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Xavier Montsalvatge

March 11, 1912 - May 7, 2002
born in Gerona, composed during the Contemporary period
Catalonian composer Xavier Montsalvatge began violin lessons at the age of nine, around the same time as his father's death and his move to Barcelona to live with his grandfather. This move later allowed him to attend the Barcelona Conservatory and numerous concerts that greatly influenced him. His teachers at the conservatory were Francisco Costa for violin and Enrique Morera and Jaume Pahissa for composition. He himself became a teacher at the school in 1933. His first important works were the 1934 Tres impromptus for piano, for which he won the Rabell prize from the Patxot Foundation, and the Suite burlesca, for which he won the Pedrell prize in 1936. Rejecting the legacies of Wagner and Richard Strauss that dominated in Spain at the time, he was instead attracted to the works of Les Six and Stravinsky and made his first trip to Paris around 1934. He also soon began writing musical criticism for local papers, eventually writing for the weekly publication Destino for more than 30 years, as well as for La matì and La Vanguardia. The 1940s were fruitful years for Montsalvatge. He began a series of teaching jobs in prominent schools in Barcelona. He met fellow Catalan composer Federico Mompou in 1942. He married Elena Pérez de Olaguer in 1947 and a son was born in 1949. Compositions from the period include 19 ballets for the Paul Goubé/Yvonne Alexander company and the Album de habaneras, songs he had collected in the West Indies. Cinco canciones negras of 1945-46, also with a West Indian influence, and his first opera, El gato con botas (Puss in Boots), remain his most popular works. A daughter was born in 1952, and the next year, both Henryk Szeryng and Alicia de Larrocha asked for concertos from him. Through the next decades, he continued to write, teach, and compose, producing works in nearly every genre and winning numerous awards and honors along the way. In the 1980s, he wrote an autobiography that was published in both Spanish and Catalan, and in 1989, a piano competition was founded in his name. He retired from his official positions in the early 1980s, but continued composing into the 1990s, becoming one of the most respected composers of twentieth century Spain. ~ Patsy Morita, Rovi
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