Blas de Laserna
There is perhaps no other music that evokes as much color and passion as Spanish music. Prague Spring audiences also know this, and in 2016 they will encounter the music of the Spanish Baroque, flamenco dancers, and the prominent pianist Javier Perianes. The coming festival season will continue a Spanish theme – you can look forward to the extraordinary flamenco singer Rocío Márquez on 14 May, the modern guitar quartet Entrequatre on 22 May, and one of the most phenomenal European ensembles focusing on early music – on 28 May, the verve of the Zapico brothers will further reinforce the stereotype of hot-blooded Spaniards. One of the brothers – Aarón Zapico – is also the artistic director of the ensemble Forma Antiqva, which is bringing an especially interesting programme to the festival.
The Spanish composer Blas de Laserna (1751–1816) began his musical career at the age of twenty-three, when he started composing music for theatre in Madrid. Already by 1776 his success had been so great that he signed an exclusive contract with the impresario Eusebio Ribera, which required him to compose sixty-three tonadillas a year.
The tonadilla, or Spanish staged song, is a very specialized genre. Although it appeared on Spanish stages for only fifty years, there is an enormous quantity of works in this genre – for example, Bas de Laserna himself composed over 700 of them in the course of his lifetime. In tonadillas, which functioned as the “overarching” style of earlier traditions of the actor-singers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, listeners will also find the typical Spanish aesthetic and musical elements.
These brief, dramatized scenes usually for one to three singers served as diversion during the short breaks between the individual parts of a theatrical performance. This genre, of course, also existed in other European countries at the time – from Italy, for example, there is Giovanni Battista Pergolesi’s famous intermezzo La serva padrona. In addition, the Spanish staged couplet is an amazing illustration of the kind of music being heard at the time in Madrid’s theatres and is testimony to music that was long passed on only by rote, and that was also gradually disappearing under the influence of Italian music.
The heretofore unpublished Trilogía de Tonadillas Escénicas consists of portions of La España antigua and La España moderna, which have satirical and allegorical subject matter, and the comical El sochantre y su hija, in which there are descriptions of local customs and traditions. This evening, the specialists from the orchestra Forma Antiqva will be taking us on an unforgettable excursion to discover the unique atmosphere of Spanish theatre in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
The Baroque orchestra Forma Antiqva is one of the most sought-after Spanish music ensembles. It has taken part in a number of festivals in Spain (Festival Internacional de Música y Danza, Semana de Música Religiosa in Cuenca, Festival Internacional Pórtico in Zamora) and abroad (York Early Music Festival, Ludwigsburger Schlossfestspiele, Thuringer Festwochen), and it has made appearances in Europe as well as in South America, Asia, and Australia. The orchestra has won a number of awards for its diverse recording activities (Prelude Classical Music Award 2009, Best Vocal Baroque Music Recording 2008 – 2009). Its home is the Palacio de Congresos Príncipe Felipe in Oviedo, Spain.
Although Aáron Zapico originally studied piano at the Conservatory of Oviedo, his love for early music led him to take an interest in the harpsichord (Conservatory of the Hague). “I was already getting tired of the traditional repertoire of Beethoven, Mozart sonatas and so forth,” he said in an interview for the Czech newspaper Hospodářské noviny. “I learned to play harpsichord, and I began studying early music. This gave me enormous freedom. So that is how I found my dream.” As a specialist in the authentic interpretation of early music, he focuses mainly on Spanish music of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and his performances of this repertoire have regularly earned him acclaim all around the world. As a professor of harpsichord and chamber music, he has taught at the conservatories in Murcia and Oviedo, and he has also visited such places Melbourne, Singapore, Gijón, Aracena, and Burdenos as a guest professor.
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