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16/06/2017 - Works of Enric Morera, David León, Domènec González de la Rubia, Jordi-Lluís Rigol and Jaume Torrent.

Between symbolism and descriptiveness, symbolic or descriptive music, the ambiguous nature of music may be construed in many different ways.

The extensive catalogue of symphonic music produced by Catalan composers reflects a specific trend: a penchant for symbolic, descriptive elements. These extra-musical references can determine the structure of the composition or merely constitute a starting point.

Nostalgia

In Papers biogràfics, Xavier Montsalvatge writes: “Morera was a great harmoniser and an even better contrapuntist, although like most Catalan musicians from his generation he composed all of his works... literally embedded in Wagnerian aesthetics”. This is the case with most of his productions, although gradually we see the emergence of compositions with differing approaches. Records Campestres: danses per a oboè i orquestra does not convey the interest in Wagner; rather, it is more in keeping with what Morera himself described in the introduction to his book Nuevo tratado práctico de Armonia: “Persuaded as we are that art is the offspring of a spontaneous feeling...”.

Characterised by a slow tempo and a minor tonality, Records Campestres immerses us in a nostalgia-tainted landscape from yesteryear. The initial Moderato tempo affords a backing that sets the scene for the performance from the first oboe, depicting an Arabesque-style melody, engendering a dance. A sharp tripartite structure defines the work, where the initial Moderato is followed by a brief Poco Meno episode in stark contrast to the previous one. The oboe melody and orchestral accompaniment is replaced with an orchestral segment leaning more towards counterpoint. This is again followed by the Moderato track and, for the denouement, we return to the initial melancholy melody.

Recreation

Estampes de Mallorca, composed in 2008 by David León Fioravanti – a composer and pianist born in Palma de Mallorca – is a composition for string orchestra produced at the request of Joana Maria Coll, conductor of La Stravaganza string orchestra. The composer explains that the conductor advised him to use traditional material from Mallorca. The work strives to recreate three different tableaus based on the language of popular music.

Vora mar, the first movement, begins with a brief, calm motif performed by violoncellos and basses which gradually extends and undergoes a transformation, leading us to a merrier episode. Towards the end of the movement, the initial ambiance and motif return. According to the composer, the two main tracks are inspired by the songs So de pastera and A la vorera de la mar.

Pagesia, the second movement in a Larghetto tempo, is lyrical in nature. The initial track performed by violoncellos in a Molto Cantabile portrays the motifs that will be transformed as the movement reaches the peak of its intensity. Towards the conclusion the music tapers off and the ending is marked by a Calando. As with the previous movement, this “scene of country life” bears elements associated with traditional music.
The third movement, Festes, has a 6/8 time signature setting a determined, cheerful and gentle pace. A brief central episode – Meno mosso ed expressivo – produced based on previous tracks, leads us to the first Vivo, after which the movement ends in the same fashion as it began with a lively dance movement.

Nature and expression

According to Bachelard: “In a poet’s dream, realms are imaginary”. Just like a poet, a composer can create based on impressions of nature. In relation to Instants de la natura, Domènec González de la Rubia tells us that music is expressive of emotions linked to the experience of beholding landscapes and associating them with moods and subjective feelings.

Composed in 2008, Instants de la natura for string orchestra is divided into three movements, each of which is insinuated by an image of nature. El murmuri del vent, the first movement, “seeks to convey a landscape caressed by the breeze of night”. This is music that portrays both disquiet and reflection. El sospir de la nit is a slow movement, almost a whisper. According to the composer, “In a mysterious forest inhabited by fantastic beings, the wind caresses the leaves on the trees”. The music leads us from unrest to tranquillity.

The third movement, La ferida de l’aigua, denotes tempestuous waters. Here, according to the composer, the violent landscape triggers rebellion in the face of adversity. As with the previous movements, the clash leads to victory.

Domènec González de la Rubia uses landscapes as a point of reference, virtually as a provocation, in order to compose music shrouded in strength and expressiveness.

Imagined settings

In a similar vein to the previous composer, Jordi-Lluís Rigol has also composed music of a descriptive nature invoking a range of images, for instance, his composition for string orchestra Seda.

The work described here, El país de la No-memòria, is a Cantata for children’s choir, soloist, narrator, choir and small instrumental band. The setting now immerses us in a fantasy tale written by Fina Masgrau.

“Tània was never quite sure whether what she was seeing and doing was a dream or reality.” From the outset, the authors place us in an imaginary spot, a realm of fantasy with moving objects.

Musically, the Cantata settles on three types of arrangement: the first is narrative and includes recitals and spoken text; the second is formed by a predilection for rhythmic elements, essentially performed by percussion and piano; lastly, the third includes more lyrical, expressive fragments, commonly with a feel of Cantabile.

One of the fundamental features of Jaume Torrent’s artistic track record has been expanding on the collection of works for guitar in the conviction that traditional guitar techniques fail to sufficiently capitalise on the instrument’s full sound capacity. His repertoire includes works in which this instrument is combined with a huge array of instrumental groups.

The violin and the guitar have been used by the composer on several occasions, for instance, in Sonata per a violí i guitarra op. 45 and Quatre peces breus opus 56. The work described here, Paganini in America, adopts a Concertante form with violin, guitar and string orchestra. It was performed for the first time in San Francisco on the occasion of the 225th anniversary of the birth of Paganini.

Jaume Torrent details the complementary nature of the two solo instruments, the lyrical potential of the violin with the harmonies of the guitar, as well as the differences and contrasts between the timbres. At the start of Paganini in America we can hear the interplay between the Intimo e Cantabile lyricism of the violin complemented by the Ad Intenso nature of the guitar. Then, a rhythmic Allegretto changes the composition’s development before gradually reviving the nature of the start in a complex route. The concerto ends with a final Vivo.

The final part of the work includes a short “musical jest” using two tracks: La Campanella by Paganini and a familiar passage from West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein.

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