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Jorge Anckermann: prolific creator marked by Cuban essences

Published: 2017.04.11 - 16:03:36   /  /  Miguel Darío García Porto  /  translated by  Luis E. Amador Dominguez  /

"Anckermann's music was always inspired, fresh, and young. His posthumous work, the bolero song ‘Bésame, bésame’ so proves it. The most prolific and most Cuban," said the talented composer Rodrigo Prats on the work of the pianist, music teacher, conductor and Cuban composer Jorge Anckermann, who was born in Havana on March 22, 1877, exactly 140 years ago.

Qualified as one of the most prolific Cuban composers of all time, he was the composer of more than 500 scores amongst boleros, rumbas, claves, pregones, criollas, guajiras, danzones and dances.

Jorge Anckermann Rafart was born in the neighborhood of Santo Ángel in Havana. When he was 8 years old, he undertook his musical studies with his father Carlos Anckermann, who was a violinist, clarinetist and Majorcan pedagogue.

At the age of ten he was already part of a trio, and in 1892, at the age of fifteen, he was a musical director of the Narciso López comic company, with which he toured Mexico, from where he visited several states and California.

His danzones were largely responsible for the success achieved by the Cuban comedians since his debut in the Orrín circus, in Mexico City. He lived for some years in that Latin American city, where he worked in music education and helped spread the danzón.

The great rumba, his first musical work written for the theater, was composed when he was only seventeen years. This piece is a parody of the Spanish magazine La Gran Vía and was premiered at the Tacón Theater in Havana. According to the musicologist Eduardo Robreño, La gran rumba was the first score written for comic theater with totally Cuban music.

Amongst the movie showing, Ackermann played some of his lively piano dances, as well as danzones; He made his name in the Havana musical scene and began to interact with people from the theater, such as the brothers Gustavo and Francisco Robreño, who commissioned the composition of the music of the revue "Ni loros, ni gallos", premiered in September 1899 in The Lara Theater.

For "Ni parrots, ni gallos" he composed a guajira that won the instant acclaim of the public, and created the guajira genre in our country, a success that meant a safe credential for the future composer of El arroyo que murmura.

In November 1900, the Alhambra Theater reopened its doors - closed from the outbreak of War of Independence in 1895 -, with Manuel Mauri as a musical director. In 1908, Napoleón was premiered on that stage, with libretto by the brothers Robreño and music by Jorge Anckermann.

In 1909, Anckermann won the first prize in a contest called by the Ayuntamiento de La Habana with his work Aires Cubanos.

In September 1911, the maestro Manuel Mauri left his place in the Alhambra Theater, due to disagreements with the impresarios, and it was "the son of old Ackermann" who was hastily summoned to lead the orchestra and save the season of La revolución china (with libretto by Federico Villoch). Ackermann remained as a musical director of the coliseum until it closed its doors in 1935.

In July 1912, his play La casita criolla, with a libretto by Villoch, was successfully premiered. The play mocked the reelection of President José Miguel Gómez, and at the same time, made electoral propaganda in favor of Mario García Menocal, the president who promised honesty and raised his humble origin in his "casita criolla". For that work, Anckermann created a new genre the tango-congo, which became very popular in the performance by Blanca Becerra: "Tumba la caña/anda ligero/que viene el mayoral/sonando el cuero.’’

The Alhambra orchestra was generally composed of eight professors, but in the words of Robreño, thanks to the conducting of Anckermann "it sounded like a symphony". The works of longer duration had an average of ten musical numbers, and the shorter ones, from five to six, most of which were original.

In addition, Anckermann’s works emphasize the transcriptions that he did in some works of popular composers who did not know how to write music, mainly those of the trova such as Manuel Corona, Eusebio Delfín, Sindo Garay, amongst others.

On February 28, 1923, with the score by Anckermann and libretto by Federico Villoch, one of the most successful works in the history of Cuban musical theater was premiered: La isla de las cotorras, which was recreated much later in 1989 in the film La bella del Alhambra, by Enrique Pineda Barnet. This creation was revived in August 1962, with the direction by Francisco Morín, and Gilberto Valdés as director of orchestra. Fragments of that revival appear in the documentary Cuentos del Alhambra (1963), by Manuel Octavio Gómez, which contains a moving tribute to several figures of the famous theater who were still alive at that time.

Jorge Anckermann died in Havana in February 1941, but his name was forever recorded as an outstanding exponent of our musical history.

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