Sunday 11 January 2015

The legacy of Ricardo Viñes

I had been learning Spanish music since I was a schoolboy, everything from major composers such as Isaac Albeniz and Enrique Granados to lesser-performed Catalan composers such as Ricard Lamote de Grignon and Ricardo Viñes.  With equal part fantasy and theatre, Spanish and Catalan music never fails to captivate me.  Here is something by Catalan composer and pianist Ricardo Viñes (1875 - 1943), recorded eons ago at a home concert.  

Ricardo Viñes (1875 - 1943) is a personal hero of mine, as he was the pianist credited with the most number of premiere performances, of works by his contemporaries such as Debussy and Ravel and Turina and Mompou and all.  Abandoning the traditional recital programme of Austro-Germanic piano works, Viñes was responsible for spreading and campaigning the names of "new " composers to audiences in Spain and France and Latin America. Without Viñes we might never hear of them today.

He wrote very little, publishing even less.  I believe he published only 4 short piano pieces (published two years after he died, and only 300 printed!), and a bunch of songs never published (of which I have copies of manuscripts).  

According to stories told by Mompou, Viñes' finances were catastrophic.  Even though his friends read like a Who's Who list (eg. Picasso gave Viñes the "L'Hetaire", now part of the Agnelli collection in Italy) and his unfailing dedication to countless composers and artists, he was having troubles making ends meet.   

The list of composers with whom Viñes had associated is literally endless.  When he passed away in 1943, a part of his library - 836 works - was put on sale by his family.  From time to time I still discover pieces that were either dedicated to Viñes or premiered by him.

Again with Ravel on the right

Program of 1944 concert given in memory of Ricardo Viñes.
I found a pile of manuscripts while visiting Mompou's house (now Mompou Foundation) a few years ago.  I believe these songs have not been published, and I am currently requesting more information from Viñes' surviving families.  

His only original piano works, only 300 copies printed.  I believe there is one CD recording (by Joaquin Soriano) of all 4.  I recorded one, am planning to play the rest in coming seasons.

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