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The cuban Harold Gramatges who has just turned 90 years of age
He witnessed the emergence and development of a huge historical event (the Cuban Revolution) and reflected it through his music. Harold’s life, which began on September 26th, 1918 in Santiago de Cuba, has remained active and fruitful to this very day.

Fortunately, his best pieces are registered on numerous records over the past several years. Special merit deserve those records that compile his compositions for piano solo (Roberto Urbay), for piano and voice (Conchita Franqui and Marita Rodríguez), his choral music (Exaudi) and the music he composed for guitar, played by such prestigious guitarists as Jesús Ortega, Leonardo De Angelis and Marcos Díaz Tamayo.

It means an undoubtedly tremendous effort by Harold, which has not been sufficiently promoted in recitals and concerts. Regrettably, performance of his pieces is usually confined to festivals, commemorative ceremonies and his birthday parties.

Harold’s music should be a must, for instance, in every presentation by Cuban symphony orchestras. Pieces like ‘Sinfonía en mi’, ‘In memóriam’ (dedicated to Cuban hero Frank País), ´La muerte del guerrillero’ and his ‘Concierto para guitarra’ based on the incidental music he composed for the staging of Calderón de la Barca’s classic ‘La dama duende’.

Of course, Harold’s pieces like ´Cantos de Villa Grazioli’ require really talented guitarists and any pianist looking for a key piece of the 20th century should include Harold’s ‘Estudios de contrastes’ in his/her repertoire.

Perhaps, Harold’s lesson to the new generations of composers is that far from being a mere sound effect, music is actually an inexhaustible source of culture.

This is particularly clear in his pieces, in which the composer shows his preference for poems by such renowned writers as Antonio Machado, Federico García Lorca, Nicolás Guillén, Emilio Ballagas, Ángel Gaztelu, Pablo Armando Fernández and, of course, José Martí.

Astonished by Harold’s active longevity, many have tried to find out the secret of the master’s long, prolific and fruitful life. Perhaps, the answer is just what Harold himself told a colleague of mine: “I have never given up enthusiasm, optimism or my great love of life, and young talent continues to move and surprise me.”


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