Called the "Cuban Gershwin" composer and pianist, Ernesto Lecuona, was without a doubt the greatest Cuban musician of his time. His career spanned seven decades during which time he wrote more than 600 compositions for piano and orchestra, in addition to music for theater and films. His distinctive Latin style and Afro-Cuban rhythms influenced many other composers, including George Gershwin and Claude Debussy, and his work continues to be a driving force in Latin music today.
Ernesto Lecuona was born in a small village across the bay from Havana Cuba in 1895. His sister began teaching him to play the piano when he was three. He continued his study at the Conservatorio Peyrellade with Antonio Saaverda and also with Joaquin Nin. At 17 he graduated from the National Conservatory of Havana with a gold medal in performance.
In 1916 Lecuona performed outside his country for the first time, and even though he maintained ties to Cuba for many years, his initial performance in New York City paved the way for his increasing presence in the United States. After Fidel Castro rose to power in 1959, Lecuona moved to Florida permanently the following year.
During his seventy year career Lecuona was a prolific composer. He wrote almost 200 pieces for piano, over 30 orchestral scores, five ballets, and 11 film scores. In addition, he wrote many major pop songs including Malagueña, Siboney, Always in My Heart, and Andalucia. His score for the 1942 Warner Brothers film Always in My Heart was nominated for an Academy Award.
In addition to performing and composing, Lecuona was the co-founder of the Havana Symphony Orchestra, the Lecuona Cuban Boys Band and La Orquesta de la Habana.
By integrating new rhythms and traditional melodys in combination with elegant late-Romantic composition, Ernesto Lecuona redefined Latin music in the first half of the 20th century. Because of his wide ranging talents, he is admired as a virtuoso pianist and innovative composer.