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Joan Manen

Joan (Juan) Manén was born in 1883 in Barcelona, Spain and was a leading figure in the music of Catalonia. He started playing the piano with his father at the age of three, rapidly progressing. Later, at the age of five, he studied violin and four years later appeared in Latin America, giving his first concert in 1898 in Europe, where he was on occasion accompanied by Enrique Granados.

Manén’s contemporary reputation was primarily as a virtuoso violinist. However, he showed equal precocity as a composer, an art in which he was mainly self-taught. His first opera, Juana de Nápoles, was staged at the Liceu in Barcelona in 1903, with a second opera, Acté, produced at the same theatre towards the end of the year. He made his début in Berlin, German in 1904, where he settled until 1914.

His visit to Germany brought an admiration for Wagner and for Richard Strauss, which had quite an effect on his compositions. He had a big contribution to the founding of the Sociedad Filarmónica de Barcelona in 1930 and paid for the establishment of a concert hall, the Auditorium Manén, which still awaits completion. 

Joan Manén also arranged Catalan and Spanish melodic material, which makes an occasional appearance in his other compositions. His Fantasie-Sonata initially draws on the harmonies suggested by the tuning of the guitar, but as the work proceeds Catalan melodic elements become more apparent. Written around 1930, the Fantasie Sonata makes no concession to contemporary avant-garde trends.