The Charterhouse at Valldemossa

The Charterhouse, Valldemossa that hosts the Pianino and Chopin Festivals.

13-08-2019ULTIMA HORA

Think Majorca in the nineteenth century, think also piano, and the chances are that you will think no further than a virtuoso and composer who endured three months of a Majorca winter in the company of his French lover, whose observations of Majorca were not always as flattering as a tourist board of the time - had there been one - might have hoped.

Frédéric François Chopin has created a piano link with the past that today manifests itself in not one but two festivals in his honour at the Charterhouse in Valldemossa, where he and George Sand spent most of that winter.

The Pianino Festival is partly a celebration of the cell that was his accommodation; this cell having of course been the subject of some controversy - which one was it exactly?

The Chopin Festival, for which concerts are staged in the cloister at the Charterhouse, is currently ongoing; it was first held in 1930.

Chopin thus towers over the Majorcan piano scene of the nineteenth century; this, despite the fact that he quite obviously wasn't Majorcan and only spent a short time on the island. It is understandable that Chopin should have such preeminence, firstly because he was one of the great masters of nineteenth-century composition and secondly because Majorcan pianist-composers were fairly thin on the ground.

The island's cultural society of that century looked outside for its inspiration and enjoyment.

Majorca wasn't exactly geared up for producing great musical talent. There weren't the venues to play until Palma's Teatre Principal truly started to come into its own in the second half of the nineteenth century. The Conservatory in Palma was founded in 1879. Prior to this, schools for music were all but non-existent, but there had been one - the Academia Musical in Pollensa. This dates back to 1870, and it was created at the time when a nine-year-old talent was first becoming apparent.

Miquel Capllonch Rotger was born in Pollensa in 1861. He was initially tutored by the organist at the parish church. He then studied under one of the few masters in Majorca, Guillem Massot, before going to Madrid and then Germany.

The provincial deputation in the Balearics awarded him a grant to study at the Berlin Conservatory. Among others who were to guide him was Teobaldo Power. From an Irish family with merchant and military traditions, Power - born in Santa Cruz, Tenerife - was a professor at the National School of Music in Madrid.

Power and Capllonch have both become deeply embedded in the cultures of their respective islands. Power's "Cantos Canarios" provided the melody for the hymn of the Canaries. Capllonch adapted the "Alborada", the musical prelude to the events of the second of August in Pollensa - the Moors and Christians re-enactment of the La Patrona fiestas.

But Capllonch was to have a far more prolific career than his teacher, and it was one during which he sought inspiration from his home village and island. His oeuvre included, for example, his homage to the place of coves in Pollensa that itself attracted so many of the painters of the early twentieth century who helped to forge the international reputation of Pollensa and the Tramuntana Mountains. "A Sant Vicenç" was that homage. Another was "La ximbomba d'Artà", a tribute to this peculiar instrument.

What comes through in Capllonch's work is a reflection of Majorca through somewhat introspective composition. Titles themselves allude to this - ",Nostalgia Op. 17, No. 1", "Idil·li" (Idyll), "Ara s'ha tornat al món de la tranquil·litat" (It has now become a world of tranquility). For this time of year, there is little more evocative than "Nit estival" (Summer night).

He was both modern and traditional and was at the centre of the development of Majorcan music in the late nineteenth century along with his exact contemporary, Antoni Noguera Balaguer, who re-wrote the musical notation for the Sibil-la chant (the one now used) and who, like Capllonch, was influenced by the island's folk traditions - the flabiol flute-whistlers of the Cossier dancers, for instance.

There were other significant contributors to Majorca's music development, such as the violinist and composer Pere Miquel Marquès, who was eighteen years older than Capllonch. But in terms of the piano, Capllonch had very few peers.

He wasn't Chopin, but his work has become increasingly accessible and appreciated over the years, and at the Pollensa Festival on Wednesday, there is a tribute to this work by Barcelona-born pianist Josep Colom.

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