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Manuel Oltra (1922), composer

His career is closely linked with the Barcelona Municipal Conservatory of Music where he studied, taught and was a governor. I have already spoken of Oltra as a composer par excellence. Musicians who have had contact with him and his methods of working agree, with rare unanimity, that he is a great musician and a great teacher. A man with a deep knowledge of composition, transcription and instrumentation techniques, in short a scholar of music. Throughout his career Oltra followed his own path without becoming part of any particular group or tendency. He refused to be discouraged when accused of not being innovative and concentrated on making music of quality. Oltra would tell how he had learned instrumentation by sitting at home with orchestral scores and trying to imagine how they would sound. Then, with the score in his hand, he would go to the second floor of the Palau de la Musica to see if they really sounded as he had imagined or how they differed.

Among Oltrašs works are Suite for strings and flute (1953), Rapsòdia for piano and cobla (3), El bestiari de Pere Quart for choirs (from 1957), Cantata per a cor infantil, cobla i percussió, Sonata for cello and piano, (1959), Doble 5. Suite per a quintet de corda i quintet de vent (1962, Psalmus brevis (1967), for choir and orchestra, Simfonia esparsa (1989) and many songs and melodies for popular songs. Sonatina per a flauta i piano (1950) is the work of a young man, written when he was twenty-eight it remains one of his personal favourites. Oltra claims it is one of the few works that he wrote spontaneously, from beginning to end, simply, without doubt, following his instincts. The language of Sonatina is clearly tonal, structured like a sonata with a simple, transparent design.

Tres estacions was composed in 1989 and so is a mature work. It is structured in three parts, starting with a sonata: autumn (fast), winter (lyrical) and spring (rondo). Although Oltrašs music tends to be carefully constructed, in Tres estacions there are more descriptive passages. This produces a powerful cerebral work with a perfect balance of composition. The notes are transparent and precise, nothing is superfluous. Oltrašs deep knowledge of the composeršs craft gives his music an aura of perfection. According to those who have interpreted his work, the intrinsic interest of the music makes it easy to play and requires little effort. In contrast to the Sonatina the language of this work is more advanced and the tonality is far more ambiguous without being abandoned completely.

There is always something in Oltrašs work, sometimes hard to define exactly, that marks it as part of Catalan musical tradition. This, in one way or another, also applies to Manén and, above all, to Toldrà. Apart from the Sonatina all the works on this disc are first recordings.