Ana Cervantes fills Emerson Recital Hall with stories

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Taylor Music Hall’s Emerson Recital Hall welcomed Ana Cervantes, an alumna of Bard College currently based in Guanajuato, Mexico. A world-travelling artist, Cervantes also taught her piano craft at the the California Institute of the Arts and the University of Sao Paulo (Brazil). But no matter where Cervantes has played, she always looks at-home when in front of the piano. Cervantes’s program, “De la luz, del aire,” (“From the light, from air”), featured eight pieces of contemporary classical music. Her opening song, “Del viento, la esperanza” (“From the Wind, Hope”), quickly taught the audience that this recital was not just about pretty melodies, but about telling stories without words. The piece captured the eerie serenity of solitude and the desire for hope.

At the conclusion of “From the Wind, Hope,” Cervantes bowed and, curiously, raised her sheet music as though giving a salute. Cervantes explained that the motion, repeated at the end of each piece, was meant to convey the player’s and listeners’ appreciation for the music. “Lagrimas y Locuras” (“Mapping the Mind of a Madwoman”) followed in the footsteps of “Del viento, la esperanza” as another unsettling soundtrack. The inspiration behind this piece rang familiar with those who have heard of the Weeping Woman. A haunting work of folklore originating from Mexico, the story of the Weeping Woman tells the tale of a woman who, upon being driven mad by unfortunate circumstances, drowned her two children. However, instead of retelling the Weeping Woman’s backstory, the song conveyed the war of emotions the woman felt.

It was only fitting that “Lagrimas y Locuras” made Emerson Recital Hall feel as though it were the setting for a ghost story. “Desde el Aire: Seis Instantes” (“From the Air: Six Instants”) derived its somber tone from Cervantes’ commentary on the environment and the wellbeings of animals and humans alike. Before playing, Cervantes credited Charlotte of Habsburg, Empress Carlota of Mexico as her muse. Charlotte of Habsburg embodied the burden that many modern Latin American women must carry in the face of violent acts that occur far too commonly in many communities. In contrast to the previous pieces, Cervantes played “Light from The Cliffs,” a softer melodic song that encompasses the beauty of nature rather than a story. The second half of the program continued in similar, striking fashion as the first half. Cervantes followed up with “Hourglass,” “Entre las ramas rotas” (“Among the Broken Branches”), “Fleeting Moments” and “Preludio y Estudio #3: Jesusa Palancares” (“Prelude and Study #3: Jesusa Palancares”). “Hourglass” drew on the ever-changing passage of time. “Entre las ramas rotas” was based on the short story “The Man,” which can be found in Juan Rulfo’s “El Llano en llamas” (“The Burning Plain”). It is here that Cervantes showed listeners her bold technical ability and artistic charisma. She cited the octatonic scale and silence as her main sources of building drama for such a unique rendition of the song. “Fleeting Moments” played with melody and the feelings evoked from contrasting colors.

An incredibly fun piece to listen to, “Fleeting Moments” was certainly a highlight of the program. Cervantes concluded her program with an homage to literary figure Jesusa Palancares, a woman who embodied the true meaning of a fighter. As the final notes faded, one could see Jesusa’s fighting spirit in Cervantes as she smiled at the piano.

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