National Symphony of Cuba coming to PSU for first time

UNIVERSITY PARK — The National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba, which has been pivotal in introducing music of its homeland to international audiences, will make its Penn State premiere in a Latin-flavored and dance-inspired program featuring Maurice Ravel’s “Bolero” — plus works by Manuel De Falla, Carlos Farinas, and Amadeo Roldan.

Yekwon Sunwoo, gold-medal winner of the 2017 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, will perform Sergei Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43, as featured soloist with the orchestra. Sunwoo, the first South Korean to win the prestigious competition, is a graduate of Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music.

“The National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba can play symphonies by Beethoven and Mendelssohn, and play them well,” writes a reviewer for the Tampa Bay Times. “But what is special is when the musicians make like a big dance band from the Tropicana, the legendary nightclub in Havana, and play classical music with an Afro-Cuban beat.”

Founded in 1960, the orchestra covers an immense symphonic and chamber repertoire ranging from Baroque to contemporary music. The ensemble has toured to the United States, Russia, Poland, Spain, Mexico, Argentina and other countries.

Music Director Enrique Perez Mesa, a native of Cuba and a graduate of its National School of Arts, has led performances in leading concert halls on three continents. The Grammy Award nominee has also recorded music for Cuban and Spanish films.

In conjunction with the performance, a Classical Coffeehouse featuring A Cuban Music Experience will be held Monday, March 19 at 8 p.m. at Hintz Family Alumni Center’s Robb Hall.

Penn State School of Music faculty members and students who have traveled to Cuba will share music, experiences, and reflections on one of the world’s richest artistic cultures.

Designed especially for Penn State students, but open to everyone, Classical Coffeehouse provides an opportunity to hear traditional and contemporary music in a casual atmosphere. Each coffeehouse includes a mini performance, discussions among artists and audience members, and social time with the musicians and others in attendance.

Enjoy complimentary refreshments. Seating is limited. Standing room is available when seating is filled. Doors open at 7:30 p.m.

Classical Coffeehouse is free for University Park students. A $5 donation is suggested for each community member to help sustain the coffeehouse series.

The event is presented by the Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State and the Penn State Alumni Association, in partnership with the Blue & White Society and the PSU Music Service Club.


r WHO: National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba

r WHEN: 7:30 p.m. March 20

r WHERE: Penn State’s Eisenhower Auditorium

r TICKETS: 814-863-2055 or