10, 2017 – Renowned Cuban pianist and composer Aldo López-Gavilán continues his foray onto the U.S. music scene with sold-out headline performances at two prominent summer music festivals in California: Festival Napa Valley and Classical Tahoe. Both by-invitation appearances feature López-Gavilán’s original compositions, including the world premiere of his first concerto for piano and orchestra, Emporium.

Back by popular demand after dazzling the Festival Napa Valley audience last summer, López-Gavilán returns to join violinist Joshua Bell for his Seasons of Cuba concert on July 15 at Far Niente Winery. The concert also features soprano Larisa Martinez and the Havana Chamber Orchestra under the baton of Daiana Garcia. He will later headline Festival Napa Valley’s Hot Havana Nights show at the Blue Note Jazz Club on Tuesday, July 18, where the audience will get an up-close look at his virtuosity and genius for improvisation. Lopez-Gavilan joins a superstar Festival Napa Valley lineup that includes vocalists Danielle deNiese, Paulo Szot, Angel Blue and Lester Lynch, conductors Stéphane Denève and Joel Revzen, actor Bill Murray with cellist Jan Vogler, and the lead actors from the Hamilton National Tour.

The artist continues his Northern California tour with back-to-back sold-out performances at Classical Tahoe. Under the baton of maestro Joel Revzen, the Classical Tahoe Orchestra will join Lopez-Gavilan on Saturday, July 29, to perform the world premiere of his Emporium, a concerto for piano and orchestra dedicated to Lopez-Gavilan’s twin 9 years old daughters Andrea and Adriana. López-Gavilán will perform the popular Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin with the Classical Tahoe orchestra on Friday, July 28.

Lopez-Gavilan continues his US tour with performances with the Harlem String Quartet in Edgartown, Mass., Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., Houston, TX, Muskegon, MI and Big Rapids, MI.


About: Aldo López-Gavilán was born in Cuba to a family of internationally acclaimed classical musicians. His first international triumph was at age eleven, when he won the Danny Kaye International Children’s Award, organized by UNICEF. He made his professional debut at age twelve with the Matanzas Symphony Orchestra. Parallel to his classical abilities, López-Gavilán developed remarkable improvisational skills. He was invited to perform in the world-famous Havana Jazz Festival with legend Chucho Valdés, who called López- Gavilán “simply a genius, a star.” In 1999, López-Gavilán recorded his first CD, En el ocaso de la hormiga y el elefante, which won the 2000 Grand Prix at Cubadisco. He was also invited by Claudio Abbado to perform as soloist in a special concert dedicated to the two hundrhundred-fiftieth anniversary of Mozart’s birth, in which he was accompanied by the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela. The following year, Abbado invited him to perform Prokofiev’s Concerto No. 1 in Caracas and Havana. López-Gavilán’s remarkable professional career also includes composing original music for award-winning films and arranging his own compositions for international orchestras, as well as performing in some of the most prestigious music venues of the world.

For more information and booking inquiries, please visit Aldo López-Gavilán’s official website:


Photo by Jose V GavilondoPhoto by José V Gavilondo | Copyright: Aldo López-Gavilán

“López-Gavilán is not only a formidable virtuoso, but also exceeds in works that require extraordinary color and fascinating sounds. His natural talent never suffers and his original thinking as an artist assures a performance of amazing playing and individuality.”

— The London Times

“… López-Gavilán is not only a consummate musical artist with an astounding technique; he is also one of the most exuberant musical collaborators I know. When he’s onstage, his sheer delight in performing and childlike generosity of spirit remind me of Yo-Yo Ma. It’s a wonder to behold, a gift to our musicians, and a joy to have on our stage.”

— Scott Speck, Music Director, Mobile and West Michigan symphony orchestras

Praised for his “dazzling technique and rhythmic fire” in the Seattle Times and dubbed a “formidable virtuoso” by The Times (London), Cuban pianist and composer Aldo López-Gavilán excels in both the classical and jazz worlds as a recitalist, concerto soloist, chamber-music collaborator, and performer of his own electrifying jazz compositions. He has appeared in such prestigious concert halls as the Amadeo Roldán (Cuba), Teresa Carreño (Venezuela), Bellas Artes (Mexico), Carnegie Hall and Jordan Hall (U.S.), Royal Festival Hall (U.K.), Nybrokajen 11 (Sweden), The Hall of Music (Russia), and Duc de Lombard et Petit Journal Montparnasse (France), as well as venues in Canada, Santo Domingo, Colombia, Spain, Greece, Hong Kong, Burkina Faso, Germany, and Austria.

López-Gavilán’s recent North American engagements include The Florida Orchestra; the Colorado Springs, Chicago, and Boulder philharmonics; the Chautauqua, West Michigan, Mobile, and Santa Fe Youth symphony orchestras; Canada’s Maison symphonique de Montréal; New York’s Jazz at Lincoln Center; Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts; the Kennedy Center and the Kreeger Museum in Washington, DC; the Chamber Music Society of Detroit; the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Los Angeles; and two venues in Washington State, the Edmonds Center for the Arts, and Seattle’s Benaroya Hall, and most recent live performances and a studio recording with the Tahoe Classical Orchestra. In the U.S. he has performed with such conductors as Michael Butterman, Josep Caballé-Domenech, Michael Francis, Joel Revzen,Scott Speck, Ken-David Masur and his wife Daiana García.

López-Gavilán was born in Cuba to a family of internationally acclaimed classical musicians, his father a conductor and composer, his mother a concert pianist. At the age of five, he had written his first musical composition. His mother introduced the budding prodigy to the piano at the age of four, and he began formal piano studies at seven. His first international triumph came at the age of eleven when he won a Danny Kaye International Children’s Award, organized by UNICEF. He made his professional debut at age twelve with the Matanzas Symphony Orchestra and later went on to perform Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto with the National Symphonic Orchestra of Cuba. Parallel to his classical abilities, López-Gavilán developed remarkable skills in improvisation. He was invited to perform in the world-famous Havana Jazz Festival with the legendary Chucho Valdés, who called him “simply a genius, a star.”

His recording career began in 1999 with the CD En el ocaso de la hormiga y el elefante, which won the 2000 Grand Prix at Cubadisco as well as awards in the jazz and first-works categories. In 2005, he was invited to join a group of prestigious Cuban pianists to create an album and documentary in honor of Frank Emilio, Amor y piano. He was also included in a DVD set, Cuban Pianists: The History of Latin Jazz.

López-Gavilán’s second album, Talking to the Universe, was a success with audiences and critics alike. In 2006, he gave a concert of his newest works that was later turned into his third album, Soundbites. Two years later he was included in a documentary on the history of Latin jazz in Cuba titled ¡Manteca, Mondongo y Bacalao con Pan! It was in that same year that he recorded his fourth CD, Dimensional, which allowed him the flexibility for more musical experimentation. He was also hired to compose the music for a TV documentary titled El Proceso: la historia no contada. In 2009 he released his fifth album, López-Gavilán en vivo, and finished his first live concert DVD, Más allá del ocaso, which included orchestral selections and jazz compositions. He also composed original music for the film Casa vieja by acclaimed Cuban director Lester Hamlet.

During the past decade, López-Gavilán’s collaborators have included some of the greatest artists in the classical, popular music, and jazz fields. The late conductor Claudio Abbado invited him to perform with the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela in 2006, in a special concert dedicated to the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth. Maestro Abbado subsequently invited him to perform Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in Caracas and Havana.

In 2009 López-Gavilán was invited by popular Cuban singer-songwriter Carlos Varela to join his band for a tour of Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay; his acoustic arrangements of Varela’s music won many accolades from critics and fans. In 2010 he joined the São Paulo Jazz Symphonic Orchestra to perform his music in a concert that was recorded and broadcast on national television in Brazil.

López-Gavilán’s Carnegie Hall debut took place in November of 2012, when he was invited to participate in the hall’s prestigious Voces de Latino América festival. That same month he played a two-piano concerto with his colleague Harold López-Nussa in Miami. In May of that year, he released his sixth album, De todos los colores y también verde.

In 2014 López-Gavilán toured the U.S., appearing at Florida’s Miami Dade County Auditorium, the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and the San Francisco Jazz Festival, and he completed an ASCAP film music workshop under the direction of Robert Kraft at New York University. He also toured extensively in Europe, South America, Canada, and the U.S. with Carlos Varela, for whom he wrote all the string arrangements for an award-winning documentary, The Poet of Havana, that won many awards and was televised for several months by HBO Latino in the U.S.

A milestone in López-Gavilán’s professional and personal life came in early 2015, when he partnered with Harlem Quartet—co-founded by his brother Ilmar, the quartet’s first violinist—for concerts in Calgary, Seattle, and Phoenix. That same year he was invited to play with his jazz quintet at the Centro Cultural Kirchner in Buenos Aires; performed Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue with the Orquesta Filarmónica de Bogotá; and closed the year with a sold-out concert at the Teatro del Museo de Bellas Artes in Havana.

His partnership with Harlem Quartet continued in the summer and fall of 2016 with a U.S. tour that included concerts and residencies at the Rockport (MA) Chamber Music Festival, Chautauqua Institution, Santa Fe College, Las Vegas’s Smith Center for the Performing Arts, the Chamber Music Society of Detroit, and L.A.’s Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts.

Since December 2014, when a new era in the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba was announced, López-Gavilán has played a continually active role in the cultural exchange between the two countries. In April 2016, through Obama’s President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, he was part of the group of Cuban musicians who collaborated in Cuba with such renowned U.S. artists as Joshua Bell, Usher, Dave Matthews, and Smokey Robinson, A few weeks later López-Gavilán’s music was used to showcase Chanel’s Cruise 2017 Collection—the first fashion show to take place in Havana in recent times—and he partnered with American trumpet virtuoso Byron Stripling in a concert at Havana’s Teatro del Museo de Bellas Artes.

Under Joshua Bell’s direction, López-Gavilán aided in organizing Seasons of Cuba, a PBS Special that took place at Lincoln Center in December 2016, celebrating a new era of cultural diplomacy with a vibrant program ranging from Vivaldi classics to Piazzolla tangos and beyond. Some of the prestigious artists joining Bell and López-Gavilán were Dave Matthews, the Chamber Orchestra of Havana, singer-songwriter Carlos Varela, and soprano Larisa Martínez.

During 2016 and 2017 López-Gavilán continued headlining sold-out North American performances in various venues all over the U.S., both as a solo artist and with Harlem Quartet. At the Napa Festival in July 2016, he rejoined Bell for his Seasons of Cuba concert, and that same month he premiered Emporium, his first concerto for piano and orchestra, with Nevada’s Classical Tahoe Orchestra led by Joel Revzen.

In early 2018 López-Gavilán continued to tour extensively in the US, making his debut with the Florida Orchestra under the renowned British conductor Michael Francis. A few weeks later he returned to Florida to play Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major in four concerts with the South Florida Symphony Orchestra led by Sebrina María Alfonso. In the fall of 2018, López-Gavilán became the first Cuban pianist to play at Piano aux Jacobins, a highly celebrated piano festival in Toulouse that has presented such keyboard giants as Sviatoslav Richter, Alfred Brendel, Martha Argerich, and Murray Perahia.

López-Gavilán began the year 2019 with three performances of Rhapsody in Blue at The Florida Orchestra under the direction of Thomas Wilkins, its former resident conductor. He continued his North American tour in the spring of that year with concerts in Covington, LA; Chicago, IL; Montreal, QC; Napa, CA; Boston, MA; and Colorado Springs, CO. He also performed with his jazz quartet and a renowned group of guests at the iconic Teatro Marti in Havana. The concert was filmed for a concert DVD and streaming special, López-Gavilán Live at Teatro Martí.

With the summer of 2019 came the fulfillment of a longstanding dream of López-Gavilán and his brother Ilmar: recording an album together. López-Gavilán wrote some new material for this special occasion, while several of his existing compositions were arranged for violin and piano by Ilmar. The resulting album, Brothers, contains a number of tracks that will be supported with live concerts by the duo.

López-Gavilán and Ilmar are featured in the documentary Los Hermanos / The Brothers, which tracks their parallel lives and momentous first performances together despite the geopolitical divide. It features a genre-bending score composed by López-Gavilán, performed largely with his brother, and guest appearances by Joshua Bell and Harlem Quartet. A PatchWorks Films production by Marcia Jarmel and Ken Schneider, Los Hermanos is screening at film festivals worldwide and will be nationally broadcast on PBS in the fall of 2021.

In the fall of 2019, López-Gavilán continued touring in the U.S. but also performed in Bogotá, Paris, and Angoulême—where his new solo album Playgrounds was released by the French label Esprit du Piano. This album represents a new stage for him as a composer and brings together a very wide range of musical styles including jazz, world music, Afro, experimental music, and Cuban sounds and rhythms. In November 2019, López-Gavilán was honored as the composer in residence at Habana Clásica Festival, where many internationally known musicians performed a wide assortment of his compositions.

“Brothers”, the first album of the duo integrated by Aldo and his brother Ilmar López-Gavilán, won the First Prize in the Instrumental Music category for the 2020 – 2021 Cubadisco Awards (Cuba’s equivalent to the Grammys). This long-dreamed family project finally found its moment of gestation in New York in July 2019, after several months of touring, and was recorded at Oktaven Studios. The phonogram includes 10 songs, all authored by Aldo, and with masterful arrangements for piano and violin by both brothers.

López-Gavilán and his jazz trio made their Canadian debut in March 2020 with two memorable concerts: one at the Isabel Bader Centre in Kingston, ON, and one at Toronto’s Jazz Bistro. These were the last live concerts López-Gavilán played before COVID-19 brought such activity to a temporary halt. But he has continued composing and performing for his fans in Cuba and worldwide, taking part in several virtual concerts such as Festival Napa Valley’s One Night, Many Voices, which also featured Joshua Bell, sopranos Larisa Martínez and Nadine Sierra, tenor Michael Fabiano, pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, and the Young People’s Chorus of New York City. López-Gavilán closed the event with a swinging jazz performance by his band direct from Havana.

Aldo resumed touring in the US as soon as the Health Crisis situation allowed, and had a series of very successful concerts in Lancaster, OH, Houston, TX, Chautauqua, NY, Newport, RI, Beverly Hills, CA, Puyallup, WA, Tacoma WA, North Bethesda MD, Pasadena, CA, Akron OH, Dayton, OH, St. Thomas, USVI, St. John, USVI, Berkeley, CA, Tahoe, NV, Bonita Springs, FL, Beacon, NY, Phoenix, AZ, Healdsburg, CA, Burlingame, CA, Winchester, VA, Indianapolis, IN, Cincinnati, OH, Napa, CA, Muskegon, MI and Detroit, MI.

His second debut at Carnegie Hall took place in February 2022. This time as the composer of “90 Miles”, an afro-mambo commissioned by the Orpheus Orchestra to be interpreted together with legendary Cuban musician Arturo Sandoval. Aldo who was invited to the Premiere at the majestic Stern Auditorium; seduced both the musicians who performed it and the audience, who rewarded him with a standing ovation and heartfelt applauses.

In August of 2022, López-Gavilán got to fulfill another of his professional goals: to record his first Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (Emporium) with the brilliant musicians of the Tahoe Classical Orchestra, conducted this time by maestro Ken-David Masur. The recording sessions took place in the magnificent Skywalker Studios, in California, where Grammy Winner Sound Engineer and Producer Shawn Murphy was at the helm of the studio sessions.

August 2022