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Spain's Musical Exile and its Legacy

Published in March 1998

Read an extended version of this article in Spanish (PDF).

It is generally known that in the 1920s and early ’30s, Spain’s cultural production was in a moment of extraordinary splendour; one might simply cite the names of García Lorca, Buñuel, Dalí, or Picasso –all of whom were coming into artistic maturity in precisely these years-as evidence of this renaissance. Though somewhat less known, Spanish music, too, was enjoying in this time a kind of “edad de plata”, as a series of first-rate composers and musicians, led by the great Manuel de Falla, made important contributions to the musical culture of Europe.

Tragically, the Spanish Civil War, which broke out in July 1936, truncated this moment of great promise, and many of the nation´s most talented artists, writers and musicians chose, or were forced into, exile. Many took up residence in the Americas –North and South– where they were, for the most part, received with great generosity. This concert aspires to pay homage to those Spanish composers in exile, to the countries and musical institutions in the America that welcomed them, and to the disciples and collaborators of these composers who have cultivated their legacy.

Mexico: Rodolfo Halffter and Mario Lavista

Divertimento for five instrument by Rodolfo Halffter

Rodolfo Halffter (Madrid, 1900-Mexico City 1987) arrived in Mexico in June 1939. He was quickly appointed Professor of Music, and two years later went on to occupy the Chair in Musical Analysis at the National Conservatory. Several generations of Mexican composers received an important part of their training in this classroom, where they analysed and experimented with important trends in contemporary European music- Shöenberg, berg, Webern, etc. In 1944, together with Carlos Chavez, arguably Maxico´s most renowned composer, and other musicians, Halffter founded the “Nuestra Musica” group, which later give rise to the country´s most important music publishing firm, “Ediciones Mexicanas de Música”. His Divertimento for 9 Instruments (flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon trumpet and string quartet)is a chamber version of four pieces of his Ballet Don Lindo de Almería which he worked on in both Spain and Mexico with the great Spanish poet and fellow exile, José Bergamín. I. Introducción en Guajiras; II. La santera, Danza de la Colegiala y Paseillo del Torerito; III. El Torerillo y los Picadores; and V. Danza Final (pasodoble).

Responsorio in Memoriam Rodolfo Halffter by Mario Lavista

Mario Lavista (Mexico City, 1943) in one of the outstanding figures of contemporary Mexican music. A disciple and close friend of Rodolfo Halffter, Lavista himself a Professor of Composition, and Director of the musical journal Pauta. In 1991 he received Mexico´s National Prize for Art and Science. His Responsorio in Memoriam Rodolfo Halffter was composed in 1988, a year after the maestro´s demise. In this work Lavista combines extraordinarily expressive modern techniques on traditional instruments – particularly the bassoon- with other older techniques, reminiscent of composers such as the XIVth-century Guillaume de Machaut. The lament of the bassoon, accompanied by a brilliant use of percussion instruments (bass, drums and bells), recreates a scene of profound sorrow and loss.

Argentina: Manuel de Falla and Juan José Castro

Concierto for piano and five instruments by Manuel de Falla

Towards the end of Spain´s Civil War, Manuel de Falla (Cádiz, 1876-Alta Gracia, Argentina, 1946) accepted an invitation to conduct a series of concerts in Argentina. He left for Argentina shortly after the end of the war, and ended up staying there until his death. Although his dedicate health forced him to take up residence in the somewhat remote town of Alta Gracia, he was visited with great frequency by a number of young composers, such as the Argentines Carlos Gustavino, Pedro Sáenz and Eduardo Grau, and the Venezuelan Juan Vicente Lecuna. The Concerto for clavichord or piano and five instruments (flute, oboe, clarinet, violin and cello) is clearly reminiscent of Spanish music from the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries. As the critic (and fellow exile) Adolfo Salazar has said, one finds in this piece the author´s desire to explore the roots of tradition – including the spontaneous popular tradition and the more refined learned tradition. Dedicated to the clavichordist Wanda Landowoska, the piece was played by her at its 1926 premier in Barcelona.

Allegro from Sonatina Española for Piano by Juan José Castro

The composer and orchestral conductor Juan José Castro (Avellaneda, 1898-Buenos Aires, 1968) was a good friend and a loyal collaborator of de Falla. He received his musical education first in Buenos Aires and later in the Schola Cantorum de Paris where he worked under Vincent D´Indy. This apprenticeship marked his ideas of sonority and instrumental colour. He worked with both orchestras and chamber ensembles, as well as theatrical music; his opera The Shoemaker´s Prodigious Wife, based on the farce with the same title by García Lorca, is worthy of mention in this regard. The son of a Galician immigrant who was both a musician and a luthier, Juan José Castro frequently looks to Spain for inspiration. Sonatina Española (1953) is evidence of that trend; its experimentation in terms of sonority makes clear his debt to the maestro de Falla; there are even echoes, in its first movement, Allegro, of de Falla´s Concerto.

Chile: Vicente Salas Viú and Carlos Botto Vallarino

Vicente Salas Viú

The musicologist, writer, and historian Vicente Salas Viú (Madrid, 1911-Santiago de Chile, 1967) ins a perfect example of integration into the intellectual life of one´s country of exile. Just a few months after arriving in Santiago in August 1939, Salas Viú was invited to participated in organizing the Institute for Continuing Education in Music at the University of Chile. This marked the beginning of leadership of important musical institutions, such as the Revista Musical Chilena, which he edited. During his 28 years in Chile, Salas Viú researched and performed both European and Chilean music extensively, and published various books, essays and articles. In addition to his broad musical knowledge, training in the humanities, and strength as a teacher, Salas Viú is known for his deep interest in Chilean folklore and his profound concern with musical education. For many years, he taught History of Music at the National Conservatory and seminars on contemporary Chilean music.

Songs To Love And To Death by Carlos Botto Vallarino

Among the composers who took courses with Salas Viú was the composer and pianist Carlos Botto Vallarino (Viña del Mar, 1923). After studying at the National Conservatory of Music in Santiago, Botto won a Guggenheim Foundation grant to study in New York with composer Luige Dallapicola. He has run impostant Chilean musical institutions, such as the National Conservatory and the National Composers´ Association, and enjoys great prestige in Chile as a composer and teacher. Although he prefers the piano, voice and chamber music also comprise a great part of his work. His Cantos al Amor y a la Muerte, Op. 8 for tenor and string quartet , won first prize at the 1956 Chilean Music Festival. The text of seven pieces is taken from the collection of Chinese poems, “The Jade Flute”. While the vocal treatment uses scales and tones typical of Asian music, the accompanying arrangements are closer to the atonal currents of German expressionism. The result is a dramatic sonorous mood which envelops us in the texts’ poetic atmosphere.

United States: Joaquín Nin-Culmell and Robert Strizich

Two Poems by Jorge Manrique / Et Lux Perpetua Luceat Eis by Joaquín Nin-Culmell

Son of eminent composer Joaquín Nin Castellanos and French-Catalan singer Rosa Culmell, and brother of writer Anaïs Nin, Joaquín Nin-Culmell (Berlín, 1908) is a living tribute of this century. Despite having been born in Berlin and raised primarily in New York and Paris, he considers himself profoundly Spanish. He received his first music lessons in New York, and studied composition in Paris with Paul Dukas and in Granada with Manuel de Falla, who introduced him to the Spanish composers of his generation. The political situation following the Spanish Civil War led Nin-Culmell to move to the U.S. and join the faculty at Middlebury College, where he encountered exiled poets Pedro Salinas and Jorge Guillén, as well as musicologist Adolfo Salazar. The eruption of the World War II prevent him from returning to Paris, and led to his joining the U.S. musical and academic community whole-heartedly. He has composed in a wide range of musical genres, from San Franciso Ballet commissions to the Dedicatory Mass for the consecration of St. Mary’s Cathedral. Et lux perpetua luceat eis for string quartet and percussion was composed in 1981 and premiered in New York that same year. Originally asked to write a memorial work, the composer -whose style is primarily atonal or multitonal- experimented with dodecaphonic material. Jorge Manrique´s Dos poemas for voice and string quartet were composed between 1934 and 1936, the last years of his contact with Manuel de Falla in Granada. He composed Danzas cubanas for piano in 1985 as an homage to the great Cuban composer Ignacio Cervantes (1847-1905).

Still And Still Moving… by Robert Strizich

Composer Robert Strizich (US, 1945) studied with Nin-Culmell at the University of California at Berkeley. His interest in Spanish music and his training as a guitarist has led him to maintain a close relationship with his teacher. He continued his studies at the Musikakademie of Bassel, Switzerland, and upon returning to the U.S., earned a PhD in composition at UC, San Diego. Strizich has composed a great variety of instrumental, vocal, and electric-acoustic works. Some of his recent compositions mesh computer-generated sound with that of traditional instruments. His work has been commissioned by orchestras, artistic associations, and dance companies, and performed at important music festivals throughout Europe, the United States, and Latin America. Author of numerous works on musical and instrumental theory, Strizich has taught at important musical centers in California and is currently a Professor at UC, Santa Cruz. About the world premiere of his work “still and still moving…”, Strizich says, “The title refers not only to the dominant atmosphere of the work´s beginning and ending sections, but also to the musical contrast explored in the piece. It is a quotation from the second T.S. Eliot “Four Quartets”, in which the poet contemplates various profound metaphysical dichotomies and their ultimate resolution and union…”.

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