Spain Music

The period that opens with the collapse of democracy (1939) under the impact of the civil war and the advent of Franco’s dictatorship, which forced the most eminent personalities of the Spanish musical world into exile, led to a profound involution for life music of the country. From the compositional point of view it was generally based, according to the intentions of the regime, on the production of ” easy music ”, in a neoclassical style and linked to popular tradition.

The most representative figures of Spanish music of the 1940s are those of J. Turina (1882-1949) and J. Rodrigo (b.1902), who also gained good fame abroad with the Concierto de Aranjuez for guitar and orchestra (1939); both were particularly active in Madrid, which in those years began to become practically the only musical center of the Francoist. More independent is the musical production of E. Halffter (1905-1989), who since the 1920s had established himself with significant works, such as the Sinfonietta (1925) and the Sonatina (1928): he remained faithful to the lesson of M. De Falla, of which he was a pupil, still in works of more recent years, such as Atlantida, for solos, choir and orchestra (1967, revised in 1976). Some Catalan composers must be mentioned separately, such as F. Mompou (1893-1987), author of music for piano and vocal works (remember the oratorio Improperiae, for violin, choir and orchestra, from 1964), E. Toldrà (1895-1962), who in 1944 founded the Municipal Orchestra of Barcelona, ​​together with the Teatro del Liceo, the only musical center in the city of those years, and the younger X. Montsalvatge (b.1911), who from the very beginning years of the dictatorship he became the somewhat hegemonic figure of the musical life of Barcelona (at whose conservatory he assumed the chair of Composition in the seventies). For Spain culture and traditions, please check

With the 1950s, the Spain also opened up to the influence of the European avant-gardes: the younger generations turned to the twelve-tone technique and serialism, thus attempting to achieve a first distancing from the aesthetics of the regime. Among the Catalan composers sensitive to new influences we remember – in addition to the older ones, such as R. Gerhard (1896-1970) and J. Homs (b.1906), who were the first in their country to take up the dodecaphonic technique – the most young JM Mestres-Quadreny (b.1929) and X. Benguerel (b.1931).

Mestres-Quadreny is reminiscent of Musica da cámara 1 and 2 (1961), in which the author makes use of the series, and Ibémia (1969), where the electronic medium is experimented; the Sinfonia en mi bemoll (1983) and the Concert d’Estiu for flute, 2 percussion and tape (1984) belong to the Eighties. Benguerel made use of serialism in Paraules de cada día (1964), while a new phase in his compositional development opens in the 1970s with Arbor for solos, choir and 4 reciting voices (1972), and Vermélia for 4 guitars (1976). J. Comellas (b.1913), M. Valls (b.1920), J. Casanovas (b.1924) and J. Cercós (b.1926) still belong to the generation of Catalan composers who formed during the war years.).

The first significant movements of the Spanish avant-garde took place in Madrid thanks to a group of composers who met in 1958 around the Grupo Nueva Musica, promoted by R. Barce (b.1928): although it had a rather short life (it broke up in fact in 1959), it began a period of intense concert activity aimed at the performance of both Spanish and foreign avant-garde music, and also of theoretical research, especially through the formation of new specialized magazines, such as Sonda(1967-74), directed by Barce himself. The most important of the Spanish serialists of the 1950s are L. De Pablo (b. 1930) and C. Halffter (b. 1930).

De Pablo founded in 1959 the avant-garde group Tiempo y Musica, specialized in the performance of contemporary chamber music (1959-63), as well as Alea (1965), the first electroacoustic experimentation studio in his country. He is the author of a very large number of compositions, covering almost all genres; to his extraordinary theoretical preparation in 1981 he was awarded the Dallapiccola prize for the whole work. Halffter, one of the founders of Grupo Nueva Musica, established himself in the panorama of new music with the Sonata for solo violin (1959) and the Microformas for orchestra (1960). In the 1970s he taught at the Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik in Darmstadt (1960).

Together with Halffter, two composers who have made a notable contribution to recent developments in Spanish music have taught at the Madrid Conservatory: the aforementioned Barce and CA Bernaola (b. 1929). Barce has done an important job in spreading the avant-garde in his country also on a theoretical level, developing the theory of ” level harmonies ”, which he referred to already in his first compositions, such as the Estudio de Densidades (1965). Among other things, the 48 Preludios for piano (1973-82) and the Symphony II (1982) belong to more recent years. Bernaola, who was a pupil of O. Messiaen and B. Maderna in Darmstadt, joined serialism (Sinfonietta progressiva, 1961), then elaborating a more personal style by experimenting with the most diverse genres. From 1975 is Ayer… soñé que soñaba for vocal quartet and 16 instrumentalists.

Among the events that characterize the new Catalan music of the 1960s, it is worth mentioning the cycle of concerts ” musica open ”, organized by Club 49 by J. Prats (1888-1970), and the birth (1963) of the Barcelona International Festival, thanks to which a new generation of composers came to the fore, including J. Guinjoan (b.1931), L. Balada (b. 1933), J. Soler (b. 1935), Spain Pueyo (b. 1935), J. Cervelló (b. 1935). In the seventies a group of young composers was able to shine, above all thanks to the activity of the Catalan Group of Contemporary Music (1969): C. Guinovart (b.1941), D. Pedrós (b.1942), J. Alcaraz (b.1943), A. Sarda (b.1943), JL Moraleda (b.1943) and A. Bofill (b.1944). In those years the Phonos Laboratory of Electroacoustic Music was founded, in which A. Lewin-Richter (b.1937) participated, and of the Grupo Instrumental Catalano, thanks to which the works of the youngest Catalan composers, such as L. Gasser (b. 1951).

With the death of F. Franco and the establishment of democracy, even in the musical field there were the first signs of openness and renewal (in 1977 it was the foundation of the Asociación de Compositores Sinfónicos Españoles, which until then had had a life clandestine). With the composers of the younger generations there is a return to more traditional musical forms: the most significant exponent of this current, defined as post-serial, is T. Marco (b. 1942). A pupil in Darmstadt of P. Boulez and G. Ligeti, Marco collaborated in 1967 in the composition of Ensemble by K. Stockhausen, and in the same year he founded the Estudio Nueva Generación. He currently teaches at the Madrid Conservatory. Since the 1970s he has reached full expressive maturity in works such as L’Invitation au voyage for soprano, 3 clarinets, piano and percussion (1971), and Nuba for 6 instruments (1973). Alongside Marco, we must also remember F. Cano (b. 1940), J. Villa-Rojo (b. 1940) and C. Cruz de Castro (b. 1941).

Spain Music