Ricard Lamote de Grignon: the piano works (Volume 1)

Ricard Lamote de Grignon was born in Barcelona in 1899. He studied at the Liceo Conservatory, the Marshall Academy and with his father, the conductor and composer Joan Lamote de Grignon. In 1919 Ricard Lamote de Grignon was already playing the cello in the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra and in the Lyceum Theatre Orchestra, and in 1923 he was beginning to write music (the piano suite Engrunes was to be one of his first compositions). The ballets El Rusc, Somnis, Un Prat and the tone poems Boires and Joan de l´Os belong to this period. From 1932 he was assistant conductor of the Barcelona Wind Orchestra, a post which he gave up at the outbreak of the Civil War. During those difficult years he was imprisoned and his life was in danger. In 1942 he went into exile in Valencia, where he worked as conductor of the Orchestra which had just been formed in this city. In 1947 he returned to Barcelona, where he was to receive awards such as the 1951 City of Barcelona Prize for Enigmes and the Lyceum Prize (1959) for Ofrenda. In 1957 he was appointed assistant conductor of the Barcelona Orchestra (the conductor was Eduard Toldrà). He died in Barcelona in 1962.

In 1936, days before Joan de l´Os was given its début in the XIV International Festival of Contemporary Music -which was held that year in Barcelona-, its author, the still young Ricard Lamote de Grignon, stated in a newspaper: "I do not aspire to a personal style. This quality is, perhaps, the most difficult to acquire; do not be surprised, then, if I tell you that in Joan de l´Os you will hear above all the voices of two great composers: Richard Strauss y Debussy". Two decades later, when the composer was already a well-known figure in the Catalan music world, he declared: "I do not identify myself with any specific musical style. If I consider it necessary I am extremely conservative; at other times, modernist. I have tried to cultivate the maximum diversity of styles, in order to enrich my vocabulary and thus be able to express myself in any range of musical language". If, therefore, any tendency can be associated with the artistic personality of Ricard Lamote de Grignon, it is eclecticism, with the advantages and drawbacks which this brings; advantages because Ricard Lamote de Grignon was a composer who was equally as competent in writing a sardana as a tone poem, or considerably ambitious pieces such as Goya, the Preludis a l´amic absent or Enigmes on the one hand, and decidedly light pieces such as the Divertiment per a orquestra de jazz on the other: the skill of the composer is never in question and in his contribution to the piano repertoire we find many examples of this savoir faire. The drawbacks of being an eclectic composer stem from this very diversity of styles and resources: unlike other colleagues of his generation such as Frederic Mompou, Robert Gerhard, Manuel Blancafort, Joaquim Serra, or Eduard Toldrà, I suspect that Ricard Lamote de Grignon never managed to achieve his own unmistakeable style. Even so, his output is very extensive and deserves to be much better known, especially the whole of his ambitious orchestral work.

This first volume of the complete piano works of Ricard Lamote de Grignon begins with the Preludis a l´amic absent (Preludes to the absent friend) (1935), without doubt his most outstanding piece for piano and perhaps one of the most important pieces of Catalan piano music from the first half of the 20th century. Dedicated to his friend Ventura Gassol, exiled for political reasons, the three preludes start out from an unusual technical challenge: to write each of the pieces using only seven of the twelve notes of the chromatic scale. This restriction, instead of limiting the expressive range of the three preludes, allows the composer to give each of the pieces its own character of sound: the first prelude is solid, suggestive of Scriabin in the central lyrical part; the second has a tempestuous character, but also a quieter central section, with an ostinato accompanying a long melody which may remind one of Moussorgsky; the third prelude is reminiscent of the ethereal, suspended sonorities of Debussy. Vals (1936) and Cucufate (1945) are examples of the interest of Lamote de Grignon for "light" music": the Vals is a nostalgic visit to the world of the Viennese waltz, and Cucufate (subtitled Slow for piano) a nod in the direction of jazz, a genre which always attracted the composer enormously. El convent dels peixos (The fish convent) is the enigmatic title of an impressionist piece, probably written around 1939, of which only a rather confused manuscript has been preserved. Vesprada (Dusk) (1924), one of the first pieces by the composer, is a suite of four short pieces which reflect the influence of some of the great names of romanticism on the young Lamote de Grignon: beginning with the title of the first piece, Foc Follet, borrowed from Liszt (although the music bears little relation to the Hungarian composer), the second piece Cançó del camí (Song of the way) appears to suggest Schumann, the third, Solitud (Loneliness), the Norwegian Edvard Grieg and the last, A l´amiga (To the friend), could be a song without words by Mendelssohn. The Suite Innominada, written in 1939, is the piano work which perhaps most reflects the eclecticism of Lamote de Grignon: the first two movements dark and elegaic, appear to return to the sound world of the Preludis a l´amic absent, but the third movement, which is really a kind of introduction to the fourth, allows us a glimpse of a very different language and character; the fourth movement is a quiet minuet, and the fifth a dance with a rustic flavour, very close to some of the music of Frederic Mompou or Manuel Blancafort. We do not know if the suite had any programmatic intent but the succession of the different movements could be interpreted as a journey from darkness to light; on this journey, the composer knew how to make use of his stylistic diversity, adapting his language to the musical message he wished to convey.

Lamote de Grignon was an occasional composer of sardanas. While his output in this field is not very great, it is noteable for its quality. Sant Telm (San Telmo)(1927), is the most noteworthy: a remarkable piece of thematic integration and melodic invention, with a rich and imaginative harmonic pallette. In contrast to Sant Telm, the other three sardanas for which the composer wrote a piano version are rather more conventional. El Noguer (The Walnut Tree) (1945) and El Mas (The Country House)(1949) are two rather similar pieces: both have some lively sections of curts (or shorts: the first part of the sardana) contrasting with the more lyrical parts of the llargs (or longs: the second part of the sardana); the two pieces end with some curious and unusual recapitulations of the curts in the final bars. Amical (Friendly) (1950), on the other hand, is an essentially lyrical piece, with long melodic lines in the llargs. The CD ends with the Allegretto of 1939, which was to be included in the Suite Innominada. Since the piece was published separately, with some small changes in harmony, it seemed appropriate to present it here as an epilogue.

Jordi Masó
June 2004
(Translated by Paul Jutsum)

Essay for the booklet of the CD "Ricard Lamote de Grignon: L´obra per a piano (Volum 1) (Anacrusi AC046)


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