Joaquín Valverde Durán

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Joaquín Valverde Durán
Valverde Durán
(1846 - 1910)

Born in the Estremaduran capital of Badajoz, near the Portuguese border, on 27 February 1846, Valverde studied at the Madrid Conservatory under José Aranguren (harmony), Pedro Sarmiento (flute) and - most importantly - composition under Emilio Arrieta. A precociously brilliant flautist, he played in military bands and at the Teatro del Príncipe as early as 1859, and won first prize at the Conservatory in 1867. In 1870 he added the prize for composition, but he never achieved a permanent teaching post there, despite writing two standard flautists' manuals (1874 and 1886). Instead he earned his living between 1871 and 1889 conducting theatre orchestras in the capital. His forgotten orchestral works include two Symphonies, but the majority of his works were theatrical, and largely collaborative. The long list of his theatrical partners includes Caballero, Julián Romea, Chapí, Arturo Saco del Valle, José Rogel, Bretón and Torregrosa.

His friendship with Federico Chueca dates from 1872, but their first mutual work appears to be Un maestro de obra prima from five years later. The epoch-making La canción de la Lola (1880) was followed by a long stream of works together, of which Luces y sombras and Fiesta Nacional (both 1882), Cádiz (1886) and El año pasado por agua (1889) are amongst the most important. Indeed, for the March from Cádiz both collaborators were awarded the Military Grand Cross.

After breaking with Chueca he enjoyed several solo successes, notably La baraja francesa (1890) to a libretto by Sinesio Delgado, but these soon faded from view. In any case, he continued to write sainetes with other composers, notably his son "Quinito", of which La noche de San Juan (1894) was perhaps the most successful. He even collaborated with the young Serrano on La suerte loca (1907), before his death in Madrid on 17 March 1910.

Valverde was the collaborative musician par excellence, and though it is impossible to speak categorically about the extent of his work with Chueca, it is generally accepted that his main contribution was some orchestral and harmonic polish. The paradoxical fact of his being one of the very few zarzuela composers to acquire a reputation outside Spain is down to one work alone - La Gran Vía (1886), the great revista (revue) which he wrote with his friend Federico Chueca, and which brought their names to popular notice in Paris, Vienna, New York and London.

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