My compositions

The Catalogue of my works is highly versatile and includes compositions in varied styles which have been written with many different intentions. That is to say, works composed with different goals in mind. Some of these works are written in a musical language which is, more or less, related to historical traditions. I call these works “Pure Music”. Other works have a thematic inspiration based on social themes and issues, some with a contemplative character. And, lastly there is another category of works intended for teaching and pedagogy . Here, in this text, I have attempted to assign each work to the category to which it belongs according to its style, my inspiration and my motivations in its composition. Let me explain what I mean by “Pure Music”, the term which defines the works that belong to the first category of my Catalogue: I have always been an advocate of historical traditions. There are a quite a number of works, even those from the beginning of my career as a composer, written in this style. Notable among them are: “Concerto for Violin and Orchestra”, “Concerto grosso”, “Sonata in Five Tempos” for violin, “Sonata in Memory of Pau Casals” for cello, “Divertimento 2002”, the string quartet “Remembranza”, “Quartet Saint Petersburg”, “Sonata for Viola”, “Concerto for Piano and Orchestra”, “Duo-Sonata” for violin and piano, “Sonata for Trumpet”, “Impromptu-Fantasy” for organ, “Trio Le Matin” for piano, violin, and cello as well as many other works in varied genres.

The two following categories in my Catalogue of works are very special. In contrast to the works of the previous category, “Pure Music”, where all the compositions have a strong formal structure and are also unified by having a coherent and logical discourse, in the following two categories the works were composed with absolute expressive freedom. Each work in these categories is the fruit of my imagination and of different inner impulses. They are united only by their expressive coherence. The first of these two categories contains works about human violence in all of its aspects. As an example, in the first place I should mention “Secuencias sobre una muerte” (Sequences About a Death), 1970, the earliest work of this type. Next came “Ana Frank, un símbolo” (Anne Frank, a Symbol), 1971, for strings. This was followed by two works for symphonic orchestra: the dramatic poem “Ybris” (a Greek word related to violence) and the recent “Natura-contranatura “(Nature-Against Nature). Both of these works are written in a style that could be considered as “Expressionist” since they have a constantly changing atmosphere which focuses on the arrogance and crudeness of human irrationality, both its arrogance and conformity.

The second category, on the other hand, is like liberation, being a sort of evasion of the reality to which I am transported by contemplating an ideal world. This ideal world would be free of human brutality, allowing me to explore open spaces whether they are in Nature, with all its phenomena, or the recreation of a scientific concept or simply the pleasure of moving freely through an open space. The first of these works is “Vers l’infinito” (Toward the Infinite), 1982-83, a symphonic poem inspired by the poem titled “The Infinite” by Giacomo Leopardi. “Formas para una exposición” (Forms for an Exhibition) is another work which opened my imagination. In this work, created in collaboration with my friend Jorge Wagensberg, eight of the forms most frequently found in Nature are described, each in a separate movement. “Leyenda” (Legend) for solo viola or violin also takes us to a place that is almost metaphysical in the same way as does “Iscor” for violin and viola, a prayer of Hebrew origin that for loved ones who are already far from this world. A recent works which belongs to this group is “Entre el so i la reflexió” (Between Sound and Reflection) for piano, which moves in an imaginary space.

The final category contains works which have been inspired by or are intended for pedagogical use. Due to my connection with the violin I have been inspired by the innumerable technical exercises written for the instrument as well as by the progressive etudes by Kreutzer, Rode, Fiorillo, Mazas, Dont, Wieniawski and, especially by those written by Eugene Ysaÿe, titled “Exercises and Steps”. After so many years spent practicing this material it is logical that unconsciously, motives and allusions from this etudes and studies would be found throughout my music. This influence can be perceived in my “Pure Music” as well as in the works from the other two categories.

However in the Pedagogical group of works, which is divided into two sections, this influence is most evident. “Dos movimientos” (Two Movements) for string quarter or string orchestra belongs to the first section of the Pedagogical works. The second movement, “Allegro-Studio” is directly inspired by the technical exercises as well as those for bowing technique by the well-known Czech violinist Otokar Sevcik. Sevcik is known for being the pedagogue who composed the greatest number of etudes and exercises for violin technique. Some of my other works which belong to this group are: “Perpetuum mobile” for violin and piano, “Tremolo” for clarinet, “Souvenir” for viola and the “Etudes nach Kreutzer” for sting quartet and the quite recent work “Il Diavolo” for violin and piano, passed on the Cappricio No. 13 by Paganini, known as “la risata del diavolo” (the Devil’s laugh). The compositions of the second section of the Pedagogical works are very different from those found in the first section.

For many years I was a violin teacher, having regular contact with young violinists which brought me an intense immersion in pedagogy. This experience inspired me to write works, which, although they have a certain level of virtuosity, also have musical content. And, at the same time, these works are useful for teaching. Thus, little by little, I invented new technical formulas that were designed to facilitate performance. By this I mean, by using a simplified style of writing I want to achieve the same effect as a complicated passage can give. Thus, producing a virtuoso effect by using what I call “natural technique”. Violinist Emilio Moreno, in an essay about my contributions to Spanish violin music of the 20th Century, commented about my Sonatina for violin : … [it] is an eminently violinistic work due to the perfect unification of the technical requirements and the musical expression. In the most natural and spontaneous manner possible Cervelló creates a technical work that is pleasing to an advanced student. He achieves this by writing pieces that sound virtuosic, brilliant and with perfectly proportioned technical demands which produce the effect of being more “difficult” than they really are”.

In 1991 I wrote a work conceived for progressive advancement in the technique of bowing. It is titled “Cinco golpes de arco fundamentales” (Five Strikes of Fundamental Bowing) extracted from the section about bowing in the violin method by the French pedagogue Georges Catherine. The five strikes of the bow are: “great dry détaché”, “martellé”, “détaché soutenu ou chantant”, “détaché vif” and “sautillé”. The work is written for string orchestra at a mid-level of advancement. It is used in many different conservatories and has also been performed in concerts. Following this, there are other works written for concert performance. The first of these was “Concertino for violin and strings”, 1993, followed by the “4 Capricci” for solo violin, the “Divertimento” I and II for two violins, “Grażyna” for solo violin and “Entre deux” for violin and cello.

Jordi Cervelló