05/05/2017 - Works of Cristòfor Taltabull, Honorat Vilamanyà, Josep Maria Mestres Quadreny, Miquel Ortega i Albert Guinovart
The relationship between text and music is generally shaped through voice; however, texts may also be evocative of compositions without voice being explicitly utilised. Music can draw us closer to the realm of poetry or legends by dint of its ability to be suggestive and moving.
Below are a number of examples of works that illustrate the diverse relationships existing between text and music.
Pedagogue and composer
Cristòfor Taltabull was a composer and pedagogue whose teachings were influential in the early works of composers such as Josep Cercós, Xavier Beneguerel, Josep Soler, Joan Guinjoan and Josep Maria Mestres Quadreny. He was a unique character who bequeathed a hugely significant musical legacy to an entire generation through the teaching of traditional techniques and major works from the 20th century.
Les set paraules de Nostre Senyor Jesucrist for string orchestra, two flutes, organ, tenor soloist and mixed choir is a piece with profound religious sentiment.
In relation to that specific piece, Josep Casanovas highlighted “the atmosphere of enchantment... A full command of traditional writing and counterpoint procedures”; a composition that may come near to “austerely classical expression, virtually characteristic of Bach”, although at times it is possible to detect a somewhat Ravelian accent.
Preludi inicial and Epíleg Simfònic set the scene for the composition and, with the exception of La Quarta Paraula, Andante Mosso, the tempo is largely expressive and contemplative. Short, repetitive rhythmic figures portray the relentless, dramatic nature of the text. The work is meticulously composed and imbued with details; the orchestration is subtle and the melodic lines emphasise the dramatic nature of the work.
Les set paraules is one of the few complete symphonic chronicles by Cristòfor Taltabull that has been preserved.
Magic and legend
The first major collaboration that took place between Joan Brossa and Josep Maria Mestres Quadreny was on the chamber opera El Ganxo from 1959. Their collaborations continued thereafter with chamber pieces, orchestral works and musical productions. Toc per a Joan Brossa, composed in 1999, a few months following the poet’s passing, is a tribute to his friend. The work is divided into three parts, each of them a reworking of ballets written a number of years earlier which are associated with the works of Joan Brossa.
The conception of the first part, Plor de rialles, is rooted in constantly transforming sound blocks that are merely broken for an instant of short, brisk rhythmic figures. The second, La força del gust, lends prominence to the accordion, and is almost written like a habanera to generate huge contrast with the linear expressions of the other instruments. The work ends with L’ombra parlant, which differs from the previous parts. Here, the orchestra is filled with constantly shifting sparks, light sources that glow out of all the instruments. The three movements are presented to the listener as genuine objets trouvés, sound objects the composer has sought to endow with his unique, novel mood of logic and unison.
In Poemes de seny i cabell we read that “Brossa’s bold, unbridled writing juxtaposes an assortment of images” and, in addition, that “a quest for essence may be seen”. These characteristics are intimately mirrored in the music of Mestres Quadreny. The poet’s originality is portrayed in the composer’s music.
From the “magic” of Joan Brossa to overtones: “legend has it that a long time ago... shepherds, mountains and appearances”; these are the key attributes of Honorat Vilamanyà’s ballet Gnoms a la Maladeta.
Honorat Vilamanyà (1905, Ripoll – 1963, Barcelona) was a musician and composer who stood out owing to his composition of sardanas. Indeed, between 1932 and 1936 he wrote some of the most famous, such as Camí dels Pirineus. Aside from the substantial number of sardanas, he also composed music for bands, chamber music and orchestral arrangements, such as the ballet described here.
Gnoms a la Maladeta premiered in the Palau de la Música Catalana in 1956 performed by Barcelona Municipal Orchestra under the baton of Eduard Toldrà.
The work opens with a serene barcarolle rhythm, an overture that extends momentarily with an Allegro Vivo until the Tempo di Ballet commences almost like a waltz in which three notes repeated several times depict a motif that will continue to appear throughout the ballet. This is followed by a succession of various segments in which a lucid, precise rhythm always stands out. Constantly changing orchestration and precise writing shrouded in detail transform this piece into a delightfully pleasing composition to listen to, an example of a musical piece written with a great deal of professionalism, albeit one that is unjustly seldom performed.
Composers and popular figures
Composer, pianist and orchestra conductor Miquel Ortega explains how García Lorca has always been an icon in his life ever since his childhood. His most ambitious work is the opera La casa de Bernarda Alba, not to mention the fact that he has composed music for 16 poems, one of the most commonly performed works of which is Memento.
The version of Memento described here is written for orchestra and baritone. The composer describes how these works constitute a “simple, in-ear experience” which would explain the countless performances of it and its warm reception from audiences. Various recordings have been made including one by baritone Carlos Álvarez.
The text of Memento is taken from Poema del cante jondo, divided into three short stanzas and a final verse. The composer begins each stanza using the same notes and then transforms them, thus distinguishing each stanza. The structure and sonority of the poem are factors by which the music is conditioned and arranged; indeed, rather than accompanying the poem, it fuses with it.
Memento is an Adagio. Always gesturing in close proximity to the piano, a smooth balancing act written in quavers conveys the tragic, yet contained sentiment of the poem. The work was written in Pamplona in 1995 while Ortega was the chief conductor and artistic director of the Pablo Sarasate Orchestra.
One of the most popular musical phenomena in recent years has been the creation of “musicals”, a genre that has gained surprising momentum. The most widely renowned Catalan composer may well be Albert Guinovart who, moreover, is also a highly revered pianist. Some of his most famous musicals include Mar i Cel, Flor de nit and Gaudí.
Mar i Cel premiered at the Teatro Victoria in Barcelona in 1988 and the script was written by Xavier Bru de Sala derived from a text by Àngel Guimerà. It received numerous Max awards in 2006, including the award for the best musical composition. We are presenting the most famous fragments that have been released, the final chorus.
This final fragment of Mar i cel has established itself as genuinely popular music performed by both professionals and amateurs alike, and at schools and colleges.
An almost nostalgic start, “El sol s’apaga en les boires”, gradually leads to more intense recollections of hope and peace; by blending lyricism and motifs with a slow tempo, the music leads to the final words: the sea and the sky (mar i cel).
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Bringing text and music together has produced a wide variety of music works. Texts in different languages and from different times have originated pieces of contrasting styles and genres. Following, we bring you a selection of pieces illustrating this...