In Paris, during the second half 1900, several artists who were travelling to the French capital from the other side of the Pyrenees found shelter in the aparment of the famouns Spanish pianist Rocardo Vines. There, Debussy, Roussel and Satie met De Falla, Mompou and Pujol as well as the painters Picasso and Ortiz and the poets Valery and Cocteau. Because of the composers who hanged in there, Vines’ house could be considered as one of the most important cultural centers of the last century.
Romanza was composed in 1914. With this piece, Pujol recreates the peaceful atmosphere of the world they were living in before the war. Like many others, he was forced to leave and seek shelter in South America. Once he was allowed back home, he suffered the loss of both of his parents. Hence, he decided to travel to France and meet the famous Catalan pianist Ricardo Vines, who lived in Paris and whom he had once met in Lerida, in the house of the poet Madi Morel.
“Minstrelsy” was a type of show very popular in the States during the 19th Century. The main characters of these shows were the Nigro slaves working in the American plantations, who were generally shown as fearful, ignorant, and naive human beings. Debussy had the chance to watch the “Minstrelsy” when it was brought to Europe during the first decade of 1900 and he got fascinated by the sound of the African tambourines and the tribal beats featured in the show. Inspired by this, the musician composed Minstrels, which was included in Premier Livre de Prelude.
Paris, 1920. After the death of Debussy, the French critic Henry Prunieres involved the most important composers of that time, namely Stravinskij, Satie, Dukas, Bartòk, Ravel and Manuel De Falla, in the realization of La tombeau de Claude Debussy, a collection of pieces dedicated to the memory of the great composer. Motivated by Debussy, with whom he was close friend, Manuel De Falla decided to pay homage to his roots by composing this piece. It features two characteristic elements of the Flamenco, namely “Cante Jondo” and “Habanera”. While the former is an unspoiled form of Andalusian folk music, the latter is a traditional Cuban dance. It can be speculated that the composer used the “Habanera” with the intention of criticizing the Spanish attitude of being caged in a mindset featuring elements not belonging to its own culture.
The composer Albert Roussel is featured in George d’Espagnant’s paint Réunion des musiciens chez M. Godebsk (Meeting of musicians at Mr Godebsk’s), in which he is portrayed while playing the piano for Ricardo Vines and Maurice Ravel. Roussel, along with Darius Milhaud and the Parisian movement “Group de six” continued the legacy of Debussy after his death. The great French pianist, in fact, once stated “Ne nous essounflons pas a ecrire des symphones, fasions des operettes” (There nothing more amazing than composing symphonies and operette). Roussel and Milhaud based their compositional activity on the aesthetic of the circus, children’s play, ballets, and incidental music. As the titles suggest, Roussel’s Segovia and Milhaud’s Segoviana are dedicated to a very promising Spanish guitarist, Andrés Segovia, who altered music history after his debut in 1924.
Satie defined Vines as “the ideal pianist for the Modernism’s cult”. The same Modernism he pursued himself with his compositions, which cannot be easily classified in predefined musical styles. In particular, Gnossienne No. 1 communicates in a different (modern) language, aiming to lead the listener towards a sort of ecstatic state.
Manuel De Falla composed La Canciòn in April 1900, when he moved to Madrid to study with Josè Tragò and Felipe Pedrell at “Real Conservatorio”. Unlikely his later works such as Homenaje, in which his compositional style appears well defined, the style of La canciòn sounds rather “immature”.
1962, Santiago de Compostela. The world of the six strings gravitates around Andrés Segovia. Before that date, Federico Mompou had never written a piece for guitar, but things were about to change. During the “Cursos internationales de musica compostelana” (International Course of Music of Compostela) held that year, he composed the Suite Compostelana, which was dedicated to Segovia and was inspired by the Galician folklore. The piece is divided into six parts. The “Preludio”, which is articulated in three sections, opens the suite. The “Coral” is characterized by the entanglement of the four voices which gives the listener a sense of incompleteness. Th “Cancìones de Cuna” resembles a traditional lullaby. This piece is characterized by the repeating use triplets. The dissonances which can be heard in the “Recitativo” contribute to create a bizarre atmosphere. The initial heavy and solemn notes sound like bell chimes that Mompou had heard since he was a child in his grandad’s factory. The “Cancìon”, the elegant fifth movement of the suite, lead us towards the sixth movement, “La muniera”, which conveys the bond between Mompou’s music and the Galician musical culture, in particular with a type of Celtic bagpipe whose sound can be heard at the beginning of this last movement. Federico Mompuu is an anachronist representative of the musical impressionism started with Debussy. The circle is now closed, we can only remember this beautiful musical story “lived” between the walls of Vines’ house more than 100 years ago.
It is time to awake, Art is now expression
Liner Notes by Francesca De Filippis
Translated by Orlando Santoro
Francesca De Filippis: Born in Salerno (Italy), De Filippis studied with Francesco Matrone at the Conservatoire “San Pietro a Majella” in Naples. In 2015, she graduated with honour under the supervision of Maurizio Villa. In addition, she holds a BA in Philosophy.In 2013, she gave a recital dedicated to Emilia Giuliani’s guitar repertoire during a lecture delivered by Nicoletta Confalone in the “Sala Gesualdo” of San Pietro a Majella. In 2016, De Filippis was admitted to the prestigious Master Degree of Performance in classical guitar at the Conservatoire “Arrigo Boito” in Parma, under the mentorship of internationally renowned performers such as Lorenzo Micheli, Oscar Ghiglia, Massimo Felici, Giampaolo Bandini, Maurizio Grandinetti, Timo Korhonen, Zoran Dukic and Pavel Steidl; she graduated with Distinction in 2018. After winning various national competitions including “Lufrano-Chavez Competition”, “Napoli-Nova”, “Ame Puccini”, “Carlo Agresti Competition” she is now involved in an intense activity as a soloist. In her music career, she has performed on several international music festivals, including the “Festival Paganini” in Parma, the “Cilento International Music Festival”, “Concerti dell’Archivio storico di Napoli”, the “Guitar Education & Research”, “Concerti di Primavera al Duomo di Salerno”, The “Acerra Guitar Meeting”, “Le Corti dell’ Arte” Music Festival at MARTE Museum, “Concerti al Palazzo Grenoble”, “Atella Classica” and “Irno Music Festival”. She has participated in masterclasses all around Europe held by world-renowned guitarists such as Antigoni Goni, Gaelle Solal, Renè Izquierdo, Elina Chekan, Ricardo Gallen, Carlo Marchione, Aniello Desiderio, David Leisner, and Leo Brouwer. The passion for chamber music induces her to play in a various ensemble including guitar and piano duo (Les Amies Duo) and quartet (Ensemble Caffè Concerto).
Albert Roussel (b Tourcoing, 5 April 1869; d Royan, 23 Aug 1937). French composer. Though he was touched by the successive waves of impressionism and neo-classicism in French music, he was an independent figure, his music harmonically spiced and rhythmically.
Claude Debussy: (b St Germain-en-Laye, 22 Aug 1862; d Paris, 25 March 1918). French composer. One of the most important musicians of his time, his harmonic innovations had a profound influence on generations of composers. He made a decisive move away from Wagnerism in his only complete opera Pelléas et Mélisande, and in his works for piano and for orchestra he created new genres and revealed a range of timbre and colour which indicated a highly original musical aesthetic.
Darius Milhaud: (b Marseilles, 4 Sept 1892; d Geneva, 22 June 1974). French composer. He was associated with the avant garde of the 1920s, whose abundant production reflects all musical genres. A pioneer in the use of percussion, polytonality, jazz and aleatory techniques, his music allies lyricism with often complex harmonies. Though his sources of inspiration were many and varied, his music has compelling stylistic unity.
Emilio Pujol: (10 September 1886 – 21 November 1980) was a composer, guitarist and a leading teacher of the classical guitar.
Erik Satie: (b Honfleur, 17 May 1866; d Paris, 1 July 1925). French composer. He was an iconoclast, a man of ideas who looked constantly towards the future. Debussy christened him ‘the precursor’ because of his early harmonic innovations, though he surpassed his friend’s conception of him by anticipating most of the ‘advances’ of 20th-century music – from organized total chromaticism to minimalism. To some extent he made a virtue of his technical limitations, but his painstaking quest for perfection in simplicity, coupled with his ironic wit and his shrewd awareness of developments in other fields of contemporary art, made him the personification of the wartime esprit nouveau in France.
Frederic Mompou (b Barcelona, 16 April 1893; d Barcelona, 30 June 1987). Catalan composer. Essentially a piano miniaturist and songwriter, he created a small but highly personal body of work. He began to study the piano at the Barcelona Conservatory and gave his first public recital at the age of 15. In 1911 he travelled to Paris where he studied privately with Ferdinand Motte-Lacroix (piano) and Marcel Samuel-Rousseau (harmony). He remained in Paris until 1941, when he returned to Barcelona. A shy, somewhat timid person, he nevertheless moved in well-connected circles throughout his life and made notable friendships, including Poulenc and the painter Mirò, with the second of whom he had something in common as a creative artist, in terms of the surface simplicity of their work and their reliance on distinctive symbols or gestures drawn from their Catalan environment and folklore. For many years, until disabled by a stroke, he lectured on his own music at Música en Compostela, an annual gathering of international students at Santiago de Compostela.
Mompou’s op.1 is the set of nine Impresiones intimas (1911–14). According to the composer’s own account, these miniatures – which exhibit a mixture of adult musicality and naive, childlike emotional directness – were written in response to hearing Fauré. However, if they do display influences, it is more those of Debussy, Ravel and Mompou’s nationalist forebears, while his own distinctive voice, which remained little changed over the course of his life, is already evident. There followed a series of works bearing descriptive titles – Scènes d’enfants, Pessebres, Suburbis (the titles used are in the language of the country where the work was first published) – in which the example of Satie becomes more evident. Like Satie, Mompou turned his own technical limitations into a personal aesthetic, which he termed primitivista. This is immediately obvious on the page in an extreme economy of notation. But this apparent simplicity belies the composer’s struggle for perfection. Even the shortest of miniatures were worked on or revised over a period of years. Satie is also discernible in the use of such performance directions as ‘Chantez avec la fraîcheur de l’herbe humide’ in Scènes d’enfants. But there is no sense of Satiesque irony in Mompou, whose naive approach remains rooted in Romanticism. He had little in common with Les Six.
Aside from the French influence, Mompou owed much to his Spanish and Catalan nationalist forebears. As with Falla, the structural and modal idiosyncracies of folk music pervade his work. Indeed the far greater virtuosity of Falla’s music belies a great deal that the two composers have in common. Modes and figurations typical of Andalusian and other regional idioms are to be found in Mompou, but more often his melodic writing is rhythmically and structurally suggestive of Catalan folksong. Occasionally authentic or quasi-authentic Catalan melodies are used, such as ‘La filla del Marxant’ in the last of the Scènes d’enfants. The long series of 14 Cançons i danses are all, with the exception of numbers 5, 6, 10 (which uses two of the Cantígas de Santa Maria of Alfonso el Sabio) and 13 (the only one for guitar) and the danses of 3, 9 and 14, based on traditional Catalan tunes, which are enfolded in rich, sophisticated harmony. This combination of diatonic melody with rich, often chromatic harmony, is the basis of all Mompou’s music.
Many of his miniatures set out to evoke the essence of a particular mood, either a response to a scene in life or something more abstract: he believed in the ‘magical’ power of harmony to be quite precise in this respect. His Cants mágìcs and Charmes may be seen as an attempt to imagine how a medieval practitioner of the occult might have used this power. In the four volumes of Música callada (1959–67) – ‘quiet’ or ‘silent’ music – whose texts are taken from St John of the Cross (a writer set by Mompou on a number of occasions), he creates a mystical, spiritual series of moods. Here, as with late Falla, there is an increased austerity compared with earlier works, but the structural simplicity remains unchanged. A final substantial group of pieces comprises a body of often very beautiful songs, many of them settings of Catalan texts. Of these, Combat del Somni may perhaps be singled out as an example of Mompou at his most expansive and haunting, while the two sets of Comptines, which set traditional counting-game rhymes, exemplify his interest in the world of childhood. Late in his life, Mompou produced some more ambitious choral and stage works, including the oratorio Improperios, while many arrangements and orchestrations of his music have been made by other hands.
Falla Manuel De: (b Cádiz, 23 Nov 1876; d Alta Gracia, Argentina, 14 Nov 1946). Spanish composer. The central figure of 20th-century Spanish music, he addressed over the course of his career many of the salient concerns of modernist aesthetics (nationalism, neo-classicism, the role of tonality, parody and allusion) from a unique perspective. Like many Spaniards, he was attracted to French culture. His predilection for the French music of his time, especially that of Debussy, caused him to be misunderstood in his own country, where conservative-minded critics attacked his music for its over-susceptibility to foreign influences. Reaction to Falla’s music by his compatriots often mirrored the convulsive political changes the country underwent before and during the Spanish Civil War (1936–9), a period of intense cultural activity whose musical manifestations nonetheless remain relatively unexplored.