|About this Recording
8.223753 - MONTSALVATGE: Concierto Breve / RODRIGO: Zarabanda
Guerrero Foundation Prizewinners
Ever since its creation, the Jacinto & Inocencio Guerrero Foundation has followed the wishes of its founder, Inocencio Guerrero, and devoted its efforts to fostering the broadest possible spectrum of music, laying special stress on Spain's own musical heritage. Figuring among the activities sponsored in this way, are a series of competitions and awards that have earned wide international acclaim both for the generosity of the prizes as welll as the acknowledged calibre of the judging.
However, feeling as they did that there was not one single prize for musical composition in Spain which, in terms of prestige or prize-money, could rival those for literature or art, four years ago the Foundation's Trustees decided to create a major Spanish Music Prize to be awarded annually to a Spanish composer for his work as a whole. The jury responsible for awarding this Prize is totally independent of the Foundation and may freely consider any candidates put forward by institutions and individuals enjoying a degree of prestige. The Prize went to Joaquin Rodrigo in 1991, to Xavier Montsalvatge in 1992 and to Anton Garcia Abril in 1993.
By way of celebration, last year the Foundation held a concert dedicated to the first two prizewinners; a vibrant tribute in which several of the musicians taking part were actually prizewinning soloists who had triumphed in their sections in competitions held by the Foundation. We now present the fruit of that experience, a testimony to the first of many future such occasions, an event which also featured the guitarist Alex Garrobe who played Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez, not included on this recording for technical reasons. To all involved a heartfelt thank-you
President of the Jacinto & Inocencio Guerrero Foundation
Joaquin Rodrigo (b. 1901)
Zarabanda lejana y Villancico
Xavier Montsalvatge (b. 1912)
Sinfonia de requiem
The Jacinto and Inocencio Guerrero Foundation is proud to honour for their life-time achievement in music two important Spanish composers, Joaquin Rodrigo and Xavier Montsalvatge, the first a venerable maestro in his nineties and the second, with a questing spirit that sets him apart from younger creative generations, now into his eighties. The Foundation has for some years been holding competitions for instrumentalists and now two former contestants, a singer and a pianist, take part in the present programme, in a realisation of the aim of the Foundation, to render service to Spanish music.
The programme brings together music from very different eras. From the twenties comes Joaquin Rodrigo's Zarabanda lejana y Villancico. Dating from 1985 is the Sinfonia de requiem by Xavier Montsalvatge. Between the two lies the latter's Concierto Breve.
Originally written for guitar and piano, Rodrigo arranged his Zarabanda lejana and Villancico for orchestra in 1929 for performance in Paris, where it won immediate and lasting success. The work forms a harmonious whole, marked by exquisite delicacy, its transitions displaying logical clarity. In the Sarabande the dignity of the traditional dance, in all jts grave nobility, is expressed, shifting to the more animated Villancico, each piece complementing the other, so that it would be difficult to tell that the two pieces had in fact been written as separate entities. The two pieces are scored for strings.
Xavier Montsalvatge is an artist whose intellectual curiosity and restlessness of spirit have remained in part concealed by the modesty and lack of affectation that have marked his various activities, as composer, teacher and critic. His Concierto Breve was written in 1953 and was first performed in Barcelona at the Palau de la Musica by Alicia de Larrocha with the conductor Louis de Froment. In his fascinating Papeles autobiograficos the composer teIls how the work was originally submitted in a competition, where the jury included the conductor Eduard Toldra, a musician much admired by Montsalvatge and who professed reciprocal admiration for the composer's work, but no prize was given. Shortly before his death, however, Toldra conducted the concerto, the title of which can be justified neither on the grounds of length or content. The concerto is lively and optimistic in mood, with brilliantly scored dialogue between soloist and orchestra. It is in three movements, an allegro, marked Energico , an andante, marked Dolce and a final rapid Vivo, preceded by a cadenza requested by Alicia de Larrocha, to whom the work is dedicated. The Concierto Breve was followed by other works for solo instrument and orchestra, the Poema concertante for violin and orchestra, the Concerto capriccio for harp and orchestra, the Albayzin concerto for harpsichord, the guitar Metamorfosis de concierto and the flute Serenata a Lydia de Cadaques.
Montsalvatge's Sinfonia de requiem of 1985, a major orchestral work, written in 1985, is in direct contrast. The idea is an original one. The composer has explained that he wanted to lend shape in some way to a creation dictated by the Requiem Mass, without having recourse to the Latin texts, basing himself not so much on the religious substratum as on the expressive and dramatic eloquence of each of the six prayers for the dead, limiting himself purposely so as to achieve a wordless canticle of soothing tranquillity and hope. On earlier occasions he had made use of religious and spiritual motifs and arguably the clearest precedent can be found in his Cinco Invocaciones al Crucificado of 1969, commissioned by the Cuenca Religious Music Weeks Festival and its director, Antonio Iglesias, and based on medieval poems. There is also his 1960 piece Cant espiritual, his only cantata, with lyrics written by Maragall.
The Sinfonia de requiem was commissioned by the Ministry for Cultural Affairs and completed in 1985, European Music Year, the year in which Montsalvatge was awarded the National Music prize. The work was first performed at the International Festival of Contemporary Music in Alicante. The composer has explained again how, instead of approaching the strictly religious or liturgical sense of the Mass, he set himself the task of drawing forth from its very essence the most profound and vividly expressive feelings, ranging from the pathetic to the sublime, relying solelyon the orchestra, dispensing with vocal polyphony and employing only the closing words, intoned by a soprano: Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine. Amen. Despite being a purely symphonic, elegiac, funereal act, each of the six invocations that succeed one another in the work, without any formally contrived continuity, affirms the sentiment emanating from the Latin texts: the serenity of the Introitus and plaintive Kyrie merging into the tense awe of the Dies irae, contrasting with the smooth aesthetic gloss of the Agnus Dei, surfacing into the dazzling daylight of the Lux aeterna and ultimately leading to the closing Libera me, a wordless canticle of entreaty and hope.
It would be difficult to add anything to the composer's own description of the work, a clear masterpiece, imbued with a deep vein of humanism, the product of a mature artist at his best. In a world where settings of the Requiem abound in all their variety, it is this one, stripped of words, that would appear to have appropriated for the universal language of music the privilege of expressing an unshakeable avowal of burgeoning spirituality.
(English version by Michael Benedict)
Close the window