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Cinco Canciones Negras

Xavier Montsalvatge (b. 1912 - d. 2002)

Clara Mouriz

Clara Mouriz

Composer
Xavier Montsalvatge (b. 1912 - d. 2002)
Composition Year
1945-6
Work Movements
1.Cuba dentro de un piano
2.Punto de habanera
3.Chévere
4.Canción de cuna para dormir a un negrito
5.Canto negro
Artists
Julius Drake [piano], Clara Mouriz [mezzo-soprano]

Programme Note Writer:
© Ian Fox

Born in Gerona, Montsalvatge studied at Barcelona Conservatory taking top prizes in piano and composition. He settled in the city as a teacher in the Conservatory and music critic. His Three Impromptus for Piano won a major prize in 1933 and he soon established his reputation, becoming the leading Catalan composer. In 1985 he was awarded Spain’s Premio Nacional de Música, the country’s highest musical honour. He created compositions in a wide range of styles and formats, including three operas and the prize-winning Sinfonia mediterránea. However it is for his Cinco Canciones Negras (Five Negro Songs) he is best known internationally today. He wrote them in 1945-6 and the first performance was given by Mercé Plantada at the Ateno Barcelonés. In 1949 he orchestrated the cycle, in which form it is often performed today, and he also arranged three of the songs for chorus.

Instead of seeking his inspiration in his native Catalonia, Montsalvatge used the exciting rhythms and colour of the West Indies. The first song is a setting of a Cuba dentro de un piano surrealist poem by Rafael Alberti. There is a serious theme underlying the fun, referring to the take-over of Cuba by American money in the pre-Castro days. The second song sets Néstor Luján’s witty poem about a pretty Creole girl. The third number with words by Nichólas Guillén is about a scary man with a knife. The most famous song follows to words by Ildefonso Pereda Valdés: the delectable Canción de cuna para dormir a un negrito. The child’s mother tells him he is no longer a slave and could have a fine career as a groom.  The lively finale, the Canto negro, has words again by Guillén, and is a celebration of the good life. 

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Cinco Canciones Negras

Composer: Xavier Montsalvatge (b. 1912 - d. 2002)
Performance date: Wednesday 3rd July 2013
Venue: St. Brendan's Church, Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland

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Composer Xavier Montsalvatge (b. 1912 - d. 2002)
Work Title Cinco Canciones Negras
Composition Year 1945-6
Work Movements 1.Cuba dentro de un piano
2.Punto de habanera
3.Chévere
4.Canción de cuna para dormir a un negrito
5.Canto negro
Artist(s) Julius Drake [piano], Clara Mouriz [mezzo-soprano]
Performance Date Wednesday 3rd July 2013
Performance Venue St. Brendan's Church, Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland
Event Stars in the Afternoon
Duration 00:12:58
Recording Engineer Damian Chennells, RTÉ lyric fm
Instrumentation Category Duo
Instrumentation S-solo, pf
Programme Note Writer © Ian Fox

Born in Gerona, Montsalvatge studied at Barcelona Conservatory taking top prizes in piano and composition. He settled in the city as a teacher in the Conservatory and music critic. His Three Impromptus for Piano won a major prize in 1933 and he soon established his reputation, becoming the leading Catalan composer. In 1985 he was awarded Spain’s Premio Nacional de Música, the country’s highest musical honour. He created compositions in a wide range of styles and formats, including three operas and the prize-winning Sinfonia mediterránea. However it is for his Cinco Canciones Negras (Five Negro Songs) he is best known internationally today. He wrote them in 1945-6 and the first performance was given by Mercé Plantada at the Ateno Barcelonés. In 1949 he orchestrated the cycle, in which form it is often performed today, and he also arranged three of the songs for chorus.

Instead of seeking his inspiration in his native Catalonia, Montsalvatge used the exciting rhythms and colour of the West Indies. The first song is a setting of a Cuba dentro de un piano surrealist poem by Rafael Alberti. There is a serious theme underlying the fun, referring to the take-over of Cuba by American money in the pre-Castro days. The second song sets Néstor Luján’s witty poem about a pretty Creole girl. The third number with words by Nichólas Guillén is about a scary man with a knife. The most famous song follows to words by Ildefonso Pereda Valdés: the delectable Canción de cuna para dormir a un negrito. The child’s mother tells him he is no longer a slave and could have a fine career as a groom.  The lively finale, the Canto negro, has words again by Guillén, and is a celebration of the good life.