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With sanctions lifted, former BPO Music Director Max Valdes is heading to Cuba

Maximiano Valdes, former music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, is in the forefront of the United States’ new outreach to Cuba, a thaw that followed years of sanctions.

He will be traveling to Cuba in January 2016 to lead what promoters call the first major cultural exchange since diplomatic relations were re-established.

“For many years I have hoped for an opportunity to visit the island of Cuba, and particularly its wonderful capital, Havana, ‘La Perla del Caribe,’ ” Valdes said in a statement. “Cuba is an important part of a very fertile musical civilization. It will be an honor for me to perform with the internationally renowned Orquesta Nacional de Cuba, and to share my musical experience and knowledge with young musicians.”

Currently, Valdes is director of the Puerto Rico Symphony, artistic director of Festival Casals and conductor laureate of Spain’s Orquesta Sinfónica del Principado de Asturias.

He was the BPO’s music director for nine years, from 1989 to 1998. While he was here he married a Buffalo woman, Jody Snyder. They famously met when she called the police, concerned about a car filled with smoke. Valdes was in the car, smoking a cigar.

Cigars might not be the reason for his trip to Cuba, although they will probably prove a perk. Valdes’ visit is under the umbrella of Cuba Rhythm and Views, a cultural exchange program founded by American music producers Woody Wilson and Neil Birnbaum. Birnbaum toured Cuba in 2012 and 2013 as executive director of Northwest Sinfonietta, a chamber orchestra in Seattle.

“Music and art has a prominent presence in daily Cuban life,” Birnbaum said, announcing Valdes’ trip. “Woody and I are honored to expose our patrons to Cuba’s best classical, jazz and popular music. We are particularly proud that most events include interacting with the performers at social gatherings. This, combined with the salon-style private performances, provides an unmatched cultural experience for both Americans and Cubans. Art and music universally connect people regardless of politics or language.”

Valdes will be conducting Cuba’s Orquesta Nacional on Jan. 31, 2016, in a concert featuring pianist Aldo López-Gavilán in Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3. Also on the program is music by Ginastera and Brahms’ Symphony No. 2. Valdes also will conduct a master class and work with students at several schools including Havana’s national conservatory.


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