Carlos Baguer



Symphony No. 12 in E flat major

1. Allegro con brio
2. Andante
3. Menuetto
4. Finale: Presto

Symphony No. 13 in E flat major

1. Allegro con brio
2. Adagio
3. Menuetto
4. Finale: Allegro presto

Symphony No. 16 in G major

1. Allegro assai
2. Adagio a solo con sordina
3. Menuetto
4. Rondo: Presto

Symphony No. 18 in B flat major

1. Allegro
2. Andantino allegretto
3. Menuetto
4. Finale: Vivace

For decades the Catalan and Spanish music of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was practically unknown both to the public in general and to musicologists. The era of maximum splendour in the musical past of the Iberian peninsula had been the sixteenth century yet during the following two centuries only a few names stood out, such as Francesco Valls and Antonio Soler. There was no doubt as to the existence of an active musical life in the cathedrals of the Iberian peninsula during this long period, but from the origins of the musicological investigation in Spain this era was considered decadent and did not receive the efforts of investigators or the publicity it merited.

Apart from some musicological criteria now considered obsolete, some objective facts contributed to this forgetfulness, such as the absence of standardized musical printing in Spain at the time and the small number of musicians who worked abroad.

Fortunately this situation has changed during the last few years and the panorama of Catalan and Spanish baroque and classical music is beginning to be known and publicized. During the process of rediscovery, Carlos Baguer (Barcelona, 1768–1808) has appeared as one of the important figures in classical music in Catalonia. He underwent his musical education with his uncle Francesco Mariner, the organist of Barcelona cathedral, whom he replaced in 1786. His life was linked to the principal musical circles in his city, especially the cathedral – of which he was titular organist from 1789 until his death – the numerous musical academies which often took place in the salons of the city’s nobility, and the Oratory of Sant Felipe Neri in the last years of his life. He took part in numerous competitions for other Spanish cathedrals, always with negative results. Among his fellow citizens – who knew him by the nickname of Carlets – he had a special reputation for his interpretations and improvisations on the organ.

His music covered practically all the musical genres of his day: music for keyboard instruments, both in the old style (fugues, partitas and pasos) and the modern (sonatas, minuets, contredanses, etc.), liturgical music and oratorios for one or two choirs, soloists and orchestra, a collection of duos for flutes, an opera and not less than nineteen symphonies. It makes him the principal symphonist of Catalonia and probably also of Spain in the classical era.

Although his work was not very successful at the time, his religious vocal production, his music for the keyboard and his symphonies spread in an unprecedented way among Catalan musicians. Copies of his works appear in almost all the musical archives of Catalonia which preserve collections of the period. His work was also performed in the most important musical centres of Spain (El Escorial, Cuenca, Valencia, Santander, etc.). Some of his works were kept in the repertory of some cathedrals until the second half of the nineteenth century and some of his compositions for keyboard appear in collections of chamber music at the beginning of the twentieth century.

The symphony had been introduced into Catalonia in about the 1780s. The instrumentalists of the Barcelona opera performed them first of all in the theatre and subsequently in the city’s churches, as they also formed part of the choirs of these churches. These symphonies were often performed in evening concerts of a sacred nature which took place on the great feast days and were called Siestas. Soon these works were heard also in the salons of the nobility of Barcelona, the genre spread to the rest of the country and some of these musicians composed their own works similar to the Italian and German protoclassical symphonies.

In about 1782 the influence of the music of F.J. Haydn became omnipresent in Catalonia and there soon appeared new symphonies composed in the style of the Austrian composer. The majority of those which Carlos Baguer wrote – and all those appearing on this recording – are under this Haydn influence. In any case one must say that this influence was manifest particularly in superficial elements such as the formal structures, the tonalities, the time signatures and some melodic profiles. Some themes used in Symphony No. 18 are a good example of this. Other deeper elements in the creative process such as textures, thematic developments and harmonic processes are further removed from the Germanic models and remain attached to the more southern and Mediterranean manner of conceiving instrumental music. For this reason his symphonies can be considered as a very personal amalgam of elements of different origins (Germanic, Italian, Catalan and from the very old Iberian tradition of keyboard music) and as a special peripheral reception of the Classical style.

The group of four symphonies on this CD contain the major part of the elements which define the symphonic style of Carlos Baguer. The first movement often appears in 3/4 time and presents a sonata form generally giving more importance to the repetitions of the melodic material than to the developments. The second movements are variations on two themes in the style so habitual in Haydn’s works. The use of the mute is common as is binary time. There follows a minuet of an anacrusic nature with its corresponding trio. The finale – often with the character of a contredanse – adopts the sonata (Symphonies Nos 12, 13 and 18) or rondo form (Symphony No. 16). In the first cases lighter criteria are applied than in the first movements, while in the second the brevity of the episodes stands out in comparison with the length of the refrains1.

These symphonies date approximately from the 1790s and are orchestrated for a string section in four parts, two horns and two oboes, although these are substituted by flutes in the second movement of Symphony No. 16.

Josep M. Vilar i Torrens (1996)

1 VILAR I TORRENS, Josep M.: Les simfonies de Carlos Baguer: Fonts, context i estil. Tesi Doctoral. Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 1995.