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LEONARDO BALADA: HIS MUSIC
Leonardo Balada, the Catalan composer who came to New York in 1956 to study composition, has been a powerful creative force for more than three decades. His highly personal “avant-garde” techniques in the sixties – dramatically as well as rhythmically imposing – sets his works like Guernica and María Sabina apart from composers of the time. Later, in the seventies, he was credited as a pioneer in blending the “avant-garde” with folkloric ideas mixing the new with the old – now a very fashionable trend – in works like Sinfonía en Negro-Homage to Martin Luther King (1968) and Homage to Casals and Sarasate (1975).
His exposure to the plastic arts in New York was perhaps of greater significance to his style than the music heard around him. In Balada’s music one finds by his own admission a perplexing amalgamation of traditional Spanish culture influenced by modern concepts of geometric art, “collages” as seen in the paintings of Rauschenberg and the surrealism of Salvador Dali. Balada had collaborated with Dali several times in New York during the early ‘60s. There is a plasticity and a theatricality in his music and also a dichotomy, for while sometimes expresses the abstract, in other moments he mixes in the ethnic.
In an interview over a generation ago Balada explained his position towards this dichotomy saying: “If I go to Andalusia and choose to wear a “Cordobés” hat, or a “cowboy” hat in Texas or no hat at all in Wall Street, I still will be recognized as “me,” provided that my personality emerges in spite of my disguise.” And his works are very personal indeed, through textural writing, blunt contrasts of ideas and dynamics, juxtaposition of opposing harmonies, mechanistic passages in layers of “staccato” writing, a rhythmic constancy and above all, a compelling sense of direction and goal in the form and drama of his music.
A characteristic of some of Balada’s works is his interest in controversial subjects: antiwar (Guernica), freedom (Sinfonía en Negro-Homage to Martin Luther King), historic and social issues (the cantata Torquemada, the opera Zapata), environmental concerns (Music for Oboe and Orchestra), protest against death (the cantata No-res). In Spain, his childhood and adolescent years during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) and after that under the dictatorship of Generalísimo Francisco Franco, had an impact on Balada’s psyche. When he came to the United States the gates of openness and freedom were open to him and with that a compelling desire for expressing in music the frustration experienced in his native country.
Jaime Mira – Troy Albany Records
Leonardo Balada may be the Postmodern composer par excellence, insofar as he has clearly assimilated every possible trend or technique of the 20th Century and incorporated them all into a vocabulary which is always very recognizably his own. This is a true synthesis of styles, not an eclectic conglomeration, and as such it provides his large-scale works with a dynamic integrity which belies the breadth of inspiration inherent in their construction. Records International Homepage
“Years from now Leonardo Balada may well be remembered as one of the most interesting composers of our time. That will be in part because of his significant recorded legacy on Naxos, but mostly due to the simple fact that he is one of the first composers of our age to emerge from the corridors of theory and write naturally…with every new disc, Leonardo Balada looks more and more like one of our most outstanding composers…” Brian Reinhart-MusicWeb International
School of Music - Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, PA 15213 - USA
Agent: Music Associates of America
224 King Street, Englewood, N.J. 07631
Telephone: (201) 569 2898
Fax: (201) 569 7023
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