Travel, from the Occitan viatge, to the Romanian viadi, and then to the French voyage, and again to the Spanish viaje, all stemming from the one Latin word viatĭcum; the latter to designate the essential supply needed to travel to the point that, in time, it earns the current meaning of “on the way.” Travelling thus becomes, like music, both the way of man through space and time, and the essential sustenance for his own existence.
It is not casual, therefore, that travel is the leading theme of (in)finite artistic projects, present since the beginning of the same art, be it literary, pictorial, or, as in the present case, musical. In Mythopoeia it investigates the limits of man, be them physical or not, and allows him to transcend them within the aim of a discovery and of his will of knowledge. In reality, it brings cultures and peoples together, and this happens right thanks to music, insurmountable distances are indistinctly traced on an invisible map that dissolve fictitious and political borders. […] (Translation by Anny Ballardini)
Astor Piazzolla: (b Mar del Plata, 11 March 1921; d Buenos Aires, 5 July 1992). Argentine composer, bandleader and bandoneón player. A child prodigy on the bandoneón, Piazzolla and his family emigrated to New York in 1924; in his teens he became acquainted with Gardel, for whom he worked as a tour guide, translator and occasional performer. Piazzolla returned to Buenos Aires in 1937 where he gave concerts and made tango arrangements for Aníbal Troilo, a leading bandleader; he also studied classical music with Ginastera. In 1944 Piazzolla left Troilo’s band to form the Orquesta del 46 as a vehicle for his own compositions. A symphony composed in 1954 for the Buenos Aires PO won him a scholarship to study in Paris with Boulanger, who encouraged him in the composition of tangos; the following year he resettled in Argentina and formed the Octeto Buenos Aires and, later, the Quinteto Nuevo Tango, which performed at his own club, Jamaica. Piazzolla left Argentina in 1974, settling in Paris, where he composed a concerto for bandoneón and a cello sonata for Rostropovich, among other works.
Piazzolla’s distinctive brand of tango, later called ‘nuevo tango’, initially met with resistance. Including fugue, extreme chromaticism, dissonance, elements of jazz and, at times, expanded instrumentation, it was condemned by the old-guard, including not only most tango composers and bandleaders but also Borges, whose short story El hombre de la Esquina Rosada was the basis for Piazzolla’s El tango (1969); like tango itself, Piazzolla’s work first found general approval outside Argentina, principally in France and the USA. By the 1980s, however, Piazzolla’s music was widely accepted even in his native country, where he was now seen as the saviour of tango, which during the 1950s and 60s had declined in popularity and appeal. In the late 1980s Piazzolla’s works began to be taken up by classical performers, in particular the Kronos Quartet, who commissioned Five Tango Sensations (1989). In all he composed about 750 works, including film scores for Tangos: the Exile of Gardel (1985) and Sur (1987). Shortly before his death, he was commissioned to write an opera on the life of Gardel.
Enrique Granados: (b Lérida [Lleida], 27 July 1867; d at sea, English Channel, 24 March 1916). Catalan composer and pianist. Though he enjoyed considerable fame in his native Barcelona, within Spain as a whole his music was less well known than his enduring reputation as the composer of ‘La maja y el ruiseñor’ from Goyescas might suggest. Apart from Goyescas (in its original version for piano), only his Danzas españolas and his first opera María del Carmen brought him significant national acclaim, and relatively few of his 140-odd works were published or performed regularly in his lifetime. A comprehensive view of his work has been hampered by the prevailing but misconceived tendency to divide his music into three compositional periods – known, misleadingly, as the ‘Nationalistic’, the ‘Romantic’ and the ‘Goyesque’ – with a disproportionate emphasis on his Goyescas. Sadly, the greater part of his diverse and extensive output remains obscure and unpublished and, as yet, no detailed study has been made of his life.
Isaac Albéniz: (b Camprodón, Gerona, 29 May 1860; d Cambo-les-Bains, 18 May 1909). Spanish composer and pianist. When he was a year old he moved with his family to Barcelona. His musical propensities soon became apparent, and his sister Clementina gave him piano lessons when he was about three and a half. A child prodigy, he made his first public appearance at about five, at the Teatro Romea in Barcelona. Shortly afterwards he began lessons with Narciso Oliveras. In 1867 he was taken to Paris where, it is said, he studied privately with Antoine-François Marmontel, eventually taking the entrance exam for the Paris Conservatoire; though impressed with his talent, the jury is said to have refused him admission because he was too immature. In 1868 Albéniz’s father lost his government post, and, to earn money, took Isaac and Clementina on recital tours of the Spanish provinces. Soon the family moved to Madrid, where Albéniz was enrolled in the Escuela Nacional de Música y Declamación (now the Real Conservatorio Superior de Música). His studies were constantly interrupted; having experienced the life of a travelling virtuoso, he repeatedly gave recitals in the provinces or wherever fate took him. He returned intermittently to Madrid and studied for a time with Eduardo Compta and José Tragó. His travels took him to Puerto Rico and Cuba in 1875 before he finally settled down to serious studies.
Albéniz returned to Europe and enrolled at the Leipzig Conservatory in May 1876 but remained there for only two months; by summer he was back in Madrid seeking financial aid. Through the intercession of Guillermo Morphy, secretary to King Alfonso XII, he obtained a pension to attend the Brussels Conservatory. There he studied the piano until 1879, first with Franz Rummel and then with Louis Brassin, obtaining a first prize. He did not, as many biographers claim, go on to study with Liszt, though he seems to have travelled to Budapest in August 1880 with the goal of meeting the Abbé. By mid-September 1880 Albéniz was again in Madrid pursuing his performing career. He made tours of Spain and appearances in the Spanish-speaking Americas. He also began to conduct, and by 1882 he had become administrator and conductor of a touring zarzuela company in Spain. It is probably from this time that his earliest attempts at zarzuela originate – El canto de salvación, ¡Cuanto más viejo …! and Catalanes de Gracia. In 1883 he moved to Barcelona where he studied composition with Felipe Pedrell. While still continuing to perform he gave piano lessons, and on 23 June 1883 he married his pupil Rosa Jordana. By the end of 1885 they had moved to Madrid, where, through the protection of his old friend Morphy, Albéniz firmly established himself in Madrid’s musical life, performing in the homes of nobility, organizing and participating in concerts and teaching. By 1886 he had written over 50 works, principally for piano, and on 21 March 1887 he gave a concert in the Salon Romero devoted solely to his own music. His own works were also featured in a series of 20 concerts given under the auspices of Erard, the French piano manufacturer, at the French pavilion of the 1888 Universal Exposition in Barcelona. A facile improviser, Albéniz composed quickly, producing a large body of solo piano pieces, much of it delightfully inspired salon music (dances, études and character-pieces) in simple forms, redolent with repeats. But he also undertook more ambitious projects, two piano concertos (op.78 and the Rapsodia española) and a four-movement symphonic piece (Escenas sinfónicas). By 1889 he was well known as a pianist-composer, with his compositions published by Spain’s leading music publishers. In March he gave concerts in Paris; a few months later he appeared in London, where his success ensured repeated visits. In June 1890 he placed himself under exclusive contract as a composer and performing musician to the manager Henry Lowenfeld and moved to London by the end of the year with his wife and children (Alfonso, Enriqueta, and Laura; two others, Blanca and Cristina, had died in early childhood). Notable among the concerts Albéniz gave under Lowenfeld’s management were two in November 1890 focussing on modern Spanish orchestral music, and a series of ten chamber music concerts that took place in the first half of 1891 (for which he invited his friend the violinist Enrique Fernández Arbós to participate).
Through Lowenfeld, who was associated with musical theatre, Albéniz agreed to compose music for a comic opera, The Magic Opal, written by Arthur Law. He also came into contact with Horace Sedger, manager of the Lyric Theatre, and became involved with its production of Incognita (an adaptation of Charles Lecocq’s Le coeur et la main, opening 6 October 1892). On 19 January 1893 The Magic Opal, a work in the vein of Gilbert and Sullivan, had its première at the Lyric. After a successful run, it was revised slightly and staged at the Prince of Wales Theatre as The Magic Ring (11 April 1893) with Albéniz conducting. The next offering at the Prince of Wales, Poor Jonathan (15 June 1893), was an adaptation of Carl Millöcker’s Der arme Jonathan to which Albéniz contributed some numbers and acted as musical director.
Albéniz’s theatrical involvement brought him to the attention of Francis Burdett Money-Coutts, heir to the banking fortune of Coutts & Co. and financial investor in both the Prince of Wales and Lyric theatres. Money-Coutts, an amateur poet and playwright, had become a partner with Lowenfeld in the contract concerning Albéniz’s musical talents; by July 1894 Money-Coutts was Albéniz’s sole patron.
After Poor Jonathan, Albéniz moved back to the continent because of illness, settling in Paris. He soon resumed his performing activities in Spain, at the same time working on Henry Clifford, an opera based on the Wars of the Roses to a libretto by Money-Coutts. He spent the summer of 1894 in Paris completing the score as well as composing yet another stage work, San Antonio de la Florida, a one-act zarzuela to a libretto by Eusebio Sierra; this was first given in Madrid, at the Teatro Apolo on 26 October 1894, the composer conducting. Because it was more ambitious musically than the typical zarzuela in the accepted género chico style, San Antonio was not entirely successful. A month later Albéniz conducted his Magic Opal (presented in Sierra’s Spanish translation under the title of La sortija) at the Teatro de la Zarzuela and was again criticized for writing a work that did not conform to the established mould. Disgusted, he returned to Paris. Albéniz was not the only Spanish composer to encounter resistance from the establishment. Efforts to elevate the artistic content of the zarzuela as well as to create a Spanish national opera (vigorously supported by Tomás Bretón and Felipe Pedrell) repeatedly faced deep-rooted prejudices.
In March 1895 Albéniz appeared as a soloist in a concert series sponsored by the Sociedad Catalana de Conciertos in the Teatro Lírico in Barcelona. The series of five concerts, fostered by Albéniz, was conducted by d’Indy, and marked the beginning of their friendship. Ernest Chausson, whose Viviane was performed on the series, became a close friend of Albéniz as well. In time Albéniz formed close ties with Charles Bordes, Paul Dukas and Fauré, and became a cherished member of the French musical community.
On 8 May 1895 Albéniz conducted the première of Henry Clifford at the Gran Teatro del Liceo in Barcelona. As was the custom there, the work was performed in Italian. Though not appreciated by the general public it proved a success with the critics, who felt that the music showed promise. Money-Coutts’s and Albéniz’s next endeavour was a one-act opera based on the novel Pepita Jiménez by Juan Valera. It had its première on 5 January 1896 at the Gran Teatro del Liceo (in Italian) to the decidedly enthusiastic applause of the general public; the press however were disappointed, having hoped for something more substantial from the composer of Henry Clifford. In March and April Albéniz set a group of poems by Money-Coutts and also began (though left incomplete) work on a choral piece Lo llacsó with text by the Catalan poet Apeles Mestres. Albéniz not only promoted Spanish music (his own as well as that of his compatriots) in the concerts he organized but also actively participated in the modernismo movement for the resurgence of Catalan culture, which had taken hold in Barcelona in the 1890s. By September Albéniz had expanded Pepita to two acts and, though he continued to give concerts, much of 1896–7 was devoted to promoting the opera’s performance. On 22 June 1897 Pepita, conducted by Franz Schalk, was produced in German at the German Theatre in Prague to great praise. Angelo Neumann, manager of the theatre, contracted Albéniz to compose two stage works, which did not however materialize. Instead, the composer embarked on a trilogy, King Arthur, to a libretto by Money-Coutts. Albéniz’s talent for inventing attractive vocal lines woven around a vibrant orchestral fabric had formed the compositional basis for Clifford and Pepita, operas that succeed from moment to moment. The immense undertaking of a trilogy, however, daunted rather than excited Albéniz’s imagination. Contrary to his usual speed, Albéniz took four years to finish Merlin (1898–1902), Lancelot was left incomplete after the beginning of the second act and Guenevere remained untouched.
Meanwhile, from 1896, in addition to composing songs, many on texts by Money-Coutts, Albéniz sought inspiration from his native land in works for solo piano and for orchestra. Notable was La vega (initially intended for orchestra), which marked a turning-point in his piano style; his deliberate exploitation of the sonorous properties of the piano, juxtaposing its different registers and utilizing the piano for its colouristic effects, foreshadows Iberia.
From 1898 to 1900 he taught advanced piano at the Schola Cantorum (among his students was Déodat de Séverac); he had to resign because of poor health and in 1900 left Paris for the warmer climate of Spain. In Barcelona he became associated with Enric Morera and the movement to promote the performance of Catalan lyrical works. He made repeated attempts to have Merlin and Pepita Jiménez produced in both Madrid and Barcelona but met constant opposition from the establishment. In 1902 Albéniz agreed to compose a three-act zarzuela to a libretto by Cristóbal de Castro, La real hembra. He set little more than the prelude and first two scenes however, and Castro never completed the libretto. Though Albéniz had support from the press, his international reputation was a liability. He was viewed as a Spaniard ‘in foreign attire’ and thus not only lacked commitment from the public and the impresarios but also suffered from their intrigues and jealousies. Since all efforts to secure performances of his lyric works failed, at the end of 1902 Albéniz returned to France where, esteemed by colleagues there, he felt he could more effectively advance the cause of Spanish music.
Suffering from Bright’s disease, he spent much time in the warmer climate of Nice. He resumed work on Lancelot, eventually putting it aside to revise the orchestration of Pepita for a performance in French at the Théâtre de la Monnaie, Brussels. Pepita, along with San Antonio de la Florida (translated into French as L’ermitage fleuri), was given on 3 January 1905 to enthusiastic reviews. Albert Carré, director of the Paris Opéra-Comique, expressed interest in Pepita, but it was not given there until 1923. Although the Monnaie announced plans to perform Merlin the following winter in a French translation by Maurice Kufferath, the production did not materialize. In April 1905 Albéniz began a lyric drama in four acts entitled La morena, but this too was left incomplete. Heeding the advice of his friends and the dictates of his conscience, he returned to the composition of piano music. From 1905 to 1908 he wrote his masterpiece, Iberia, a collection of 12 ‘impressions’ (as the work was subtitled) in four books, wherein he captured and immortalized the sounds and rhythms of his native country. Whereas the first two books of Iberia, though difficult in certain aspects, emphasize colour, the remaining pieces show a greater density of texture and an increased demand for virtuoso technique, a change in style that can be attributed to the pianist Joaquín Malats (winner of the prestigious Diémier prize in 1903). Deeply impressed by Malats’s interpretation of Triana from Iberia, Albéniz composed the last two books under the direct influence of his esteemed compatriot’s phenomenal abilities, creating music of extreme technical difficulty. Albéniz attempted the orchestration of the first book of Iberia, but not satisified with the results he asked Arbós to accomplish the task. Arbós ultimately orchestrated Triana and El Albaicín (and Navarra, which was originally conceived as part of Iberia) as well. (The remaining numbers of the work were later orchestrated by Carlos Surinach.)
In 1908 Albéniz set more Coutts poems, which were ultimately published as Quatre mélodies. His final composition, Azulejos for piano, was left unfinished at his death. His remains are buried in the cemetery in Montjuïc in Barcelona.
Throughout his virtuoso career Albéniz’s playing was admired for its clarity and its exquisite delicacy of tone, qualities that were particularly lauded in his interpretations of Scarlatti. Although he made no commercial recordings, three improvisations on privately owned wax cylinders do survive and have been made available on The Catalan Piano Tradition (VAI Audio/International Piano Archive 1001, c1992).
Through his activities as a conductor, impresario, performer and composer within Spain as well as abroad, Albéniz, one of Spain’s foremost musicians, not only contributed to the rebirth of Spanish nationalism but also gained international recognition for Spanish music. Where Pedrell used folk music in his works as a basis for a national style, Albéniz preferred to suggest, rather than quote, rhythms and melodic elements to evoke the Spanish landscape. He achieved popularity at the beginning of his compositional career with salon music. With his dramatic works, his writing gained depth. By the end of his life he was creating dense polyphonic textures that combined underlying diatonic harmonies (freely mixing major and minor tonalities with modal elements), animated by vibrant ostinato rhythms, overlaid with basically simple melodic lines and gestures embroidered with chromatic filigree.
Founded in 1987 by Paloma O’Shea, the Fundación Isaac Albéniz is dedicated to promoting and aiding musical activities in Spain; it administers the International Piano Competition of Santander (founded in 1972) and also acts as a resource centre for Albéniz research in particular and Spanish music in general.
Leo Brouwer: (b Havana, 1 March 1939). Cuban composer, guitarist and conductor. In 1953 he began his studies in the guitar with Isaac Nicola, founder of the Cuban guitar school, and in 1955 he made his performance début. In the same year, and self-taught, he started to compose (e.g. Música para guitarra, cuerdas y percusión and Suite no.1 for guitar); his first works were published in 1956. He was awarded a grant (1959) for advanced guitar studies at the music department of the University of Hartford and for composition at the Juilliard School of Music in New York, where he was taught by Isadora Freed, J. Diemente, Joseph Iadone, Persichetti and Wolpe. In 1960 he started working in cinema, as head of the department of music in the Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos (ICAIC); he has written scores for more than 60 films. He was involved in setting up (1969) and running the Grupo de Experimentación Sonora at ICAIC, becoming the teacher and mentor of its members, who included Silvio Rodríguez, Milanés and other important figures of contemporary Cuban music. He worked as musical adviser for Radio Habana Cuba (1960–68) and for other Cuban institutions, and taught counterpoint, harmony and composition at the Conservatorio Municipal in Havana (1960–67). His book Síntesis de la armonía contemporánea was a core text in his classes.
Together with the composers Juan Blanco and Carlos Fariñas and the conductor Manuel Duchesne Cuzán, Brouwer launched the avant-garde music movement in Cuba in the 1960s. He has been the most significant promoter of the bi-annual Havana Concurso y Festival de Guitarra, and in 1981 he was appointed principal conductor of the Cuban National SO. He has also conducted many other foreign orchestras including the Berlin PO and the Orquesta de Córdoba, Spain, which, under his direction, was formed in 1992. He is a member of the Berlin Akademie der Künste, of UNESCO, of the Real Academia de Bellas Artes Nuestra Señora de la Angustias in Granada (1996) and Honoris Causa Professor of Art at the Instituto Superior de Arte de Cuba (1996). For his contribution to the Cuban and international music scenes he was awarded the Orden Félix Varela, the highest honour granted by the Cuban state for culture.
Three phases can be identified in Brouwer’s work: the first, nationalistic (1955–62); the second, avant-garde (1962–7); and a third in which avant garde elements diminish and, particularly after 1980, a creative process described by the composer as ‘new simplicity’ emerges. The first phase is characterized by the use of traditional musical forms, including sonata and variation form, and by tonal harmonic structures rooted in nationalism (e.g. in Homenaje a Manuel de Falla (1957), Tres danzas concertantes (1958) and, Elegía a Jesús Menéndes (1960), among others). During this phase, despite the prevailing use of tonality, a tendency to structural fragmentation may be discerned, as well as the employment of several simultaneous tonal centres, a device that has remained throughout his output.
Though never lacking formal rigour, Brouwer’s works have in general sprung more from a sonic conception: ‘I use any form to help me find musical forms: that of a leaf, of a tree or geometric symbolisms. All these are also musical forms; despite the fact that my works appear very structured, what interests me is sound’. This concentration on the sensory, and an accompanying use of extra-musical formal sources, is most to the fore in Brouwer’s second phase, which was, with the Cuban avant garde in general, heavily influenced by the Polish school; he first heard this music at the Warsaw Autumn in 1961. Variantes for solo percussion and in particular Sonograma I for prepared piano typify this phase, which also included a brief turn towards serialism, in works such as Sonograma II and Arioso (Homenaje a Charles Mingus). Basic materials frequently comprise intervals of the 2nd, 4th and 7th and chords of superimposed 6ths, 9ths, 11ths and 13ths. Complex polyphonic textures dominate, with thematic independence retained within the different planes of sound, and a resultant richness in rhythmic conjunction. Other common devices include pedals, ostinatos, sequences and melodic and rhythmic echoing. One of Brouwer’s most important avant-garde works, which has become a major piece of the guitar literature, is the solo Elogio de la danza (1964). In two movements – Lento and Ostenato – it was originally composed for dance with choreography by Luis Trápaga; it makes reference to primitive dances and to mysticism, and conveys an image of stamping feet and gyrations together with other dance elements.
Between 1967 and 1969 such works as Rem tene verba sequentur, Cántigas del tiempo nuevo and La tradición se rompe …, pero cuesta trabajo approach what would now be the postmodern, characterized by sharply defined contrasts in structure and texture and employing references to various historical periods. In La tradición se rompe …, pero cuesta trabajo, for example, the interpolation and superimposition of elements of such composers as Bach and Beethoven in a suggestive heterophony borders on caricature; further, the participation of the audience is invited with a persistent ‘sh’. All this is integrated into a process of thematic and instrumental development that evolves through a powerful, controlled aleatorism.
In the 1970s Brouwer continued to work on post-serial and aleatory ideas, for instance in La espiral eterna for guitar. But by the 1980s a ‘new simplicity’ had begun to take hold, involving neo-Romantic, minimalist and newly tonal elements. There is a marked lyricism in this third period, the use of varying nuclear cells to generate development, and the return of traditional forms exemplified in works like Canciones remotas, Manuscrito antiguo encontrado en una botella and La región más trasparente.
Omar Flavio Careddu, received his first musical mention at the age of eleven at a singing contest, thanks to which he started a broad international music activity. He earned three degrees in cello by the Conservatories “Monteverdi” and “Bonporti” of Bolzano and Trento, and a diploma in Music Therapy. He recorded with the “Cordas et Cannas” group, sponsored by Peter Gabriel. Together with “Kastelruther Spatzen,” he took part in the recording of a DVD broadcast by the German ZDF television channel. He recorded as a soloist and in ensemble for the RAI, Mediaset, SKY, ZDF, among many others. He played as a soloist with the “Lorenzo Da Ponte” Orchestra, and the “Bozner Jugend Orchester” and he is the first Cello Guest in the “Orchestra Giovanile Trentina”.
Roland Patzleiner is a South Tyrolean songwriter who composes music with prayer lyrics in Italian, German, English and Croatian. He has published numerous CDs and has performed worldwide as a soloist or accompanied by other musicians.
Careddu, Omar Flavio (Cellist) received his first musical mention at the age of eleven at a singing contest, thanks to which he started a broad international music activity. He earned three degrees in cello by the Conservatories “Monteverdi” and “Bonporti” of Bolzano and Trento, and a diploma in Music Therapy. He recorded with the “Cordas et Cannas” group, sponsored by Peter Gabriel. Together with “Kastelruther Spatzen,” he took part in the recording of a DVD broadcast by the German ZDF television channel. He recorded as a soloist and in ensemble for the RAI, Mediaset, SKY, ZDF, among many others. He played as a soloist with the “Lorenzo Da Ponte” Orchestra, and the “Bozner Jugend Orchester” and he is the first Cello Guest in the “Orchestra Giovanile Trentina”.