Mozart y Mambo part II – a musical road map of Cuba

The Mozart y Mambo project continues with a musical road map of Cuba - “Cuban Dances”, the world’s first Cuban horn concerto, soloists from the Buena Vista Social Club and a new film.


In 2020, Sarah Willis proved, in spectacular fashion, that Mozart compositions and mambo music are the perfect natural fit. Together with the Havana Lyceum Orchestra and conductor José Antonio Méndez Padrón, she took Mozart y Mambo to the top of the classical music charts and flooded social media channels with the album’s danceable rhythms – on Facebook alone, “Rondo alla Mambo” was viewed 8.5 million times. The recording combined popular solo pieces for horn by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart with traditional Cuban music thus creating an intoxicating energy of musical styles which at first glance only seemed contrary. As The Guardian UK noted, “Willis’s generous musicianship is stamped on this entire project, in which Mozart … and mambo are gloriously joined at the hip”.


Mozart y Mambo: much more than just an album

For Sarah Willis, her ambitions for the transatlantic partnership which produced Mozart y Mambo were always significantly greater than just a recording project with a Cuban orchestra. In her multiple visits to Cuba previously, Willis had been so impressed with the quality and diversity of Cuba’s classical music scene that she wanted to raise awareness of it worldwide. An engaging documentary film about the project created by Deutsche Welle helped realise that vision. Part of the proceeds from the album’s CD sales went to purchase new instruments for Cuban musicians, so the orchestra now sounds better than ever. Awarded an MBE (“Member of the Order of the British Empire”) in 2021 by Queen Elizabeth II for services to classical music, Willis considers this honour to be partly in recognition of her work in Cuba.


If you cant dance it, you cant play it” – Mozart y Mambo Part Two

Now, two years after the phenomenal success of the first album, Sarah Willis and the Havana Lyceum Orchestra continue their inspirational journey. For Mozart y Mambo – Cuban Dances, scheduled for release in September 2022 by Alpha Classics, Sarah Willis has commissioned the world’s first Cuban horn concerto. Six Cuban composers have written six dances for solo horn, strings and percussion to create this work. These are inspired by traditional dance rhythms from different regions in Cuba and together they form the six movements of the horn concerto “Cuban Dances.”

As Willis explains, “With ‘Cuban Dances’ we have created a musical map of Cuba and its musical history. Preparing and recording the dances – Son, Danzón, Guaguancó, Bolero, Cha-cha-chá and Changüí – was one of the greatest musical challenges I have faced so far, due in no small part to the technical demands of the horn solos. But as my Cuban friends say, If you cant dance it, you cant play it.’ How right they were!”


Midnight Mozart in Havana

Mozart y Mambo – Cuban Dances, of course, also features music by Mozart in the form of the Horn Concertos No. 1 in D major and No. 2 in E-flat major. Just like the previous release, Willis and the Havana Lyceum Orchestra recorded the works late at night in a church to avoid capturing Havana’s noisy day time life on the recording.

Completing the programme are the traditional Cuban songs: “Veinte Años” featuring Carlos Calunga of Buena Vista Social Club fame, and “El Bodeguero,” both in stunning new arrangements by Jorge Aragón and “Pa Pa Pa”, the charming little Cuban nod to W.A. Mozart’s “The Magic Flute”.

The new ARTE Documentary and Mozart y Mambo concerts in the autumn of 2022

The excitement of the first part of Mozart y Mambo was captured on film by Deutsche Welle; now a second, very special, film project has been created: Sarah Willis and the orchestra perform the individual dances from the “Cuban Dances” at their respective places of origin in Cuba, accompanied by a camera team. The films from this unique music-historical road trip will appear on ARTE in the autumn of 2022. Viewers will experience the mutual appreciation between the Cuban musicians and Sarah Willis, demonstrating that the love of music knows neither cultural nor human boundaries.

In October, experience Mozart y Mambo live as Sarah Willis and the orchestra bring this project to Europe with concerts in Salzburg, Munich, Wiesbaden and Berlin.


You can find out more about the Mozart y Mambo project here.


Upcoming Sarah Willis and Havana Lyceum Orchestra concert dates:

October 23: Salzburg (Mozarteum)
October 24: Munich (Reithalle)
October 25: Wiesbaden (Kurhaus)
October 29: Berlin (Kammermusiksaal Philharmonie)



Mozart y Mambo: Cuban Dances
will be released by Alpha Classics in September 2022

Sarah Willis – Horn
Carlos Calunga – Voice
Enrique Lazaga – Güiro
Havana Lyceum Orchestra
José Antonio Méndez Padrón – Conductor

  1. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Horn Concerto No.2 in E flat major, K.417
  2. Cuban Dances for solo horn, strings and percussion:
    Pepe Gavilondo & Yasel Muñoz: Tamarindo Scherz-son
    Yuniet Lombida: Danzón de la Medianoche
    Wilma Alba Cal: Guaguancó Sencillo
    Jorge Aragón: Un Bolero para Sarah
    Yuniet Lombida / Ernesto Oliva:  Sarahchá
    Ernesto Oliva: ¡Ay Comay! Un Changüí pa´SariW
  3. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Horn Concerto No.1 in D major, K.412
  4. Maria Teresa Vera: Veinte Años (arr. Jorge Aragón)
  5. Richard Egües: El Bodeguero (arr. Jorge Aragón)
  6. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart / Edgar Olivero: Pa Pa Pa

Foto: Monika Rittershaus
To the overview