Brothers Aldo López-Gavilán and Ilmar Gavilán both have a passion and a talent for music, but they were never able to collaborate together — until recently.
This is all part of their narrative. Their story and their music will intertwine as they perform as part of the Chautauqua Chamber Music Guest Artist Series at 4 p.m. Monday, July 11, in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall.
Ilmar Gavilán is the violinist of the duo; Aldo López-Gavilán is the pianist. Gavilán has many musical influences, from Russian-American violinist Jascha Heifetz to Israeli-American Pinchas Zukerman, but what unites these diverse musicians is not the music they play, but the way they play it.
“Music is not just sounds, but it’s meant to speak, talk, to say something. That’s something that I really admire, and it’s an art that, if we are not too careful, it will disappear,” Gavilán said.
He sees musicians focusing more on being employable, learning the music perfectly and sounding a specific way. While this tactic works for getting a job, it lacks a certain quality. To Gavilán’s ears, that quality is “phrasing, poetry through music.”
When a musician’s focus is only on technique, it loses its deep emotional and storytelling power. López-Gavilán and Gavilán lean into this storytelling aspect, and they have quite the story to tell. At 14, Gavilán moved from Cuba to, what at the time was, the Soviet Union to further his studies. After his time there, he studied at the Reina Sofía School of Music in Spain before coming to the United States and joining the Manhattan School of Music in New York City. He never moved back to Cuba.
López-Gavilán, on the other hand, continued his piano education on the island of Cuba. At just 12, he began his professional career playing for the Matanzas Symphony Orchestra, whose home is in Matanzas, Cuba. In 1999, he recorded his first album En el Ocaso de la Hormiga y el Elefante; it won the 2000 Grand Prix at Cubadisco.
Twenty years later, during summer 2019, after touring Latin America, Europe and the United States, López-Gavilán collaborated with his brother, for the first time, on the album titled Brothers.
López-Gavilán and Gavilán confirmed they will play the title track “Brothers” at their concert this afternoon. The song was written for their PBS documentary “Los Hermanos/The Brothers,” which first aired fall 2021 and was screened Sunday night at the Athenaeum Hotel. “Brothers” was specifically written for the final scene of the documentary, and because the rest of the album was not, the song has a different quality.
“It has a nostalgic feel to it. Of course it’s about the two of us finally being together,” Gavilán said.
The emotion Gavilán feels about performing with his brother and getting to be with him can perhaps only be told through their music.
“It’s something very hard to put into words,” he said, “but it feels great. Now you’re complete, it’s like that.”