Rapsodie espagnole (sort of): new music from the Iberian peninsula

Let me warn you now, immediately: you may well find you’re not remotely interested in the kind of music – contemporary music for the concert hall and the classical CD market – that I’m going to write about. But just in case your tastes do stretch in that direction – and I confess, from personal experience, that it can sometimes feel like a stretch – I’m going to continue. But I’ll keep it short, I promise. And, I hope, helpful.

I’ll admit I have an idiosyncratic mix of reasons for exploring the particular contemporary Iberian music (well, it’s basically Spanish, Basque and Catalan, but not, in this instance, Portuguese) which I’m about to recommend. I have a Basque wife and in-laws, a few Iberian filmmaker friends, a great interest in certain Iberian painters and sculptors (including Picasso and Miró, as featured above and below), and many years ago I ploughed very pleasurably through the Penguin translation of Don Quixote. More pertinently, perhaps, over the years, starting with Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez (which I originally heard on the radio in the version played by Miles Davis on Sketches of Spain), I’ve liked Iberian music of all sorts: Baroque stuff performed by Jordi Savall and others, Andres Segovia on guitar, various flamenco stars, De Falla, Albeniz, Granados et al, and yes, the Gipsy Kings. Even as recently as last year’s BBC Proms, I caught an extremely enjoyable piece entitled Four Iberian Miniatures by Francisco Coll, a young composer whose work has rightly received enthusiastic support from Thomas Adès.

So: curiosity and happenstance have led me to seek out and, happily, discover some very rewarding contemporary music from the Iberian peninsula. I’ve already written about Bernat Vivancos’ Requiem here; the kind of beautiful choral music which might appeal to anyone who likes, say, the music of Arvo Pärt, it’s admittedly more immediately accessible than some of what can be heard on the other CDs listed below. But hey, it seems some of you have been getting into operas like Written on Skin or The Importance of Being Earnest, or composers as diverse as Terry Riley, Gyorgy Ligeti, Kaija Saariaho, Hans Abrahamsen and Tansy Davies. So who knows? This is not Stockhausen or Xenakis, after all. And if by any chance you’re feeling a little adventurous or curious, you might like to check out music by some of the following on Soundcloud, YouTube or whatever. (See some links below.) It’s quite possible – even, perhaps, probable – that you won’t like it very much. But then again, maybe you will.

Whatever, as BBC TV used to tell us years ago, whenever some sort of technical error arose, normal service will be resumed as soon as possible. Or some such. I do my best to please.

Bernat Vivancos: Requiem (Neu) a brief example

Gabriel Erkoreka: Afrika – Kantak – Jukal – Akorda (Stradivarius) here to give an idea of his use of folk music

Ramon Humet: Homenaje a Martha Graham (Neu) a little bit here

Ramon Lazkano: Hauskor – Ortzi Isilak – Ilunkor (Kairos) this is not from the CD but may give some idea of Lazkano’s music

Various composers, played by guitarist Bertrand Chavarría-Aldrete: Carpere fide(s) (Odradek) you can listen to selections here


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