“Submerged in the Wagnerian Esthetic”

August 18, 2010

Soon the posts here may return to their former frequency, since I’m in the homestretch of the biography I’m writing. In a way it’s unfortunate that I’m not blogging more, since — thanks to my subject, Xavier Montsalvatge — I’m probably having more interesting thought than usual. Here is Montsalvatge at the age of 80, talking about the difficulty, when he was a young student, of overcoming the overwhelming sway of Wagner’s music in the Barcelona of the 1920s:

Morera was a great harmonist and an even better contrapuntist; but, like nearly all the Catalan musicians of his generation, he composed all his works (very estimable, especially his sardanas and even more his choral works, although it infuriated him that people cited them, since he considered that he had most excelled in the field of opera) literally submerged in the Wagnerian esthetic [literalment submergit en l’estètica wagneriana]. At every moment he proposed for us as an example —as if it was to be treated as the composer’s gospel — the overture to Der Meistersinger, and it goes without saying that, for him, the music of Debussy was a symbol of decadent and bloodless art, that Falla wrote music for refined gypsies, and that some works of his pupils surpassed those of these composers.

This obtuse attitude, though, had a positive aspect. It bespoke, mainly, a blind faith it its ideology — which faith I consider to be in any case better than the agnosticism of the composers of today, which has made us lose fidelity to artistic principles, putting them constantly in question. And he felt for his pupils (me included) an affection that would have made him fight for us if the situation had presented itself. He was a great figure and, despite my not absolutely coinciding with his ideas, I took him for a musician of integrity [un músic d’una sola peça].

2 Responses to ““Submerged in the Wagnerian Esthetic””

  1. […] working on the Montsalvatge book, I find the juxtaposition of these two quotes stimulating enough to share here: A banda de no […]

  2. […] my great interest in the life and works of Xavier Montsalvatge (already manifested here and here), I have been looking forward to a new production of his first opera El gato con botas […]

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