2020 honoured the 50th anniversary of Roberto Gerhard’s death in 1970 but, due to the pandemic, events in Catalonia had to be rescheduled. 2021 sees an expanded series of concerts focused both in Barcelona where the composer spent the first half of his creative life and in his native town of Valls.
Catalonia plays host to a Roberto Gerhard festival in honour of the composer’s 50th anniversary of death last year, with performances, talks and exhibitions rescheduled from 2020 together with additional events. A concert this month was the first of three Gerhard programmes presented by L’Auditori concert hall in Barcelona, the city where the composer spent the first half of his creative life. A season-long programme is also running centred on his native town of Valls, near Tarragona. The festival is supported by the Culture Department of the Government of Catalonia, recognising one of the region’s most important composers.
The first of the L’Auditori concerts on 13 March focused on Gerhard’s works displaying his detailed study of Catalan folk music. Two works were written as tributes to his mentor and teacher Felipe Pedrell, the orchestral homage Pedrelliana drawn from his Symphony: Homenaje a Pedrell and the much performed song collection Cancionero de Pedrell. The programme performed by soprano Nuria Rial and the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra under Francesc Prat was broadcast live and will soon be available streamed on demand from L’Auditori Digital.
The second concert takes place at the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC) on 26 June, opening with Gerhard’s Soirées de Barcelone, one of his most ambitious projects based on Catalan folk culture. The score was originally commissioned by the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo but the composer’s creative life was violently interrupted by the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War. After his emigration to the UK in 1939 he fashioned the suite performed here by the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra under Nacho de Paz. The programme ends with Gerhard’s Symphony No.3 “Collages” [published by Oxford University Press], a pioneering work from his last decade, combining orchestral sonorities with electronics on tape.
The third Barcelona Symphony Orchestra concert on 24 July at the MNAC is an all-Gerhard programme conducted by Edmon Colomer. The Violin Concerto was conceived as a 70th birthday present for Gerhard’s teacher Schoenberg and, despite its extrovert solo part, is also a deeply personal work combining themes of exile and the shift from war to freedom. The series ends with Gerhard’s final symphony “New York” [published by OUP], commissioned by the New York Philharmonic, one of the most impressive examples of his complex kaleidoscopic late style.
> More details for concerts on 26 June and 24 July
Edmon Colomer is also at the helm of a performance of Gerhard’s Cantata ‘L'Alta Naixença Del Rei En Jaume’ on 25 April at the Palau de la Musica in Barcelona, featuring a collective of orchestral and choral forces. This work was a major cultural statement for the young composer with its Catalan text humorously describing the birth of King James I, who went on to free Barcelona from French rule. This concert is the last in the sequence of celebratory events organised from Gerhard’s native town of Valls, where a further performance takes place on 30 April followed by concerts in Vilanova and Granollers.
The Valls series has already featured Gerhard’s Pandora Suite together with a selection of chamber works and songs, and on 27 March the Camerata Eduard Toldra performs the Harpsichord Concerto directed by Dani Espasa. A round table sees Gerhard discussed by a group of specialists on 27 April as preparation for the concert with the Cantata on 30 April. September brings a Robert Gerhard International Congress hosted by the Institut d’Estudis in Valls in honour of the composer’s 125th anniversary of birth on 25 September.
> More details for concerts in Valls
The Valls Congress is co-presented by the University of Huddersfield which itself runs a Gerhard conference on 3-4 July (rescheduled from last year) bearing the title Re-appraising a Musical Visionary. Also in the UK, the London Symphony Orchestra’s recent performance of Gerhard’s Dances from Don Quixote conducted by Simon Rattle is available streamed on demand by Marquee TV subscribers, and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra under Vasily Petrenko presents the flamenco-flavoured Alegrias Suite streamed on demand for 30 days from 4 May.
> Further information on Work: Violin Concerto
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