Cuban-born guitarist, composer, educator, and folklorist Jose Manuel Lezcano has captivated audiences on four continents. His programs of traditional and South American guitar repertory, and his own solo, concerto, and chamber works, have taken him from Carnegie Recital Hall in New York City to major venues and festivals in the US, Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Brazil, China, Spain, Greece, Germany, and the Czech Republic, appearing as recitalist, collaborative musician, concerto soloist, and composer.
Described in 2012 by Fanfare Magazine as "an excellent guitarist as well as an imaginative composer, "Jose has earned numerous professional recognitions, the NH State Council on the Arts Individual Artist Fellowship, twice NHMTA Composer of the Year, and a Fulbright Award to Ecuador where he performed as orchestral soloist and pursued research on indigenous guitar traditions. He premiered his second guitar concerto, "Concierto Cubanero," in 2011 in New York City and in Quito, Ecuador. In 2012, Jose's "Tango-Overture" for strings, conducted by Max Lifchitz, received its debut recording on the North-South label as Cross-Currents.
During 2013, Jose completed an Artist Residency at the Studios of Key West, Florida and composed a commissioned work for the Amaral Duo of Baltimore, and also performed with "Music in Miami" in a third appearance, where his Viola Concerto received its Florida premiere. Jose has also previously completed commissions for the New York State Music Fund and Rochester Folk Art Guild, with which he released a CD (Latin Landscapes) and from the Boston Guitar Society and Meet-the-Composer New England.
In the 2013 season he is scheduled to return to New York to premiered a revised three-movement version of his Concierto Cubanero with Max Lifchitz conducting North-South Consonance Chamber Orchestra.
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 Professor 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" and "Best Performance, Soloist with Orchestra."
Jose is Professor and Chair of the Music Department at Keene State College, where he has taught since 1991. He coordinates and teaches in the guitar program, conducts the KSC Guitar Orchestra and Latin American ensembles, and courses in Latin American Music. He is also a popular lecturer for the NH Humanities Council with his talk, "The Guitar and the Devil," and "The Guitar in Latin America."
Among his numerous awards:
- First prize, 1982 MTNA National Guitar Competition;
- 1998 Fulbright Award in Ecuador to teach, perform, and research indigenous guitar traditions;
- 2002 Commissioned Composer of the Year (New Hampshire Music Teacher's Association);
- 2003 New Hampshire State Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowship;
- 2003 Keene State College's Award for Distinction in Research and Scholarship in recognition of his activities as performer, scholar, and composer.
- 2007 Commissioned Composer of the Year Fellowships from the New Hampshire Music Teacher's Association; a New Hampshire State Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowship.
- 2007 Commission from Rochester Folk Arts Guild, funded by the New York State Music Fund and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, and of a commission from the NHMTA for a viola concerto.
- 2008 Honorable Mention, MTNA National Competition for Composition, for Viola Concerto.
"Jose Lezcano ... is a superb guitarist as well as a first-rate composer and arranger." --New Millenium Guitar
"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 don’t like about this CD. The performances, the compositions, the arrangements, the ensemble – 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
"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