Juan Vert Carbonell

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Juan Vert

Juan Vert
(1890 - 1931)

Juan Vert Carbonell was born in Carcagente in Valencia, 22nd April 1890. His first musical studies were undertaken under the local organist and band director Enrique Casanova, and he had piano and composition lessons at the college La Conceptión from Manuel Ferrando. As soon as he was old enough, he entered the Conservatory in Valencia, studying harmony and composition with Emilio Vega.

His progress was sure, and in 1911 he made the move to Madrid to continue studies at the Conservatory (still with Vega) whilst preparing for a lucrative musical career. In this he was assisted by a wealthy guitar manufacturer, Andrés Marín Terz¹, who helped him pay his way through the difficult postgraduate years. He finally graduated with First Prizes in harmony and composition in 1916, marrying Terz's sister-in-law María Ortega, and settling down to life and work in the capital.

His first two solo efforts, the one-act comedy Las vírgenes paganas (1917) and El Versalles madrileño (1918), enjoyed some success, and in 1919 he began the famous musical partnership with Reveriano Soutullo which continued until his early death in 1931. El capricho de una reina (1919) was their first joint work, but - like their first great success, Guitarras y bandurrias (1920) - it is now all but forgotten. Not so La leyenda del beso (1924), nor La del soto del Parral (1927, to a libretto by Carreño and de Sevilla), both of which maintain their hold in the repertoire. Other popular successes, such as Encarna, la misterio (1925) and the revue Las maravillosas (1928) have dimmed with time, but their final theatre triumph together, El último romántico (1927) is still held in great affection for its gently lilting, Viennese-style melodies and easy charm.

Vert's premature death, on 16th February 1931, shocked Madrid. He was still at the height of his fame, one of the undoubted leaders of the young generation of zarzuela composers. It is difficult to say whether he or Soutullo was most largely responsible for the varied strengths of their work together. Well-defined in musical atmosphere, rich in melodic succulence, sophisticated in harmonic and orchestral resource - all three of their major zarzuelas (perhaps pre-eminently La leyenda del beso with its strong verismo passions) seem guaranteed a place in the hearts of zarzuela aficionados for many years to come.

¹ In all other sources Andrés Marín Simón, but no guitar maker working under that name can be traced. However, Andrés Marín Terz was amongst the most celebrated Valencian guitar makers of that period, so it seems that this is almost certainly the man who was Vert's benefactor. I thank Ton Bogaard for this information.

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