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Frank Fernández

Classic music moved the 4 year-old boy at their first encounter in his natal town of Mayarí, east Cuba. Some years later, long ovations urged a young musician to come out onstage in the eternal frizzing Moscow to thank the publics warm ovations. Its actually one of the worlds most prestigious concert halls.

Now in his 63 and having gained the favour of fame, criticism and most demanding public, Frank Fernández is still " moved " at the time of playing Sergei Rachmaninov Concert No. 2.

Following his memorable performance marking the 140th anniversary of Tchaikovsky Conservatory, where the world famous Cuban piano Maestro represented Latin American musician graduates of that important institution, Frank wanted to share with his country people the details of that evening show based on the video that a friend had managed to take at risk of being fined for doing so.

In the hall of Holguin's Art Centre, we met the pianist with whom we had the following off-stage conversation:

" When I was told I had to play Rachmaninov that is, in my opinion, along with Tchaikovsky Concert No. 1 one of the most famous pieces ever composed and in addition to do so in the same hall where the author himself had played it, it shocked me deeply and made me study feverishly like a beginner".

A concert like this one requires a high level of preparation and training.

"Life itself demands preparation and training over and over. At my 63, I began studying the concert as if it were for the first time. Most severe criticism came from my daughter who scolded me for being so rigorous. She told I was tense and that helped me a lot. Just look at the video and see I reflect liberty and happiness".

" As a good Mayari farmer I use to learn from everything and everybody. From brilliant boxing coach Alcides Sagarra I leanrt that the same as sportsman do, musicians should lower working pressure as the competence comes closer. Its something many fail to do thinking that strong exercises should apply two weeks before competing. It causes an overweight of spiritual and physical pressures.

" This is why my strong training falls two months before the showtime to be free of physical tensions".

Moscows airport temperature machine marked 22 degrees below zero, at the time Frank arrived in that city. That, however, was the sole adverse element he had to face. " Five days before the event, they decided to change the orchestra director. Popular Russian artist Vladimir Ponkin had been appointed to direct the Moscows Symphonic Orchestra. The news of that change filled me with enthusiasm.

" The first rehearsal with Ponkin was great, later came a second one with less soul and more intellect. There was a marvellous chemistry from the very beginning!

In Concert

"I usually dont study the concert days. I believe it can affect my presentations spirituality and magic. Previously I have a 1-hour-musical heating, to relax and even hum the melody. Just then I go out to stage to give it all as if it were my last chance".

Breathing, flowers, the public...

At times during the concert, I could draw breath. Its difficult to explain but while playing I cannot help holding my breath. Its not at all planned, it just happens. But a thing I feel for sure is that music talks to me. When I finished I got stupefied. Imagine!!! I gave away a very expensive bunch of yellow roses a Russian girl friend had gifted me. She had said she could not give it to the first violin nor the orchestra director but to me. however, see what I did, deeply moved with those long applauses.

"I never thought my playing Rachmaninov might have awakened such an enthusiasm. This time, I felt the musicians realization and anxiety stronger than ever before".

" A Russian way of playing" with a Cuban soul

Art criticism said that Frank had captured the essence of the Russian soul. " I personify the character I play but I do not mirror roles. What I try to follow the authors intention according to his culture. But I cannot take my Cuban heart away from it.

"The best way of being Cuban is by learning from all the other cultures. Making Cuban art does not imply being a folklorist. Play Beethoven with a batá drum seems to me an insult. The most important Cubans own is universality ".

Chaikovski Hall was flooded with Cuban music, too. A sober and radiant Frank offered an upbeat with Ernesto Lecuona's pieces and Perla Marina by Sindo Garay.

"Sindo means a lot to me because hes one of the big names in the islands music. I met him in Mayarí. When I was a child he used to play in town. So playing Perla Marina in such a great concert hall felt me with pride and served as a bridge between the two musical cultures".

Lights were put out, the hall is empty and the program leaflets fly from one place to the other as the wind blows. The piano is silent and Moscows life goes on as usual. And Frank, hes at home already, partying with his beloved ones and celebrating his success. Nevertheless, March 8-concert makes a difference to his life.

"This Tchaikovsky concert has become a landmark in my life. Now I study differently. Im invited to give annual lectures in that Conservatory. I feel encouraged to conduct new researches in music and playing. What happened in Moscow is not only Frank Fernandez victory but that Cuban music and Cuban pianists as well".

Source: By Daniel Alejandro Benítez Quiñones, CubaSi

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