Manuel Blancafort

These postings are a voyage of discovery for me and hopefully for those of you who may read them. (I am told that there have been more than 10,000 hits since we started, and they can’t all be by the same person!). I would be glad of comments, criticisms and corrections. I am no musician but I love music and have firm family connections in Spain, which I see as my second country, so I am finding this to be a happy conjunction of interests.

Manuel Blancafort 1897-1987 was a new name to me and I came across him when browsing in a CD shop – a dangerous occupation. Initially self-taught (though no doubt influenced by the output from his father’s pianola factory), he, like so many others, had lessons from the French composer and teacher Nadia Boulanger. Blancafort was part of the Spanish avant garde and one of the founders of the Grupo Neueva Musica. He was a celebrated choral conductor and for a time conducted a German Chamber Orchestra.

He lived long and lived quietly.

He said that he always enjoyed silence and his own company, ‘I spent much of my childhood alone, not needing outside entertainment.’ Affected by new Russian and French music, admiring Albeniz and his Iberia and intent on resisting the cult of Wagnerism, he maintained a firm loyalty to Catalan music, which he believed to be ‘our lyrical tradition’s purity of expression’. His ambition was for ‘well made work’, intimate, and crafted in a non-improvised and non-spontaneous and balanced way.

There are two recordings of his piano music in the comprehensive Naxos range, and I bought the second of these today (Naxos 8.557333). Miquel Villalba, the pianist, plays many of the miniatures typical of Blancafort’s occasional pieces. On a couple of hearings, I like these nostalgic, rather elusive pieces (like the man himself perhaps), and if lacking a little in character, in main the music that I am hearing – mostly in the minor key- is gentle with flashes of sudden passion.