Fundación Jacinto e Inocencio Guerrero

Scores by Jacinto Guerrero

Scores by Jacinto Guerrero

La fama del tartanero (rev. Raquel Rodriguez, Enrique Mejías García. Foreword: Ignacio Jassa Haro.)
La blanca doble (rev. Sebastián Mariné, Enrique Mejías García [and Foreword].)
El canastillo de fresas (rev. José Luis Montolío. Foreword: Ramón Regidor Arribas.)
Los gavilanes (rev. Miquel Ortega, Enrique Mejías García. Foreword: Antonio Gallego.)
Jhaía – danza mora (rev. Miguel Roa. Foreword: Ramón Sobrino.)
Tríptico toledano (rev. Miguel Roa. Foreword: Ramón Sobrino.)

A composer’s death is a new beginning. The commissions are over, the personality and ambition of the individual retreat into memory. The work remains, but it is left to others to keep the flame alive. The royalties still flow (for eighty years in Spain, if death was before 1987) but if a musician has many dependents, or if their work is more esteemed than popular, the funds left over to promote the music itself may be small. Most composers suffer a steep decline in reputation after death, a dip from which it may take decades to recover – if indeed they ever recover at all.

At the time of his sudden death in 1951, Jacinto Guerrero was the most popular of Spanish composers. Despite the decline of Spanish music theatre in favour of the American musical, his major pre-war zarzuelas such as Los gavilanes and many more recent revistas still connected strongly with a mass public. And in contrast to many of his rivals Guerrero was also a good businessman, one of Madrid’s leading theatrical entrepreneurs and founder of the magnificent Teatro Coliseum complex. He was also unmarried. This set of circumstances presented a great opportunity to his surviving brother Inocencio, who in 1982 founded Fundación Jacinto e Inocencio Guerrero, with the aim of “promoting Spanish musical culture with special attention to the study, research and dissemination of the zarzuela and related genera, and in particular the work of Jacinto Guerrero”.

The Fundación has pursued these goals imaginatively, making funds available for commissioning young composers, and sponsoring singers, recordings and productions – not least the remarkable coup of a Chinese premiere for Guerrero’s chef d’oeuvre La rosa del azafrán (in Mandarin) at the Shanghai Music School. That’s significant. The ready availability of good quality performing materials for sale or hire is far and away the most crucial tool for promoting a composer and keeping his music alive. So it is that in the last few years the Fundación has been focused on supporting the publication of reliable new editions of Jacinto Guerrero’s stage and concert works.

At first these were done through sponsorship of ICCMU critical editions, and zarzuela vocal scores released under the Tritó (Barcelona) imprint. So the release of a varied batch of scores under the Fundación’s own name represents a new development. I’ve been looking at vocal scores of the zarzuelas Los gavilanes, El canastillo de fresas, La fama del tartanero and the revista (revue) La blanca doble, plus full scores of two short concert works, the early Jhaía - danza mora and the late Tríptico toledano. These orchestral scores have been revised for publication by Miguel Roa, no less, with Forewords by Ramón Sobrino; but all have been professionally edited to a good standard.

Guerrero conducting his Triptico Toledano in Toledo, a few days before his death in 1951

The vocal scores follow the format of ICCMU’s series, with substantial Forewords and Editor’s Notes in Spanish and good English translation, cast and instrumentation lists, plus indexes to vocal tessitura and the musical numbers themselves. Most valuably, they intercalate the spoken dialogue, absolutely complete. They do not carry full scholarly critical apparatus – though both La fama del tartanero and La blanca doble include appendices with interesting musical alternatives – but aim to provide reliable, utile performing texts.

The music is reprinted from older editions, where these exist, or from manuscript where they don’t. In all cases mistakes have been silently corrected, phrasing marks and dynamics standardised. The printing is of size large enough to make reading a pleasure, and the standard design of the series is both stylish and practical.

I’ve found the opportunity to follow recordings of the lesser-known works with these scores has enhanced my respect for Guerrero’s musical craftsmanship, as well as reminding me of the consistent quality of his gift for popular melody. In particular the La blanca doble comes across as a far stronger work than I’d remembered from a couple of lazy listens a decade ago. Guerrero’s talent in mixing and matching the chotis, pasodoble and bulerías of Chueca’s Old Madrid, with the sambas, tanguillos and boogie-woogies of contemporary American “Jazz” – all thrown into the pot with a cheeky farcical plot overtly celebrating adultery – makes for an enjoyable and catchy score.

The intention is to eventually republish all the composer’s major theatre works. These pieces still “have legs”: and provided Fundación Guerrero can overcome Spanish music’s age-old distribution problems, making sure musicians and theatre directors both inside and outside Spain can actually get hold of them, I’ve no doubt these handsome scores will do a fine job in promoting them. Jacinto Guerrero’s name deserves to be kept alive for today’s theatrical audiences, starved of contemporary popular musical theatre of anything approaching this quality. The Fundación Guerrero is going about its important task in a model way.

© Christopher Webber 2011

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