Question: Who was the innovative leader of the Spanish Art Nouveau architectural movement? Answer: Antoni Gaudí. (1882 – 1926) Question: Why does his work garner such respect and awe? Answer: “Technologically brilliant and structurally sound, [Gaudí] combines the magic of traditional religious architecture with the originality of an isolated genius. Nothing else like it exists...” *
So notes architectural historian Dennis Sharp on Gaudí’s singular edifices. With their distinctive expressionist, neo-gothic, and organic forms, his buildings — Casa Mila, Casa Vicens, La Sagrada Familia, just to name a few — are historic monuments scattered throughout Barcelona. Composer Gerard Schurmann draws from Gaudí’s fount in his new work Gaudiana, which premieres this month by the Barcelona Symphony led by Rumon Gamba.
“These symphonic studies,” Schurmann relates, “refer to the unique buildings of Antoni Gaudí.” Gaudiana was written in celebration of L’Auditori, Barcelona’s Rafael Moneodesigned concert hall. Schurmann visited Spain previously, and after receiving the commission he returned for inspiration. “While contemplating the task ahead, I revisited Gaudí’s great unfinished Cathedral of ‘La Sagrada Familia,’ and was unexpectedly overwhelmed by a feeling of intense sadness and prescient drama. The sight of the interior bare bones of this huge building [is] like an enormous empty carcass...”
Schurmann’s score clearly possesses his personal stamp, but also incorporates elements of religious symbolism and Catalonian folk music. “The piece begins with an extended Chorale (Pietà) (for strings only), indicative of Gaudí’s intense devotion to the Marian sect of Catholicism. After this section, a few discreet taps on the xylophone wake up the rest of the orchestra, and the music grows quickly into a full blown set of symphonic studies, responding to different features of Gaudí’s highly inventive and often colorfully exuberant style. One recognizable musical source in the development of the thematic material is derived from the short Introit to the Sardana. This call to join the distinctive Catalan folk dance, traditionally played on the flabiol, is here rendered by the piccolo, the flute, and other woodwind instruments. The final study begins energetically, but marks a return to the slow music of the opening and to the unfinished Cathedral, where it ends dramatically and quietly.”
* Dennis Stamp, Twentieth Century Architecture: A Visual History