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Commitment to music, by Javier Pérez Senz

There are things that stir the music-lover’s memory, which bring back reminiscences of that irreplaceable experience which consists of listening to live music in its natural environment, the auditorium. For many fans, the recent recording of the symphonic rhapsody Catalonia, by Isaac Albéniz, at the hands of Jaime Martin and the Orquestra Simfònica de Barcelona i Nacional de Catalunya (OBC) will come as a pleasant surprise: the discovery of a score that exudes freshness, simplicity and melodic charm. For others, it will imply the rediscovery of a work that would be an obligatory part of the concert repertoire in any civilized country, but here, sadly, is not. Its audition allows listeners to refresh their impressions and memories of great conductors and composers who, throughout their careers, demonstrated their belief in the value of this piece by their acts, without getting caught up in the widespread and sterile debate about Albéniz’s poor reputation as an orchestrator. Certainly, it is a marvel of refinement, but, when performed with full conviction of its merits, the listener is immediately captivated by the simplicity, the melodic inspiration and eternal freshness that permeate the Catalan composer’s music. I am speaking of legendary musicians, such as the Russian Igor Markévitch, especially in his wonderful period of artistic involvement with the Orquesta Sinfónica de la RTVE; the Romanian Georges Enescu, stalwart defender of a piece that he often programmed, and all over the world; and Eduard Toldrà, the brilliant Catalan violinist, conductor and composer who, in 1944, created the Orquestra Municipal de Barcelona (now the OBC, which has at last recorded Catalonia), and who was a fervent promoter of the Spanish repertoire.
A greater commitment to music is needed and less obsession with attendance figures and box office takings. There is a need for concert programmers who really believe in Spanish music.
The list includes musicians who are active at this time, such as Antoni Ros Marbà, a passionate perfomer of Albéniz and, in a very special way, of Toldrà, who was his teacher, Jesús López Cobos and José de Eusebio (thanks to his enthusiasm we now know more about the Camprodón musician’s operatic legacy than ever before; the recording discussed today includes an orchestral suite from Pepita Jiménez revised by him), and on his first CD with the OBC, Jaime Martin, Albéniz had and has eloquent supporters. Why, then, is Catalonia still rarely heard in concert halls? Difficult question. First of all, there is a need for concert programmers who really believe in Spanish music. It is pointless to include just four or five pieces in a whole symphonic season; nor is the Spanish share of the programmes sufficient; nor are there enough commissions, increasingly unambitious and scarce. A greater commitment to music is needed and less obsession with attendance figures and box office takings. There is enough leeway to balance the offer using the more popular classics to attract the general public –it all depends on the programmers’ imagination. The regularisation of works such as Catalonia - and this piece is just one example because there are hundreds of scores in the same situation – requires a strong alliance between performers, programmers and the public. The musicians with power - and the chief conductors of a symphonic ensemble have a lot of power - are the ones who ultimately have a greater say when it comes to choosing which works are programmed and which are left out: when a chief conductor wants to play a given piece, eventually it gets played. Programmers, managers and artistic directors should limit themselves to doing their duty, because the revival and dissemination of the national repertoire is an obligation for all orchestras, auditoriums and the concert-going public. As for the public, the greatest possible complicity is needed, using the media that now, more than ever, can arouse – if used with imagination and efficiency  – music-lovers’ curiosity, the desire to discover new and old scores, the possibility of expanding frontiers.
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