Joan Manen

1883 - 1971



One of the Spanish violinists who achieved international renown and admiration in the generation following Sarasate, he performed his first concerts in Barcelona at the tender age of seven, alternating recitals in piano with others in violin. He was considered by the press to be one of the most talented violinists of his time and travelled extensively throughout Europe and America. He lived in Germany for several years before taking up permanent residence in Barcelona.

He was admitted to the Royal Academy of Fine Art of San Fernando in 1927, named Knight Commander of the Cross of Alphonso XII, and Knight of the Cross of Carlos, amongst other distinctions. He was also named Honorary Professor by several American Conservatories.

One of the most interesting aspects of Manén is his body of compositions. He was practically self-taught in this discipline although he himself emphasised the importance of studying classical composers for the formation of his own creative character. When he was thirteen he composed his first pieces although they were not published until two years later. There is an indication of the aesthetic influence of Richard Strauss, particularly noticeable in the orchestral writing. He positioned himself in line with German ‘poematismo’ (programme music) and he possessed a great gift for adapting widely varying spiritual content from the most heterogeneous backgrounds to an instrumental discipline.

The most important pieces in his lyrical repertoire are the opera Giovanna di Napoli, first performed in the Liceo Barcelona in 1903, and Acté, performed in 1904. Initially unsuccessful, the composer rewrote the piece many years later and it was performed again in 1928 in Karlsruhe – and deemed a success judging by the critics’ reports. It was later performed in Leipzig, Cologne and Wiesbaden. Neró i Acté, was first performed in 1933, also in the Liceo, and in 1952 Manén presented his new opera Soledad. In 1909 he presented the opera Der Fackeltanz in Frankfurt, which was well received.

UME/SGAE (Diccionario de la música española e hispanoamericana)