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ARTURO SANDOVAL MESMERIZES CROWD ALONGSIDE CINCINNATI CHAMBER ORCHESTRA

by Madonna

A remarkable convergence of musical prowess and magnetic showmanship unfolded on the evening of August 19th as world-renowned jazz trumpeter Arturo Sandoval took center stage with the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra. Yet, Sandoval’s performance transcended the boundaries of a conventional soloist; he seamlessly transitioned into the roles of a stand-up comedian, a charismatic raconteur, a captivating crooner, and, to everyone’s astonishment, an exuberant piano virtuoso, occasionally engaging in a spontaneous bout of scatting. The result was an unforgettable spectacle that showcased the multifaceted talents of a true artist.

Sandoval’s innate ability to enrapture his audience was on full display during his rendition of his own creation, the Trumpet Concerto No. 2, alongside the orchestra led by Eckart Preu. The performance was an integral part of the “A Night in Havana” event, a fact that hadn’t gone unnoticed, considering the packed Corbett Theater at the School for Creative and Performing Arts. Each segment of his program was met with resounding standing ovations, a testament to the electrifying experience that unfolded on stage.

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Born in a quaint town near Havana, Sandoval’s journey has encompassed classical trumpet studies that began at the age of 12. His musical trajectory swiftly embraced the world of jazz, with performances in Havana’s intimate clubs. It was within these walls that Dizzy Gillespie discovered him in 1977, a tale recounted by Sandoval himself. Gillespie’s subsequent endeavors to bring Sandoval’s band to New York’s Carnegie Hall, as well as the Grammy-winning live recording from that momentous event, remain indelible markers in Sandoval’s illustrious career.

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Boasting 10 Grammy Awards, 19 nominations, an Emmy, and six Billboard Awards, Sandoval’s musical prowess is undeniable. This recognition culminated in 2013 when President Barack Obama conferred upon him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Having defected to the U.S. in 1990, Sandoval later became a U.S. citizen, cementing his connection to his adopted homeland.

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Sandoval’s performance commenced with his masterful interpretation of the Concerto No. 2, composed in 2015. Impressively, he seized the audience’s attention from the outset with a resounding cadenza, effectively showcasing his lightning-swift technique and mellifluous timbre. The initial movement exuded ornate flourishes and introduced a second theme imbued with an evocative grandeur reminiscent of “Gone with the Wind.” Transitioning to the flugelhorn for the introspective slow movement, Sandoval engaged in a harmonious interplay with the orchestra’s flute and clarinet sections.

The grand finale showcased a virtuosic display of trills, mesmerizing figures, and effortless high notes. In a departure from convention, concertmaster Celeste Golden took center stage for the cadenza, a moment met with Sandoval’s approving nod. Remarkably, Sandoval’s talents extend beyond the trumpet; he divulged his passion for composing scores for movies. The concerto’s melodic ingenuity positions it as a potential cinematic gem.

The ambiance shifted as Sandoval introduced a small grand piano, disclosing his boyhood aspiration to play the instrument prior to his trumpet journey. Without formal lessons, Sandoval adeptly taught himself to play the piano by ear. This revelation paved the way for an unanticipated treat: a series of improvisations showcasing his dexterity. The interlude encompassed expansive arpeggios, embracing the keyboard’s expanse, alongside warm harmonies and resolute sonorities. Amidst the improvisation, Sandoval interspersed whimsical tunes, evoking a smile. The performance culminated in a whirlwind of percussive motifs.

Resuming his trumpet, Sandoval ventured into a rendition of the adagio movement from Joaquin Rodrigo’s enchanting “Concierto de Aranjuez,” the adaptation proving to be spellbinding.

Sandoval’s prowess extended beyond his instrumental mastery; he wielded the microphone to deliver a heartfelt rendition of “Dear Diz (Every Day I Think of You).” His trumpet seamlessly interwove with the vocal performance, concluding with the poignant lines, “You saved my life, dear Diz, you set me free.” The profound ballad resonated with genuine emotion.

The concert’s first half showcased the artistry of conductor Eckart Preu, who curated an imaginative Cuban-themed program. The evening commenced with George Gershwin’s Cuban Overture, a composition born of Gershwin’s 1931 visit to Havana. The arrangement, tailored for Sandoval, featured stellar contributions from principal trumpet Ashley Hall. Accompanying the orchestra, a visual journey unfolded through a slideshow capturing the essence of old Havana, replete with iconic automobiles and nostalgic scenes.

Celebrated Cuban composer Tania León’s “Ácana,” inspired by Cuban poet Nicolás Guillén’s work, evoked the awakening of creatures in a rainforest. Preu’s illuminating commentary enriched the experience, guiding listeners through the orchestral tapestry of birdcalls in trumpets, lush string themes, and inventive winds and piano elements. The percussion section’s rhythmic counterpoint was nothing short of awe-inspiring.

Silvestre Revueltas, a Mexican composer inspired by the same Cuban poet, crafted “Sensemayá,” a piece detailing a snake’s sacrifice. Revueltas’ composition, characterized by earthy rhythms and meandering bassoon motifs, conjured echoes of Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring.” The program culminated with Lecuona’s “Suite Andalucia,” meticulously conducted by Preu. The orchestra’s rendition was marked by precision and expressiveness, encapsulating the joyous essence of the music. Evidently, the performers relished every moment, and their enthusiasm was palpable.

Sandoval’s engagement extended beyond this performance; on August 20th, he collaborated with the Cincinnati Contemporary Jazz Orchestra at Roger Bacon High School, delivering an afternoon of Afro-Cuban musical celebration.

The resonant notes of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra’s Summermusik festival continue to reverberate until August 26th. Anticipation builds for the forthcoming concerts featuring virtuoso violinist and accomplished bluegrass fiddler, Tessa Lark.

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