Biography

Born in Girona, Spain, Xavier Montsalvatge (1912-2002) became a major figure in the musical world of Barcelona, where he lived for most of his life. He is one of the most representative figures of what is called the "lost generation" in Spain who came of age during the Franco regime. Nonetheless, his musical output gained substantial international renown – due in large part to performances by his friends Victoria de los Angeles, Alicia de Larrocha, Montserrat Caballé and Pablo Casals – and has become an important point of reference within the contemporary music scene in Spain.

Some of Montsalvatge's most significant works were written after his discovery of the art of the Antilles. He was fascinated by West Indian music, which, as he wrote, "was itself originally Spanish, exported overseas and then re-imported into our country, and which finds a place at the periphery of our traditions as a new, vague and evocative manifestation of musical lyricism".

The other important influence on Montsalvatge's style is neoclassicism, which first attracted him in his student days. The New York Times wrote: "Xavier Montsalvatge has pursued music more as an intimate pleasure than a public statement…the four piano pieces retreat from the grand Romantic statements of an earlier generation. [They] have an adamant modesty and share the evasive quiet and childlike simplicities of another colleague, the late Federic Mompou…There are abrupt shifts to minor chords when major ones are expected, surges of whole-tone writing, keys placed one atop the other in the French manner of the 1920's."

Other pivotal works in his oeuvre are concertos and operas. At the request Henryk Szering in 1953, Montsalvatge wrote Poema Concertante for violin and orchestra which premiered in Barcelona. That same year the pianist Alicia de Larrocha and the Philharmonic Orchestra of Barcelona premiered Concerto Breve.

Montsalvatge has also written distinguished music about and for children, including settings of Federico García Lorca's children's poems and a "magic opera" based on the Puss-in-Boots fairy tale, El Gato con Botas. This delightful work reflects Montsalvatge's experience with ballet in its careful attention to rhythmic nuance. The first recording ot the opera, by Orquestra Simfònica Del Gran Teatre Del Liceu conducted by Antoni Ros Marbà, was nominated for a 2004 Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording. It was recorded on Barcelona's Columna Música label, which has undertaken an ambitious recording project of Montsalvatge's music, already having released the complete vocal works and two operas.

Montsalvatge always remained true to his early taste, writing utterly unpretentious music characterized by lyrical beauty and classical clarity. Spanish composer Francesc Taverna summed up the lyrical purity of Montsalvatge's music with this statement in 1993: "In some way, the spirit and luminosity of Mediterranean Art crystalizes, in the case of Montsalvatge, in the brightness and conciseness of his sonorous speech."
 

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Montsalvatge:

Canciones & Conciertos

Jenny Lin
Lucia Duchoňová
Rachel Barton Pine
NDR Radiophilharmonie
Celso Antunes

Hänssler Classic 098.642.000

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Canciones Negras

 

I. Punto de Habanera

Text: Luján

Choir SATB and Piano

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