Live Review: Ana Carla Maza – PizzaExpress Live

Ana Carla Maza
Ana Carla Maza

Virtuoso cellist and singer songwriter Ana Carla Maza gives an impassioned and fiery performance at her sold-out London debut.

“It is a special night, muy linda, muy sabrosa.” Cuban cellist Ana Carla Maza exclaims half way through her set. She looks more thrilled than the audience. This is, after all, her sold-out London debut and she seems determined to make this no ordinary concert.

She opens with a virtuoso cello solo and her impassioned pizzicato fills the dark basement with electric energy.

Daughter of a Chilean pianist father Carlos Maza and Cuban guitarist mother, Mirza Sierra, Ana Carla Maza was born in Cuba, spent her teenage years in Spain and went on to study at the Sorbonne in Paris.

Her performance and witty commentary in-between songs take the audience on a journey through Havana via Paris. As her lyrics are in French and Spanish, her imaginative storytelling helps contextualise her music. In Cuba, the first rain of May is lucky she confides in us before launching into Quiero (I Want) a song about kissing in the rain of May. Tonight, it’s the first rain of summer, so this must be a lucky night too, she concludes.

Ana Carla Maza performs at Pizza Express Live, Holborn, London (17/08/2022) (Photo: Xenia Evans)

Elsewhere, an anecdote about lugging her cello up and down six flights of stairs to her Parisian studio flat leads into Con Amor y Poesía (With Love and Poetry); a number about a small apartment filled with books. 

Sombre moments rarely stay that way for long. Amor y Poesía, a sultry ballad in the recording, speeds up into fast improvisation in the live show. Then before you know it, everyone is encouraged to standup, clap and singalong. 

Thoughts and prayers to the people still eating their pizzas. This is not a performance to be passively absorbed. 

During one song, she leaves the cello, gets up, grabs the mic and gestures for everyone to clap while waving her arms, and chanting the main hook. It’s more like something one would expect at a stadium rock concert than a sit down concert billed as Parisian chanson with a Latin flair. At another point, a few of her bow strings snap while she head bangs to a final tremolo.

Credit to Maza, persuading a group of Brits on a Tuesday night to engage in any level of audience participation is no easy feat.

Meanwhile, the cello solos really allow her talent as a virtuoso to shine through (although she often can’t resist a little “bah!”). A tango dedicated to Argentinian composer Astor Piazolla is a thrilling live experience as her entire being thrums with joie de vivre.

The highlight is Te Me Fuiste (You Left me), the soaring melody line alongside her pleas “Dime que volveras” (“tell me you’ll return”) is deeply affecting. Melancholy drawn out bow strokes become guitar-like strums and eventually fist taps against the cello strings.

The encore, A Tomar Café, from her new album Bahía is dedicated to her piano teacher Miriam Valdés. It’s a piece she clearly enjoys performing as she shimmies her shoulders and grins mischievously as of course, the audience are all persuaded to clap along too.

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