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Robert Gerhard i Ottenwaelder (Catalan pronunciation: [ru'd '?a?t]; 25 September 1896 - 5 January 1970) was a SpanishCatalan composer and musical scholar and writer, generally known outside Catalonia as Roberto Gerhard.
Gerhard was born in Valls, near Tarragona, Spain, the son of a German-Swiss father and an Alsatian mother. He was predisposed to an international, multilingual outlook, but by birth and culture he was a Catalan. He studied piano with Enrique Granados and composition with scholar-composer Felip Pedrell, teacher of Isaac Albéniz, Granados and Manuel de Falla. When Pedrell died in 1922, Gerhard tried unsuccessfully to become a pupil of Falla and considered studying with Charles Koechlin in Paris but then approached Arnold Schoenberg, who on the strength of a few early compositions accepted him as his only Spanish pupil. Gerhard spent several years with Schoenberg in Vienna and Berlin.
Returning to Barcelona in 1928, he devoted his energies to new music through concerts and journalism, in conjunction with the flourishing literary and artistic avant-garde of Catalonia. He befriended Joan Miró and Pablo Casals, brought Schoenberg and Anton Webern to Barcelona, and was the principal organizer of the 1936 ISCM Festival there. He also collected, edited and performed folksongs and old Spanish music from the Renaissance to the eighteenth century.
Identified with the Republican cause throughout the Spanish Civil War (as musical adviser to the Minister of Fine Arts in the Catalan Government and a member of the Republican Government's Social Music Council), Gerhard was forced to flee to France in 1939 and later that year settled in Cambridge, England. Until the death of Francisco Franco, his music was virtually proscribed in Spain, to which he never returned except for holidays. Apart from copious work for the BBC and in the theatre, Gerhard's compositions of the 1940s were explicitly related to aspects of Spanish and Catalan culture, beginning in 1940 with a Symphony in memory of Pedrell and the first version of the ballet Don Quixote. They culminated in a masterpiece as The Duenna (a Spanish opera on an English play by Richard Brinsley Sheridan, which is set in Spain). The Covent Garden production of Don Quixote and the BBC broadcasts of The Duenna popularized Gerhard's reputation in the UK though not in Spain.
During the 1950s, the legacy of Schoenbergian serialism, a background presence in these overtly national works, engendered an increasingly radical approach to composition which, by the 1960s, placed Gerhard firmly in the ranks of the avant-garde. From the early 1950s Gerhard suffered from a heart condition which eventually ended his life. He died in Cambridge in 1970 and is buried at the Parish of the Ascension Burial Ground in Cambridge, with his wife Leopoldina 'Poldi' Feichtegger Gerhard (1903-1994).
For twenty years - first in Barcelona and then in exile in England - Gerhard cultivated, and enormously enriched, a modern tonal idiom with a pronounced Spanish-folkloric orientation that descended on the one hand from Pedrell and Falla, and on the other from such contemporary masters as Bartók and Stravinsky. This was the idiom whose major achievements included the ballets Soirées de Barcelone and Don Quixote, the Violin Concerto and the opera The Duenna.
Gerhard often said that he stood by the sound of his music: 'in music the sense is in the sound'. Yet dazzling as their scoring is, his last works are in no sense a mere succession of sonic events. Their forms are meticulously organized and several make use of his special development of serialism where a twelve-tone pitch series, governing intervallic relations, interacts with a twelvefold time series governing the music's duration and proportions.
Selected list of works
Gerhard's most significant works, apart from those already mentioned, include four symphonies (the Third, Collages, for orchestra and tape), the Concerto for Orchestra, concertos for violin, piano and harpsichord, the cantata The Plague (after Albert Camus), the ballets Pandora and Ariel, and pieces for a wide variety of chamber ensembles, including Sardanas for the indigenous Catalan street band, the cobla. He was perhaps the first important composer of electronic music in Britain; his incidental music for the 1955 Stratford-on-AvonKing Lear - one of many such commissions for the Royal Shakespeare Company - was the first electronic score for the British stage.
Symphony Homenaje a Pedrell (1941)
Symphony No. 1 (1952-53)
Symphony No. 2 (1957-59); recomposition as Metamorphosis, unfinished (1967-68)
Symphony No. 3 Collages (for orchestra and tape) (1960)
Symphony No. 4 New York (1967)
Symphony No. 5 (fragment only) (1969)
(for Chamber Symphony Leo see "Chamber music")
Ariel, ballet (1934)
Soirées de Barcelone, ballet in three tableaux (1937-39; edited and orchestration completed by Malcolm MacDonald, 1996)
Don Quixote, ballet (original version 1940-41, rev. 1947-49)
'Roberto Gerhard's Symphony': Radio Times, Oct 23, 1959, p. 9 (An introduction to the Second Symphony, which was commissioned by the BBC and first performed and broadcast on Oct 28, 1959. Gerhard also contributed an item on the work to 'Music Magazine' on the BBC Home Service, Oct 25, 1959.)
Gerhard, Roberto, and Meirion Bowen. 2000. Gerhard on Music: Selected Writings, edited by Meirion Bowen. Aldershot [Hants, UK] and Burlington [Vermont]: Ashgate. ISBN0-7546-0009-2
^Composer's Note to the published score of Libra, Oxford University Press 1970; other programme notes have the same statement in varying words and word-orders
^Gerhard, Roberto (1960). Functions of the series in twelve-note composition. Originally a talk given at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Reprinted in Bowen, Meirion, ed. (2000). Gerhard on Music - Selected Writings. ISBN9781315200583. OCLC1003950418.[page needed]
^Theater in Bielefeld 1975-1998, Kerber Verlag, Bielefeld, Redaktion Heidi Wiese, Heiner Bruns, Alexander Gruber, Fritz Stockmeier 1998, ISBN3-933040-03-5
Diego Alonso. "Un hito de la modernidad musical española: el primer Apunt para piano de Roberto Gerhard", Acta musicologica, Vol. 89, Nº 2, 2017, págs. 171-194
Diego Alonso. ""A Heretic in the Schoenberg Circle: Roberto Gerhard's First Engagement with Twelve-Tone Procedures in Andantino", Twentieth-Century Music 16 / 3 (2019): 557-588. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1478572219000306
Diego Alonso. "Homage to Schoenberg and Bartók: Symmetry, Transpositional Combination and Octatonicism in the First Movement of Roberto Gerhard's Quartetto No. 3." Music Analysis 39 / 2 (2020), 190-213. https://doi.org/10.1111/musa.12156