About this Recording
9.70174 - SECO DE ARPE, M.: Concertino / Song from Cabiria / Concert for Strings (Musica Viva Chamber Orchestra, Quintas)

Manuel Seco de Arpe (b. 1958)


Manuel Seco de Arpe was born in Madrid in 1958. He studied at his home city Conservatory with Carmelo Bernaola and Anton Garcia Abril, among others. In 1981 he won the Premio Roma, and settled for two years in Rome, where he studied Music Composition with Franco Donatoni. During these years he was in touch with Goffredo Petrassi, who encouraged him, congratulating him on the work Trío No. 2, performed at the Pontino Festival. Together, and working with the critic Mario Bortolotto, they arranged for the first meeting of Italian and Spanish composers, in 1982.

Manuel Seco de Arpe has won many composition contests, and his works have been performed in many international and national festivals. He has received commissions from leading festivals and institutions, including the Pontino Festival in Italy, the European Council, Europalia (Belgium), Musica D’Oggi (Italy), Autumn Madrid Festival (Spain), the International Contemporary Music Festival in Alicante (Spain), the Religious Week of Cuenca (Spain), and the Santander International Music Festival (Spain). Recordings of his works include his Misa Jubilate Deo (RTVE), chamber music performed by the Concertus Novo ensemble (EMEC), and piano works performed by Antonio Narejos (Opera Tres, given an award by by the Spanish Ministry of Culture in 1991. His music has been recorded and broadcast by RNE, RTVE, RAI, Radio France, and Radio Alsacia, among other media.

Manuel Seco de Arpe taught composition at the Conservatory of Murcia, heading the Department for eighteen years, and has taken part in many contemporary music forums, publishing articles in the press and in specialized magazines. He has also been a founder member and musical adviser of the Concertus Novo contemporary music ensemble, and founder director of the Ciclos de Música Española and Mayo Musical events in Murcia. He has served as founder president of the Murcia Symphony Orchestra and president of the St Cristobal Hermitage cultural association, dedicated to the promotion of Spanish visual arts. He has been the director of the Rafael Seco Art Museum, and the Conciertos de Estio performances at the St Cristobal Hermitage. He is currently Head of the Composition Department at the Royal Conservatory of Madrid, and teacher of composition and analysis at the Defence School Group. With an extensive catalogue, including more than 140 works of all genres, Manuel Seco de Arpe stands apart, with his aesthetic contribution to the post-avant-garde, based on an eclectic and multistylistic approach, highly expressive in content, and at the same time, with a strong structural element.

Enrique Franco: Manuel Seco. Works for Piano. Ópera Tres. Madrid.

Composer’s Note

The Concertino for piano, harp, glockenspiel and strings consolidates a writing style that started three years before, in the Cabiria Symphony, a score written for Giovanni Pastrone’s film of 1914. The style is based on triad-chord sequences. It is a concept of tonality where no tonal function of scale-based chords is used, and chords just occur within a cyclical and infinite flow, as it were, in ecstasy. In my Cabiria Symphony, sequences flow without a clear delineation of a theme. In Song of Cabiria, however, a theme—or a thematic sequence—is shaped by the oboe, meanwhile the string section plays over the main chord sounds, using delays and dissonances for tension and colour purposes. Some works have emerged from this material, like Oratio, for voice and organ, and some studies for piano. The treatment of the material in the Concertino, however, does not fit into a planned series. Instead, music follows the natural trends of chord-linking, seeking for diversity and contrast, introducing not themes but motifs. The score is dedicated to my father, who died while I was composing the score. The final section, L’adieu, reflects the transition of his soul towards the eternal world of spirits.

The Concert for Strings, Op. 108, was commissioned for the conductor Luis Aguirre, and given its première at the Musikfest—Música España—Munsterland (Germany) in 2000. I am very interested in eclecticism as an unquestionable sign of the present day, and it has been a basis of my musical language for years. In this score harsh dissonances written in a “Bartókian” string writing style lead to a tonal theme that is going to be present through the whole score. Tonal and non-tonal chords alternate with minimalist sequences based on triadic chords, which will be used as a reference style in my future works. This score is built in three parts, with a long and slow central movement, flanked by two energic sections, the last one conceived as a recapitulation of all the material of the exposition. This work requires a high degree of expertise in the conductor and performers, particularly in keeping adequate tension in the tempo changes with the extended chords used.

Manuel Seco de Arpe

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