|About this Recording
8.573077 - MONTSALVATGE, X.: Sinfonía de Rèquiem / Manfred / Bric-à-brac (Barcelona Symphony and Catalonia National Orchestra, Pérez)
Xavier Montsalvatge (1912–2002)
Xavier Montsalvatge was one of the few Catalan composers of the early twentieth century to have developed a career in music without leaving Spain. As he himself said, “All the composers with whom I have some kind of shared experience are either older (Mompou, Toldrà, Lamote de Grignon) or younger (Mestres Quadreny, Guinjoan, Soler) than me. The rest of my generation (Nin-Culmell, Benejam, Suriñach) emigrated; very few of us stayed here: Homs, Serra and one or two others.” Of all the above-mentioned, it was Montsalvatge who achieved the most widespread international recognition as an orchestral composer, a rôle he combined with those of music critic and teacher at the Barcelona Conservatory.
Xavier Montsalvatge was born in Girona in 1912 and studied music in Barcelona, where he reacted against the Wagnerian inclinations of his teachers, leaning instead towards French music, and making several trips to Paris. His first taste of success came with the Cinco canciones negras (1946) and the Cuarteto indiano (1952), the key works of his “West Indian” style, an often ironic and perceptive synthesis of Cuban folk-music and a more contemporary aesthetic. Many of his works were given their première by artists of the highest calibre, such as pianist Alicia de Larrocha (Concierto breve, 1953) and guitarist Narciso Yepes (Metamorfosis de concierto, 1981). Montsalvatge composed three operas (El gato con botas, Una voce in off and Babel 46), twenty film soundtracks and dozens of ballet scores, choral works and chamber pieces. He was awarded many honours, notably the title of Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government, the Spanish National Music Prize, an honorary doctorate from Barcelona’s Universitat Autònoma, the city of Barcelona’s Artistic Merit Medal, the Spanish government’s Fine Arts Gold Medal of Merit, membership of the Real Academia de la Artes de San Fernando and the Tomás Luis de Victoria Ibero-American Music Prize (1999).
His music—always well received by audiences—is notable for its sincerity, for being communicative and accessible, and for combining a variety of different elements within a single score to create something new. Montsalvatge himself said, “I do not need serial techniques because I am against rigid orthodoxy, whether left- or right-wing. I admire Béla Bartók, Hindemith and, above all, Stravinsky, whom I see as the prototype composer of my time. In the contrast between consonance and dissonance, and between tonality and atonality, I look for an element that will light up my music. I believe that art should have ancestry, breeding, and be rooted in a clearly defined age. With this in mind, I try to follow my own path.” His focus on reaching out to audiences and establishing a genuine connection with them earned him considerable popularity, and his music, which takes in a wide range of genres, is still often programmed, as well as being much recorded. To quote Montsalvatge again: “I have never thought of music as being radically abstract, and still less as formulaic. Something of ourselves is inscribed in every note, every symbol we put down on paper: something of our sincerity, our intimate feelings, even of our faults, our cynicism and the lies we tell.”
The three works on this album provide a good overview of the composer’s orchestral music: Manfred (1945) is a ballet score, the Simfonía de Rèquiem (1985) is a spiritual piece, while Bric à brac (1993), his last orchestral work, features folk-inspired elements.
Bric à brac
Simfonia de Rèquiem
The members of the Orquestra Simfònica de Barcelona i Nacional de Catalunya are ideal exponents of this composer, having already made several recordings of his music and performed virtually all his orchestral works (including twelve world premières) in over 300 concerts, some devoted exclusively to Montsalvatge.
David Puertas Esteve
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