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Manuel Blancafort

Manuel Blancafort
(1897 - 1987)

Manuel Blancafort lived through troubled times, witnessing the end of a world view and a vision of art which had remained more or less unchanged for hundreds of years, and the birth of the avant-garde music of the twentieth century. Drawing on a wealth of internal inspiration however, he was able to tread his own path and maintain his individuality. His inner world grew from his experiences of nature, intimacy and memory, as well as life in his home town of La Garriga. A somewhat withdrawn character, he had a tendency to melancholy: I always enjoyed silence and my own company, and I spent much of my childhood alone, not needing outside entertainment, he wrote in 1929.

Blancafort himself has said that he wrote most of his early works after returning from long days spent in the mountains, in sunshine, wind, fog or rain. Through music he could record his impressions, like pages in a diary without words. Despite their obvious romantic character, these pieces also display a clear concern for concision and structure: Be wary of Romanticism! Dont deny, dont betray your intelligence. His discovery of French and Russian music and the premire of Albnizs Iberia were vital to his development as a composer, opening up the musical direction he was to take. Reacting against the predominance of Wagnerism at the time, Blancafort believed that Catalan music should be characterised by clarity: simple, without excessive counterpoint or nebulous chromaticism which would drown out our lyrical traditions purity of expression.

His ideal of the non-improvised, non-spontaneous, balanced well-made work and his understanding of the intimate were very much in line with the sense of order and simplicity central to the Catalan writer-philosopher Eugeni dOrs Noucentisme (20thcenturyism) a cultural movement with political aspects, whose theoretical-aesthetic doctrine was drawn up by DOrs in 1908. Blancafort met him in 1918 at one of the cultural gatherings at the Hotel Blancafort in La Garriga. DOrs listened to music by Blancafort and Frederic Mompou, who was also present, and the three men discussed the new direction Catalan music should take. During his stay there, DOrs also read the pamphlet Le Coq et lArlequin, published that same year by Jean Cocteau who had become the spokesman for the Groupe des Six: this was their manifesto for the new trends in French music. Mompou had introduced his younger colleague to these ideas, clearly mirroring their own views on the future of music, and both composers would adopt them as their own.

Blancafort was member of a group of Catalan composers that started publishing their first works just before the twenties trying to break with wagnerism. As he wrote in 1929, "To get rid of Wagner is, in my opinion, the first commandment of the new Catalan music...A few of us in Catalonia would rather lean towards Paris than to Berlin". The group was formally organized in 1931 as the "Associació de Compositors Independents de Catalunya (CIC)" and counted Toldrà, Lamote de Grignon, Mompou, Samper and Gerhard as members.  Through music he could record his impressions, like pages in a diary without words. His discovery of French and Russian music and the premire of Albéniz's Iberia were vital to his development as a composer, opening up the musical direction he was to take. Blancafort believed that Catalan music should be characterised by clarity: simple, without excessive counterpoint or nebulous chromaticism which would drown out our lyrical traditions purity of expression.