Miguel Marqués

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Miguel Marqués

Miguel Marqués
(1843 - 1918)

Born in Palma de Mallorca (20th May 1843) Pedro Miguel Juan Buenaventura Bernadino Marqués was the son of the town's chocolate maker. By the age of four he was already showing unusual musical talent, and by eleven he was playing violin for a Palma opera company, for which he wrote a Fantasía para violin which enjoyed a notable triumph. Between 1859 and 1863 family finance enabled him to study in Paris, after 1861 as a violinist at the Conservatoire with Massard. In 1863 he was admitted to the orchestra of the Theatre Lyrique, and began serious compositional studies, including instrumentation with Hector Berlioz.

His training was cut short by a call up for Mallorcan military service, but in 1866 he was able to continue his training at the Madrid Conservatoire, studying violin with Monasterio and composition with Arrieta whilst playing in the orchestra of the Teatro de la Zarzuela. His numerous and highly esteemed orchestral compositions include five substantial Symphonies (1869-80), as well as the once-popular 'light classic' Primera lágrima. Symphonic composition gradually took a back seat as his theatrical reputation developed, though as late as 1904 he wrote a symphonic poem, La cova del Drach. After 1878 he was Inspector of the National Music Schools. He also taught singing at the Foundling Girls' School in the capital, as well as publishing a successful handbook for Violin teachers.

His first zarzuela Justos por pecadores dates from 1872, but his first and best sustained success came in 1878 with the zarzuela grande El anillo de hierro. Later three-act works include Camoens (1879), Florinda (1880) and La cruz de fuego (1883). The critically esteemed El reloj de Lucerna (1884, based on events in Switzerland after the death of William Tell) is of operatic scope and intensity. He took up the new género chico style gracefully in El plato del día (1889), and in the one-act comedy El monaguillo (1891) which is still occasionally revived. He continued to write, but faded from the public eye and eventually left Madrid for his home town. Marqués died, a forgotten figure, in Palma de Mallorca on 25th February 1918.

Marqués' theatre work was championed by the great critic Antonio Peña y Goñi, and he was celebrated in his heyday as the most powerful composer of the zarzuela grande. Of his full-length works only the robustly effective El anillo de hierro remains in the active repertoire. The unusual breadth and depth of his formal training is evident from his harmonic and instrumental sophistication; and though his muse may sing with a strong French or Italian accent, several of his stage works - notably El reloj de Lucerna - may prove well worth reviving; and the same is reputedly true of his five Symphonies.

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