Spanish Music in Canada

Spanish immigration to Canada was moderate until 1950, by comparison with that from other major European nations. Nevertheless, by 1986 there were some 57,000 Spanish-Canadians, concentrated in cities in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec.

Spanish immigration to Canada was moderate until 1950, by comparison with that from other major European nations. Nevertheless, by 1986 there were some 57,000 Spanish-Canadians, concentrated in cities in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec.

The great music of the early Spanish church has had little currency in Canada. The Montreal Bach Choir, however, did perform and record music of the Spanish renaissance, including a mass by Victoria, and the ensemble Anonymus of Quebec has presented in Canada and on tour, recreations of such works as El Llibre Vermell, an old manuscript held at the monastery in Montserrat. Spanish operas and orchestral music from the 18th century have had virtually no performances in Canada. From the 19th century an occasional piece by Arriaga may be heard (the Orford String Quartet played his Quartet No. 3 and the Toronto Philharmonic Orchestra has performed his Symphony in D) but nothing of Eslava or Pedrell. Most performed are the nationalist composers - Albéniz, Falla, and Granados and, to a lesser extent, Turina and Rodrigo - who straddled the 19th and 20th centuries; and even they are represented on Canadian programs by relatively few works, notably Falla's El Amor Brujo and The Three-Cornered Hat on symphony programs and his Seven Popular Songs at recitals and Granados' Goyescas and Albéniz's Iberia in the repertoires of several pianists. Pieces by later Spanish composers (Mompou, Montsalvatge, Nin) are heard from time to time, but those by Esplá or the brothers Rodolfo and Ernesto Halffter, for instance, remain largely unknown, as do works by contemporary composers, such as Luis de Pablo, Cristobal Halffter, and Tomás Marco. By contrast the music played by classical and Flamenco guitarists has proved widely appealing to Canadians.

Spanish folk and classical music and dance have been sustained in Canada by several amateur ensembles such as that of the Club Hispano in Toronto. Flamenco, the dance music of the Spanish gypsies, has been played in Canada by Spanish-Canadians (eg, Juan Garcia) and other guitarists including Lenny Breau, Michael Laucke, John Perrone, David Phillips (accompanist to the Paula Moreno Spanish Dance Co of Toronto), Juan (John) Thomas, and the duo Harry and David Owen. Many Canadian classical guitarists also include Flamenco in their repertoires. The Canadians Harry and David Owen, Ian Ayre McConkey, and Juan Thomas have studied guitar in Spain; Eli Kassner, Perrone, Thomas, and others have offered instruction in Spanish guitar music (see also Guitar). The outstanding Flamenco and classical guitarists of Spain, including Carlos Montoya, Andrés Segovia, and Narcisco Yepes, have often appeared in Canadian cities, giving concerts and occasionally master classes.

Emma Albani sang at the Gran Teatro del Liceo in Barcelona during the 1884-5 season. Other Canadians who have performed in that opera house include André Turp in 1961-2 (awarded the Medalla de Oro in 1963 for his performance in Werther), France Dion in 1964, Joseph Rouleau in 1963-4, Louis Quilico 1966-7, and Nicole Lorange in 1976. Lorange also recorded with the tenor Jaime Aragall. Irving Guttman was a guest director in 1969, 1971, and 1973. Heinz Unger was a popular guest conductor of Spanish orchestras including that of Valencia. In 1986 Franz-Paul Decker was named artistic director of the Barcelona Orchestra, of which a number of Canadian instrumentalists were members, notably Alain Trudel. The pianist Sheila Henig, the Orford Quartet, and Gaston Germain have toured in Spain. The MSO conducted by Charles Dutoit performed in Spain in 1987, and the Violons du Roy in 1990. Jean-Paul Despins' Le Cerveau et la musique (Paris 1986) was translated into Spanish and published in Barcelona in 1989 under the title La Musica y el cerebro.

Among Spanish musicians resident in Canada have been the Count of Premio-Real, amateur composer and general consul of Spain to Canada; the composer and conductor Henri Miro; the pianist José Iturbi (conductor 1968-9 of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra); the violinist Victor Martin (born of Spanish parents in France), conductor 1968-77 of the Chamber Players of Toronto; the composer José Evangelista; the composer Luis de Pablo (b Bilbao 28 Jan 1930), who began teaching at the University of Ottawa in 1974 and at the University of Montreal in 1976; and Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, conductor 1975-6 of the MSO.

The cellist Pablo Casals appeared many times in Canada. He was an assisting artist 1 and 2 Feb 1915 with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir at Massey Hall. His pupil Gaspar Cassadó played for the Ladies' Morning Musical Club of Montreal in 1937. Victoria de los Angeles sang in Toronto in 1953, 1958, and 1972, and Teresa Berganza in 1964. The pianist Alicia De Larrocca appeared with the TS in Toronto, New York, and Washington in 1977 and has frequently perfomed with other orchestras in Canada,.including the MSO. For the JMC the guitarist Alberto Ponce toured Canada in 1963-4, the guitarist Renata Tarragó in 1966-7 and 1967-8, the soprano Monserrat Alavedra in 1968-9, the soprano María Muro in 1973-4, and the Tarragó Quartet in 1975-6 and 1976-7. The Boys Choir of Montserrat took part in the 1898 International Choral Festival in Toronto.

The immigration in the 1960s of Sephardic Jews from the Near East introduced into Canada a repertoire of old Spanish romances. Judith R. Cohen has studied, written about, and performed this music.