Sarah Willis - Mozart y Mambo - The Observer

Cuban musicians have an ability to switch from classical to jazz to salsa with a chameleon versatility the rest of us can only envy. No boundaries, no inhibitions and a sense of rhythm that sets them free. Arming herself with bags of flair and a passion for the country and its music, British horn player Sarah Willis has joined forces with young Cuban colleagues to make an exuberant disc: Mozart y Mambo (Alpha Classics). Willis’s generous musicianship is stamped on this entire project, in which Mozart (the E flat horn concerto, K447, and the single movements K370b and K371) and mambo are gloriously joined at the hip.

Hearing Willis as a pure-toned, lyrical soloist in Mozart – listen for the wild cadenzas – is a novelty in itself, but the way this Berlin Philharmonic star player yokes her own classical tradition to the improvisatory skills of the Cuban musicians is exploratory and honest. The Havana Lyceum Orchestra (conductor José Antonio Méndez Padrón) were lucky to collaborate with one of the world’s best players. Every CD sale generates money for the Instruments for Cuba fund. And there’s a documentary about the project too.

The Observer
25 July 2020