|About this Recording
8.572571 - BENGUEREL, X.: Concertante (Torrent, Spiesser, Philippe, Giot, Orchestre Perpignan Mediterranee, Tosi)
Xavier Benguerel (b. 1931)
Xavier Benguerel was born in Barcelona in 1931. He and his parents went into exile in Santiago, Chile, at the end of the Spanish Civil War, and he only returned to Spain in 1954. This was to prove a key year in his artistic career, marking both his integration into the so-called Generation of 51 and the start of his studies with Cristòfor Taltabull, although he remained largely self-taught. As well as becoming part of the musical life of his native country, he soon began to become aware of the new advances and techniques that had developed in European music during the first half of the twentieth century, coming into contact with such innovative trends as those represented by composers like Bartók and Stravinsky, or by the works of the Second Viennese School.
Benguerel used serial techniques in his Cantata d’Amic i Amat (Cantata of a Friend and Lover, 1959), which was programmed at the 1960 ISCM (International Society for Contemporary Music) Festival in Cologne. Further highlights of his career include a concert dedicated to his works at Barcelona’s Palau de la Música Catalana (1972); the award of the Luigi Dallapiccola Prize (1977); commissions from the German city of Hagen, the Berlin Schütz Festival, Baden-Baden’s SWR broadcasting company, the Zagreb Biennale, the Orquesta Nacional de España, Orquesta de la RTVE and Orquestra Simfònica de Barcelona i Nacional de Catalunya, the Alicante (1990), Torroella de Montgrí and Sant Feliu de Guíxols festivals, and from Speyer Cathedral; and the 1984 première in Barcelona of his chamber opera Spleen, which was then staged by the Frankfurt Opera the following year.
The work that has most enhanced his international reputation is his Llibre vermell (Red Book), an oratorio for soloists, chorus and orchestra, based on the songs and dances found in the fourteenth-century codex of the same name, one of the treasures of the Montserrat monastery library. The oratorio was first performed at the Gran Teatro del Liceu in Barcelona in 1988 and has since been heard in various other European cities. The Gran Teatro del Liceu also hosted the première of a later work, Dos poemas de Charles Baudelaire (Two Poems by Charles Baudelaire), for baritone and orchestra. This was commissioned in 1991 as part of Catalonia’s millennium celebrations and was first performed the same year.
The following books have been written about the composer and his music: Xavier Benguerel by Carles Guinovart and Tomás Marco (published by the Generalitat de Catalunya in 1991); Xavier Benguerel, obra y estilo by Jesús Rodríguez Picó (Idea Books, 2001); Xavier Benguerel, búsqueda e intuición by Jorge de Persia (SGAE, 2006) and Xavier Benguerel by Tomás Marco (Universidad Complutense, Madrid, 2010).
In 2001 Spain’s Ministry of Culture commissioned Benguerel to write the opera Yo, Dalí (I, Dalí), to mark the centenary of the artist’s birth. It is to have its première at Madrid’s Teatro de la Zarzuela in June 2011 and will also be staged at the Gran Teatro del Liceu the following October. In 2005 he was appointed honorary patron of the Orfeó Català-Palau de la Música foundation in Barcelona and in the same year donated all his manuscripts and other musical papers to the Biblioteca de Catalunya. Two years later he was named a member of the council of the SGAE (the Spanish Society of Authors, Composers and Publishers).
Benguerel’s music, always in his own distinct style, covers a wide range of genres, from intimate solo pieces to operas, cantatas, symphonic and chamber works. He has also built up an extensive discography over the years.
In Concertante, a single-movement work, the solo instrument, the guitar, engages in a continual dialogue with the rest of the ensemble, comprising three percussionists and string orchestra. The guitar line is built on a set of ingenious designs that establish themselves in due proportion to a wide variety of orchestral colours. For an instrument such as the guitar, compensating for the wealth of colour at the disposal of the ensemble constitutes a significant challenge. The composer meets this challenge by creating a dialogue in which a series of imaginative ideas conjure up a landscape in continuous flux. The guitar’s readiness to surprise, in harmony with the orchestra, is one of the key elements around which Berenguel gives this work stylistic unity, and thereby holds the listener’s interest throughout.
Música para percusión y cuerdas (Music for Percussion and Strings, 1990)
The Bartókian title of Music for Percussion and Strings) is eminently suitable: this is pure music with the contrasting percussive element made up of marimba, vibraphone, xylophone and glockenspiel. These instruments are treated as the soloist, on which considerable virtuosic demands are made at times. There are also moments of orchestral virtuosity for the strings, which are frequently requested to play divisi.
Concert de tardor (Autumn Concerto, 2005)
If throughout its history the guitar idiom has oscillated between violinistic melodic writing and pianistic harmonic writing, Benguerel, in his Concert de tardor achieves a perfect balance between the two. This happy medium not only enables the soloist to give a stunning display of virtuoso techniques and showcase the instrument’s contrasting resources, but also delights the listener with guitar writing whose full sound is ideally matched by the music for orchestral strings.
The Concert de tardor brings together different aspects of the composer’s inspirational writing for the guitar over the years, casting a new and innovative light on them, with the result that its conversational character, formal structure, effective instrumentation and textural variety combine to make it a most attractive work.
Doble Concert de la Porta Ferrada (Porta Ferrada Double Concerto, 2004)
The concerto form is present in almost every period of Berenguel’s production. He himself admits to not having found a satisfactory answer to the question of why he so often chooses to write such dialogues. He has also said, however, that he finds it easier to express himself when composing for a principal character (the soloist) set in opposition to an instrumental ensemble, whether of chamber or full orchestral proportions.
In his Double Concerto, dedicated to his son Marc, the two soloists are both string instruments—violin and cello—and, naturally enough, both play a leading rôle. While neither adopts a virtuoso attitude, in the space of a few short bars each in turn has a small “cadenza”. The concerto comprises three movements played, as is often the case in Benguerel’s works, without interruption.
English translations: Susannah Howe
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