JUAN MANEN (1883 - 1971)
A leading figure in the music of Catalonia, Joan (Juan) Manén was born in Barcelona in 1883. From the age of three he studied the piano with his father, making very rapid progress. He started to learn the violin at the age of five and four years later appeared in Latin America, giving his first concert in 1898 in Europe, where he was on occasion accompanied by Granados. His contemporary reputation was primarily as a virtuoso violinist. He showed equal precocity, however, as a composer, an art in which he was largely self-taught. His first opera, Juana de Nápoles, was staged at the Liceu in Barcelona in 1903, with a second opera, Acté, produced at the same theatre towards the end of the year. He made his début in Berlin in 1904, where he settled until 1914.
His visit to Germany brought an admiration for Wagner and for Richard Strauss, which had its effect on his compositions. He was instrumental in founding the Sociedad Filarmónica de Barcelona in 1930 and paid for the establishment of a concert hall, the Auditorium Manén, which still awaits completion.
He arranged Catalan and Spanish melodic material, which makes an occasional appearance in his other compositions. Manén's Fantasie-Sonata initially draws on the harmonies suggested by the tuning of the guitar, but as the work proceeds Catalan melodic elements become more apparent. Written around 1930, the piece makes no concession to contemporary avant-garde trends.