As readers know, I usually do only reviews, but in this case I want to give you my fond recall of the recently deceased admirable musician, María Rosa ("Cucucha") Oubiña de Castro. Pianist, pedagogue, but also a tireless promoter of young talents and founder of the Martha Argerich Festivals, she was generous, warm and positive.
She probably was the person that did most to make known the methods of her famous teacher Vincenzo Scaramuzza, he of the terrible temper but marvelous results. However, she also absorbed in her European studies the wisdom of such different teachers as Madeleine Lipatti (the widow of Dinu, one of the greatest pianists of his generation), the American Abbey Simon and the Russian Nikita Magaloff (both much appreciated here) and Hans Graf in Vienna, where she obtained a scholarship of the State Academy.
She played recitals and concerts with orchestra both in Argentina, in Spain and Switzerland, but her deeper vocation was to teach. And she taught at the principal conservatories: López Buchardo, Manuel de Falla, Juan José Castro and Gilardo Gilardi, as well as the Institute of the Universidad del Litoral at Santa Fe. Her fame went beyond our country and she gave courses at universities in Geneva, Rome, Naples, Strasburg, Brussels, Paris and Madrid. Two valuable books from her pen have been very useful for students: "Elements of pianistic technique. Analysis and pedagogy", and "Teachings of a great master: Vincenzo Scaramuzza".
Born in Santiago del Estero from Spanish parents, she kept a special accent from her breeding. And she was "de Castro" for she was married ten years to the pianist and conductor Roberto Castro, son of the illustrious Juan José. Her daughter María Rosa Castro is a distinguished member of the coordinating team of the National Symphony.
She founded the Escuela de Altos Estudios Pianísticos and the Centro de Estudios Pianísticos, institutions that gave an integral preparation for young artists. She also produced concert programmes in radio and TV (I collaborated with her and Julio Palacio in a short-lived late-night TV show dedicated to important twentieth-century music rarely played; one sample: Bartók´s Sonata for two pianos and percussion with no less than Gerardo Gandini and Antonio Tauriello; I am the sole survivor).
During many years she organised at her apartment informal and charming concerts with young players, and I was invited to some of them. Their ambience was of artistic fraternity, with no tension, just the pleasure of playing, talking about and hearing good music. I had fun in every one of them.
But probably the general public got the greatest impact from her founding of the Argerich Festivals. She was a great friend of Martha, and she managed to convince the very reticent master pianist to come back to Argentina (she had been absent for decades) doing what she liked: playing varied programmes with her friends. But also, there was an Argerich Competition that gave prizes to pianists from all over the world. There was a preselection jury and I had the privilege of being a part of it in three seasons, sharing many hours with specialists and "Cucucha", evaluating videos. It was a wonderful experience and the period in which I was closer to "Cucucha". Afterwards some misunderstandings soured the Argerich Festrivals, and unfortunately labor troubles took Argerich as a target (she was quite innocent); she didn´t come back to BA (last year she was persuaded to go to Rosario and Paraná but refused to play here).
"Cucucha" has left a lasting heritage in our midst and she will be lovingly remembered.