FEBRUARY 2018 | Spanish Exiled Composers: Beyond the Generation of ‘27

FEBRUARY 2018 | Spanish Exiled Composers: Beyond the Generation of ‘27

By EVA MOREDA RODRIGUEZ (University of Glasgow)

One of the challenges we face when trying to learn more about Spanish composers in exile is to see through the labels, narratives and stories that have been used thus far to speak about these composers; these labels, narratives and stories might inadvertently make us neglect certain individuals or works that do not fit them neatly. One such label is ‘Generation of ‘27’. There are indeed many good reasons why composers fleeing the Franco regime might be grouped under this banner, but in this article I wish to shed some light on a few composers who fall outside the Generation of ’27 mould and who are perhaps even more unknown than those composers we might more readily associate with this label.

The term ‘Generation of ‘27’ must be understood in the context of Spanish cultural historiography, which relies on the concept of generations to a greater extent than English-speaking scholarship. The term has its origins in literary historiography, and originally referred to a group of young, innovative poets and playwrights (including Federico García Lorca, Rafael Alberti and Nobel prize-winner Vicente Aleixandre) who grouped in 1927 to celebrate the centenary of Baroque poet Luis de Góngora. In music, the term has been in use since at least 1986, when Professor Emilio Casares organized the exhibition La música en la Generación del '27. The term was, and is still, applied to a number of composers who shared concerns, spaces and experiences with members of the literary Generation of ’27. Prominent among these is the Grupo de los Ocho or Group of Eight: an association of eight composers who offered their first joint concert at the Residencia de Estudiantes (a student hall and avant-garde cultural centre which counted Lorca, Salvador Dalí and Luis Buñuel among its residents) in 1930. Crucially, five members of the Grupo de los Ocho went into exile after the Spanish Civil War (Salvador Bacarisse, Julián Bautista, Rodolfo Halffter, Rosa García Ascot and Gustavo Pittaluga), and so did a number of other individuals who are often referred to as part of the musical Generation of ’27. These include Jesús Bal y Gay, a musicologist, composer and husband of Rosa García Ascot; Vicente Salas Viu, a writer, composer and musicologist who worked side-by-side with members of the literary Generation of ’27 during the Civil War at the Alianza de Intelectuales Antifascistas and then took exile in Chile; and Eduardo Martínez Torner, Adolfo Salazar and Óscar Esplá, who were in their forties as the Grupo de los Ocho developed their careers under the Spanish Second Republic (1931-1936), but still shared with the younger generation a concern with renovating the Spanish musical scene and a proximity to the Residencia de Estudiantes.

Even though the so-called musical Generation of ’27 was by no means homogeneous, several commonalities can be pointed out, particularly among those who would then take exile. Although they were not all originally from Madrid, they developed their careers or part thereof in the capital. Politically, they can be defined as members of the liberal, bourgeois left, closer to Manuel Azaña than to the socialist or anarchist trade union movements of the Second Republic, and some of them were involved in the Junta Nacional de Música under the Second Republic and then the Consejo Central de la Música during the Civil War. Musically, they looked at France (Debussy, Les Six, Falla in his French years) and Russia (Stravinsky, Rimsky-Korsakov), rather than to the Austro-Germanic world, in their attempt at renovating Spanish music, and practically none of them, with the exception of Rodolfo Halffter later in Mexico, embraced atonality.

Looking at Spanish music in exile through the lens of the Generation of ’27, though, can lead us to ignore the trajectories of composers in exile who do not meet the above characteristics and were not part of the networks that the musicians of the Generation engaged in both before and after exile. An obvious group here are Catalan composers, who would not normally feel part of the musical developments which had Madrid at its centre. It is in fact significant that attempts have been made at casting Roberto Gerhard – perhaps the best known Spanish exiled composer at an international level – as a member of the Generation of ’27, by virtue of his attempts at renovating Spanish and Catalan music and his friendship with Lorca himself and with Adolfo Salazar. Considerably less well-known than Gerhard, Josep Valls (1904-1999) provides a fascinating example of how the history of Spanish music in exile cannot be reduced to the Generation of ’27 mould: Valls, a Catalan nationalist, settled in France in 1922 in an attempt to avoid Spanish military service, and worked as an orchestral musician in Paris and then in Le Havre. Between 1922 and the mid-1940s, Valls set several Catalan-language poems to music by Jacint Verdaguer and his own friend Josep Carner; these songs reveal a commitment to explore extended tonality following trends arriving from the Austro-Germanic world which hardly had any influence on members of the Generation of ’27. Valls’ work remains unrecorded today, even though his Concerto for String Quartet and Orchestra (1933) attained some prominence in European concert halls and festivals during the 1930s and 1940s. A more intriguing case is Leopoldo Cardona (1911-1982), from Maó (Minorca), whom exile took to France, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Mexico, Panama and the United States. Any assessment of Cardona’s music is complicated by the fact that scores or recordings of his works have been practically lost, but the comments that he and others left on his oeuvre suggest that he was deeply influenced by Manuel de Falla’s andalucismo, rather than the castellanismo favoured by the Grupo de los Ocho.

Outside the Catalan-speaking area, Aragón-born Simón Tapia Colman (1906-1993) is unusual among Spanish composers of his era because of his working class origins. Tapia Colman started off as an orchestral violinist at the Teatro Apolo and directed, together with his brother Crescencio, a dance band under the Second Republic, combining the writing of commercial music with his first symphonic works. It is unusual that he was affiliated with the anarchist movement during the Spanish Civil War and served as a shooting instructor in Barcelona. Tapia Colman’s relationship with the main institutions of cultural exile in Mexico (Alianza de Intelectuales Antifascistas, Ateneo Español de México) were rather sporadic, but he eventually managed to find recognition among Mexican musical institutions later in his career. The list of composers who do not neatly fit the Generation of ’27 mould can be further enhanced with Baltasar Samper, Luis Hernández Bretón and Narcís Costa i Horts, among others; all of them remind us of the multiplicity of responses that we can find in exile to issues of national identity and musical modernity, both of them crucial to composers living in the Spanish Second Republic and beyond.


About the Author

Eva Moreda Rodríguez specialises in the political and cultural history of Spanish music from the late 19th century to the present. Within this broad chronological frame, key research themes include (in no particular order): exile; memory; music criticism and journalism; music and war; recording technologies; art song and vocality; history of reception; history of Spanish musicology; the Spanish avant-garde. Eva has recently published two books on music and culture under Francoism: 'Music and Exile in Francoist Spain', and 'Music Criticism and Music Critics in Early Francoist Spain' (the first English-language study of Spanish music criticism in the 1940s). Eva joined the University of Glasgow in September 2012 as Lord Kelvin Adam Smith Fellow in Music as a Cultural Practice, and subsequently as Lecturer, having held research and teaching posts at the Royal Academy of Music and The Open University. She obtained undergraduate degrees in Classics and in Musicology at the Universities of Santiago de Compostela and La Rioja, and worked in the media and arts management industries in Spain and Germany before coming to the UK in 2006. Her PhD, completed at Royal Holloway College, University of London in 2010, explored music criticism and journalism in Spain under the first years of the Franco regime (1939-1951), including the writings of prominent composers and performers (Joaquín Rodrigo, Joaquín Turina, Regino Sainz de la Maza) who doubled up as music critics. Eva's publications have appeared in both Music and Hispanic Studies journals, exploring topics in the cultural and political history of Spanish music such as: the musical exchanges between Spain and the Axis countries during the Second World War; Joaquín Rodrigo’s 'Concierto Heroico'; folklore and gender in early Francoism; or the appropriation of Falla under the Franco regime. Her archival work in Spain has been supported by a number of funding bodies (Music & Letters Trust, Lucille Graham Trust, Carnegie Trust). Eva is currently in the early stages of developing a research project on early recording cultures in Spain (1880-1905). 




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