Whether it is as a string player, as a director of ensembles like La Real Cámara or El Concierto Español, or as a teacher and a scholar Emilio Moreno has been applying his talents in the cause of the music that he loves and defends: the previously ignored area of the Spanish Baroque and pre-Classical eras. Fortunately — and through the efforts of musicians such as Moreno — this area is far less of a desert on record than it once was (for Moreno there could still be yet more concerts). Moreno’s wide experience of such music is enhanced by his long-standing involvement with Frans Brüggen’s Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century, where he is the leader of the viola section.
With his period-instrument ensemble El Concierto Español, formed in 2000, Moreno (a founder of the Glossa label) gives a truly Iberian expression to music from the Baroque and Classical periods — including even a performance of the Fireworks and Water Music in Madrid in front of an audience whose numbers would have made Handel green with envy (especially if the great Saxon had also access to YouTube afterwards!).
Moreno’s chamber music activities with La Real Cámara have provided us, for instance, with a survey of music from the times of the painter Francisco Goya as well as a previous disc devoted to late Boccherini String Trios. His new Boccherini recording [Boccherini en Boadilla, Glossa GCD 920308] covers the group of six tercetti or trios (G95-100, op. 14) dating from 1772 when Boccherini was working in Spain for the Infante Don Luis de Borbón in Boadilla — in the palace recently restored for Milos Forman’s film Goya’s Ghosts — which come to life in the hands of Moreno and his long-term collaborators Enrico Gatti and Gaetano Nasillo.
You have often returned to the music of Luigi Boccherini. What have been the attractions of this composer for you and of his String Trios in particular?
From the very beginning Boccherini has always been a reference point in Spanish music for me. Although it is true that he was already fully-formed as a composer when he arrived in Spain, the subsequent Spanish influence on him — beyond the question of fandangos — is so clear that it is difficult not to consider Boccherini as a Spanish composer. I am captivated by his marvellous independence from the Viennese tradition, his particular handling of string colour, his easy-going and fluid melodic capacity, the delicateness of his dynamic shadings… The six Trios op. 14 from 1772, together with the terzettini, op. 47 from 1793 are the only works written for the combination of violin, viola and cello. They are possessed of an admirable writing in which the three instruments at times sound like a quartet or a quintet; the part for the viola — and I have a special attraction for this instrument — is specially beautiful; and I was additionally attracted to the idea of recording these pieces alongside my great, admired and much-loved friends Enrico Gatti and Gaetano Nasillo, with whom I enjoy an immense musical affinity.
You are also interested currently in music from the times of Domenico Scarlatti and also in the tonadilla escénica. Can you describe the relevance of these?
The presence of Italian composers in the Iberian Peninsula was decisive in driving forward a creative vitality which, without being actually stagnant, was too readily conditioned by the tradition of the magnificent Siglo de Oro — the time of Morales, Victoria and Guerrero. Talented composers such as Sebastián Durón, Antonio Literes, José de Nebra, José de Torres, Antonio Rodríguez de Hita, Luis Misón or Blas de Laserna would be unthinkable without the influence of Domenico Scarlatti, Caldara, Corselli and so many others who, by their presence in the Peninsula or in the distance by means of their scores, sent a breath of fresh air to Spain — one which very well knew how to assimilate Iberian music taking from it its cardinal virtues in order to create expressive, melodious and harmonic new opportunities. The Spanish tonadilla is a genre which is frequently referred to but which remains completely unknown — as much by the public as by Spanish performers, in which popular gems (tiranas, fandangos, seguidillas, cumbés, jopeos) are sung and played in the ‘cultured’ language of the European tradition. The tonadilla, appearing in the middle of the performances of Enlightenment Spanish comedies, fulfilled the function of extolling the Spanish nationalism in the face of italianate or frenchified abuses, not only from the musical point of view but, above all, from the social. With El Concierto Español we have a recording project of tonadillas connected to French practices (the frenchified petimetres or dandies, the majos and manolas) in Spanish music at the end of the 18th century, given that in 2008 Spain will commemorate that year when national life was convulsed by the Napoleonic invasion which put an end to the Ancien Régime and which sent Spain on to the path of a political, social and cultural future. I believe that the quality of this music will come as a great surprise to many people. To date, we have performed some 30 tonadillas by ten different composers, the majority of which really are masterpieces.
There appears to be a general flowering of Spanish singing and instrumental talent. How do you feel such performers can best develop their careers and engage with audiences nationally and internationally?
Other than by demonstrating the talent which you attribute to us by working, studying and generally making the best of what we know and what we can do, I do not believe that anything special needs to be done. To me, it is clear that there is nobody better than Spanish musicians to perform our own music, certainly in terms of understanding and degree of involvement. Especially at the present time when music from Spain remains insufficiently well-known and (still) is not accorded the world ‘heritage’ status enjoyed by music from Italy, France, England or Germany. An essential way of being able to develop our careers and attract the public from without and from within is through assistance from the authorities and the cultural strata in Spain which, it all has to be said, is not even less than sufficient. The policy relating to grants and assistance is very limited and, ‘nemo propheta in patria est’, there are still many cultural promoters in Spain who think in a systematic way that foreign musicians and music are better than the national ones. I feel a certain amount of envy for those of my foreign colleagues, laden with a level of assistance which in Spain very few have (and I am not among them!).
And with El Concierto Español you have indicated a desire to perform Spanish (and related) music with local performers. What advantages does this approach allow for?
I don’t wish to be misinterpreted here: I do not wish to work only with Spanish musicians: I like being with talented Spanish musicians, but also we work with many people from abroad. I was saying before that there is nobody better than us, the Spanish, to understand a music which we love and consider our own. Working with ‘mercenaries’ who are not involved in our enthusiasm in recuperating our own patrimony makes no sense. But additionally, as you said before, in Spain there are now large numbers of musicians of great talent: why then get from elsewhere people who have a surplus of work and take it away from those here who do not have it? My policy with El Concierto Español has not been anti-foreigners but, and above all, one of help and support for local talents. I must say that it gives me great pride to see that today this policy — in which I was a pioneer — is being supported by many of my colleagues who are being supplied with musicians from Spain from those whom I have ‘discovered’ or, in the case of many of my pupils, who have studied with me in recent years. And we are not only performing Spanish music: recently with El Concierto Español I performed Handel’s Water Music and Music for the Royal Fireworks in front of 45,000 people in Madrid at a popular concert, possibly the ‘world record’ of public attendance at an early music concert! We enjoyed it enormously and are thinking of going on playing Bach, Mozart or Purcell with the same enthusiasm as we do with Spanish music.
by Mark Wiggins © 2007 Glossa Music / MusiContact