Gerónimo Giménez

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Gerónimo Giménez

Gerónimo Giménez
(1854 - 1923)

Born in Seville, 10th October 1854, Giménez began his musical studies with his father. He continued to study in Cadiz with Salvador Viniegra, and at the age of twelve took his place in the 1st Violins at the Teatro Principal. Five years later he was already conducting opera and zarzuela performances in the city, but on obtaining a scholarship he left to consolidate his musical training at the Paris Conservatoire. Under the highly popular Delphin Alard he won the First Prize for Harmony and Counterpoint - amongst his defeated contemporaries was Claude Debussy. The inevitable tour of Italy preceded his return to Spain and the capital, where by 1885 he had become conductor at the Teatro Apolo, later moving to the Teatro de la Zarzuela, and the Teatro Lírico. Aside from a healthy output of zarzuelas, Giménez also managed to write a number of symphonic and chamber works. Many of these were played by the Unión Musical Espagñola and the Sociedad de Conciertos, both of which he conducted.

His best stage works date from relatively early in his career. Amongst the most notable are Trafalgar (1890) and Los voluntarios (1893), but his fame largely rests on three works - the twin sainetes El baile de Luis Alonso and La Boda de Luis Alonso (1896/7), and his masterpiece La Tempranica (1900). Perhaps aware of his waning powers, further success after the turn of the century was only achieved with the help of Miguel Nieto, in their witty reworking of El barbero de Sevilla (1901) and Vives - notably in El húsar de la guardia (1904) and La gatita blanca (1905); though their intriguing Los viajes de Gulliver (1910), based on Jonathan Swift, did not cut much ice. Later solo efforts, such as Cinematógrafo nacional (1907) and La bella persa y la cortesana de Omán (1920), were cold-shouldered by audiences and critics alike. Indeed, Giménez's last years were dogged by financial problems and ill health as well as the decline in public favour. He was refused a professorial chair at the Madrid Conservatory until very near the end, and died in near-poverty in Madrid on 19th February 1923.

The lack of consistency in Giménez's musical output (admittedly partly due to the mediocre quality of many of the libretti that he set) should not be allowed to obscure his technical brilliance and musical sophistication. The Baile and Boda demonstrate his nice handling of orchestral subtleties - far in advance of his contemporaries, with the exception of Bretón - and both these and the best collaborations with Vives reveal Giménez to be a melodist of taste and wit. La Tempranica goes beyond almost anything else of the period in its giddy range of references, from Weber through Johann Strauss to Puccini - and in sheer musical quality. Its influence on Falla's La Vida Breve is patent. Had he written nothing else, Giménez's name would be guaranteed an honourable place through this chef d'oeuvre.

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