Described by Fanfare Magazine as “an excellent guitarist as well as an imaginative composer,” José Manuel Lezcano is Professor of Music at Keene State College where he directs the Guitar Orchestra and Latin Ensemble, and teaches guitar and courses in Latin American and Spanish music. He is also a twice Grammy-nominated composer and performer who has performed for audiences on four continents. His programs featuring traditional and Latin American repertory, and his own original compositions have taken him as recitalist, collaborative musician, and concerto soloist from Carnegie Recital Hall and the North-South Consonance Series in New York City to major venues and festivals in Cuba, Spain, Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Brazil, China, the Czech Republic and Germany.
Born in Havana, Cuba in 1960, he earned degrees from Peabody Conservatory (BM), University of South Carolina (MM), and Florida State University (Ph.D. music theory). José has earned numerous awards, including first prize in the MTNA National Guitar Competition, the NH State Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowship, NHMTA Composer of the Year (2002 & 07), KSC Distinguished Research Award, and a Fulbright Award to Ecuador where he performed as orchestral soloist and pursued research on indigenous guitar traditions. Jose’s scholarly publications include Latin American Music Review, Soundboard, and the Latino Encyclopedia. He has lectured throughout the state for the NH Humanities Council on Ecuadorean indigenous guitar traditions, rituals, and mythology. Dr. Lezcano’s first Guitar Concerto (2004), which he premiered in New York City as soloist with the North-South Consonance Chamber Orchestra directed by Max Lifschitz, received critical acclaim after release on the North-South label in 2007 as “Remembrances/Recuerdos.” For his work on the CD, Jose received two Grammy nominations and was semi-finalist for “Best Contemporary Composition” (for his Guitar Concerto) and “Best Performance, Soloist with Orchestra” (for his solo performance in the Concerto). Jose’s second Guitar Concerto, “Concierto Cubanero,” received its premiere performance with North-South Consonance Orchestra in May 2011 with Jose as soloist, and its South American premiere that year with the Orquesta Sinfonica Juvenil de Ecuador, again with Jose as soloist. In 2012, Jose’s “Tango-Overture” for strings received its debut recording on the North-South label. Fanfare Magazine described the work as “a dance in a dream that sweeps away restrictions and sweeps away the dreamer.” In November 2013, Jose premiered a revised and expanded edition of Concierto Cubanero with Mr. Lifchitz and North-South as part of New York City’s Celebration of Hispanic Heritage Week.
During 2013, Jose completed an Artist Residency at the Studios of Key West, Florida; composed a commissioned work for the Amaral Duo, and performed with Karrie Griffiths of “Music in Miami,” where his Viola Concerto received its Florida premiere. In 2013 he returned to New York to premiere a revised version of his Concierto Cubanero with North-South Consonance. During 2014 Jose premiered his “Flauta, Mojito, Guitarra, y Habano” at La Casa de la Musica in Quito, Ecuador; played concerts for the Wisteria Chamber Music Society (MA); performed his Sonatina Tropical for Brattleboro Music Center’s “Composers in our Midst” with flutist Robin Matathias; and a duo program with Ms. Huhn for the Boston Guitar Society’s “Sunday Sounds” at Hingham Library. Other 2014 performances include Quintets by Boccherini and Castelnuovo-Tedesco at West Claremont Center for Music, and the Cuban premiere of his “Poemas Concertantes” at the International Festival of Contemporary Music in Havana, Cuba. His chamber work, “Mojito, Flauta, Guitarra, y Cuerdas” was premiered at “Three Sundays in July” of Music in Miami. In November 2014, Jose appeared as soloist, in Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez with the Portsmouth Symphony (NH) conducted by John Page, to a standing ovation before a large audience.
Dr. Lezcano recently completed a Spring 2015 sabbatical with various composition and performance projects, including concerts with soprano Dr. Rosa Tamarit Sumalla, in Tarragona, Catalunya (Spain), where he recently served as a Visiting Professor at the Universidad Rovira i Virgili. He also recently served again as guitarist and composer-in-residence at the 2015 Barcelona Festival of Song, for which he has composed three song cycles for soprano, musicologist, and founder Patricia Caicedo. During 2015 he also performed solo recitals at ESMUC (Escuela de Musica de Catalunya, Barcelona) and at the University of Florida. He premiered his “Fantasia Latina” for harp and guitar with harpist Franziska Huhn (NEC and Longy Faculty) at the Mitad del Mundo Festival in Quito (June 2015). During 2016, he appeared as soloist at the Identidades International Guitar Festival (Feb 1-7) as soloist in his own double concerto for flute, guitar and strings (Sojourners) with Antipe di Stella, flute, and Ivan Valiente conducting Orquesta de Solistas de la Habana; his “Key West Suite” was also performed at the festival by Duo Contrastes, and Jose premiered two of his original solos at the festival.
Dr. Lezcano has premiered works composed for him by colleagues, including concerti for guitar and flute, and guitar, flute, and percussion, by Hugh Bird; “Del Himnario” (2014) for solo guitar by Bruce Brusick; “Meditation” (2015) for guitar and percussion by Christopher Swist; and “Peregrine” for flute & guitar by Heather Gilligan.
As a member of the KSC Music Faculty for over twenty-three years, Dr. Lezcano’s guitar students have been frequent winners of the Department’s and College’s highest awards and scholarships, and members of the Guitar Orchestra under his direction have given concerts in Ecuador, New York City, and multiple appearances at the Boston Guitar Society Festivals. He also curates a biannual Guitar Festival at KSC featuring concerts and clinics by guest artists and faculty musicians, and attended by regional high school guitarists and their teachers.
Among his numerous awards:
"Un guitarrista magnifico", --Leo Brouwer
"Cuban-born Lezcano is a master of the guitar" --Keene Sentinel, Keene, NH
CRITICAL ACCLAIM FOR JOSE LEZCANO
"An excellent guitarist as well as an imaginative composer," Fanfare Magazine, 2012.
"A dance in a dream that sweeps away restrictions and sweeps away the dreamer." Fanfare Magazine (describing Lezcano's Tango-Overture for Strings, recorded by North-South Consonance on the CD Crosscurrents.), 2012.
"Las 350 personas escucharon los tres movimientos del concierto para guitarra y orquesta de cuerdas en Re mayor de Vivaldi. Durante la obra, los dedos de Lezcano se deslizaron con soltura sobre la cuerdas . . . fue una interpretacion vibrante . . . la participacion del guitarista fue sobresaliente." Quito, El Comercio, 9 enero 2010.
"Three hundred fifty people heard the three movements of Vivaldi's Concerto for guitar and string orchestra. During the work, Lezcano's fingers glided gracefully over the strings . . . it was a vibrant interpretation. . . the guitarist's participation was excellent." Quito, El Comercio, January 9, 2010.
"Jose Lezcano ... is a superb guitarist as well as a first-rate composer and arranger. His ability to play in different ensembles is very impressive . . . I have never said this before in any of my reviews: there is NOTHING I donâ€™t like about this CD. The performances, the compositions, the arrangements, the ensemble â€“ everything works so well." Review of CD "Passports" by New Millenium Guitar, 2000.
"Colorfully scored ... agreeable music, and dashingly performed by the composer." Fanfare Magazine, reviewing Jose's Guitar Concerto on the CD "Remembrances/Recuerdos." 2008
"Lezcano's Guitar Concerto (is) a first-rate composition ... Lezcano is a fine guitarist in his own cause." Turok's Choice. 2008
"Amiability is the keynote in the latest collection .. by the excellent North- South Chamber Orchestra ... Lezcano's Guitar Concerto is an atmospheric, tuneful melange." American Record Guide. 2008.
"Things get off to a good start with strong rhythmic attention to Lauro's Natalia with its engaging 3/4:6/8 patterns....the cross-string trills in the Scarlatti sonatas, often excluded from these pieces in favor of single-string ornamentation, are an artistic inclusion...this is an enjoyable recording with an interesting, entertaining and well-played programme." Music Web International, Review of Jose Lezcano's "Latin Images."
"The CD has many works with strong rhythmical patterns like Lezcano's composition "Antonia Zarate" which has a fantastic emotional layer. His interpretations of Barrios" work "La Cathedral" are superb. Two cuts by Merlin, "Evocation" and "Zamba" are impressive. Torroba's "Torija" has a soulful ambiance. The last piece on the CD by Lecuona ,"La Comparsa" is outstanding. Jose Manuel Lezcano succeeded with his CD "Latin Images" to deliver a very varied CD with strong compositions in top-notch guitar interpretations. --Henk te Veldhuis, Bridge Guitar Reviews, © 2008
"Cuban-born Lezcano is a master of the guitar . . . I can highly recommend this recording, for the rarely heard and newly composed selections, the excellence of the playing .." --Keene Sentinel, Keene, NH
"Un guitarrista magnifico," --Leo Brouwer
"It was a great pleasure collaborating with you when you appeared as soloist in the November 11, 2013 concert when your Concierto Cubanero received its New York City premiere as part of our concert series celebrating the musical contributions of Latino composers. Auspiciously, your work was enthusiastically received by both our musicians, and by the public that attended the event. And, of course, everyone was amazed with your command of the guitar and how brilliantly you played the solo part." --Max Lifchitz, conductor, composer, pianist, and founder of North-South Consonance.
"Many thanks for the CD with your splendid Guitar Concerto. It's a fine work--full of energy, imaginative invention and so beautifully played. Continued success with your work." --Joseph Schwantner, Pulitzer-Prize winning composer.
"The concerto . . . received a performance with just the right feeling of style and weight . . . effortless technique and rich characterization--a pleasure for the ear in all manners." --THE STATE, S.C.
"The arrival in Manabi of the Cuban-American maestro Jose Lezcano to perform in the Second International Festival of Flutists was providential for the Conservatory of Music of the University Eloy Alfaro, which permitted the guitar students to deepen their knowledge of this instrument...the invited maestro, with great style and extraordinary dexterity performed scores by diverse composers." --EL PORTENO, Manta, Ecuador
"A guitarist of the utmost fluency, able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the most celebrated." --THE WATERLOO COURIER (IOWA)
About Lezcano's Sonatina Tropical: "This energetic work for flute and guitar incorporates many Latin rhythms and styles into the traditional sonatina form. In each of the three contrasting movements, the composer weaves the two parts together beautifully while interspersing solo passages and soaring melodies to create a balanced and flowing work." --FLUTE TALK, Spring 2001.
"He is a world-class composer and performer, and a marvelous credit to Keene State College and to the greater New England musical and academic community." ---Eric Stumacher, Pianist/Director, Apple Hill Chamber Players/Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music
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