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Pianist Aldo López-Gavilán brings classics and jazz to Grand Piano Series

Updated: Nov 1, 2021





According to The Creative Mind, “Many accomplished people are multitalented and active, even exceptional, in more than one area of creative expression.”


Grand Piano Series artistic director Milana Strezeva believes in bringing variety to the series’ music and performances. In some lucky cases, that means presenting multifaceted talents embodied in a single artist.


Pianist/composer and, now, film composer Aldo 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. By the age of two, he had written his first musical composition. When he was four, his mother introduced the budding prodigy to the piano, and he began formal piano studies at the age of seven.


“They say I was a child prodigy,” he said, laughing. “I don’t remember. I was never told I was that special; I had a normal, happy childhood without professional commitments. Except I had to spend a lot of time practicing.”


And except that his older brother, violin virtuoso Ilmar Gavilán, left home at 14 to study in the Soviet Union, when Aldo was only 8. “I missed him a lot,” said López-Gavilán, “because I was only a kid and we were very close. One of the ways we found to keep the relationship as close as possible was for me to send him audiocassettes of my voice and music, just for him.”


Now based in the United States, Ilmar recently reunited and toured with his brother for the first time. López-Gavilán then scored and they jointly released the 2021 documentary about their cross-borders reunionLos Hermanos, The Brothersalready being hailed as an Oscar contender.


In a single November performance López-Gavilán will treat a Grand Piano Series audience to both classical virtuosity—an opening half-hour of homage to classical composers Debussy, Schumann and Bach—and eight of his own jazz-influenced compositions.


It will be a rule breaker for series audiences, who tend to gravitate toward one end of the classical/jazz spectrum, remaining skeptical about the opposite extreme.

“That’s what I’ve tried to do all my career,” said López-Gavilán. “I want my audiences to become used to concerts where they can enjoy any kind of good music, no matter what style it is. Even skeptics end up liking it after all.”


His music has been called genre bending because, as he put it, “I try not to classify music. If you start classifying and dividing music the way today’s markets do, you lose its essence.”


Among American influences that audiences can hear in his work are Gershwin, Copland, Bernstein, Pat Metheny, Lyle Mays, Keith Jarrett and other “great jazz legends that I’ve listened to all my life.”


“Of course I feel more myself,” he continued, “when I play my own music and also when I play jazz. The way we play jazz is not as constrained; we have more freedom. In classical music, you have to follow the music score; everything is written and there’s less space to improvise.


“Most of my pieces have a backstory or inspiration drawn from my own family, feelings, experiences, dreams and imagination. I consider my music very mind traveling for the audience. I show them the path, but they have to walk there themselves.”


In the upbeat, jazzy “Epilogo,” for instance, he blends his favorite mid-20th-century Cuban composers and songwriters with his own, more Afro-Cuban way.

“It’s one of my audience favorites,” he said. “And the funny part is that I did it just as a homework exam for Trinity College of Music!”


López-Gavilán will hold a masterclass for jazz piano students and perform at multiple area schools.