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Soirées de Barcelone, Roberto Gerhard’s ballet tribute to his native Catalonia, receives its London concert premiere in the orchestration completed by Malcom MacDonald, performed on 21 May by the Salomon Orchestra under Edmon Colomer.

Roberto Gerhard’s hour-long ballet score, Soirées de Barcelone, one of his most important Catalan-inspired works dating from 1936-39, receives its first London performance in the orchestration completed by Malcolm MacDonald in 1996. Edmon Colomer, a leading champion of Gerhard’s music conducts the Salomon Orchestra at St John’s Smith Square on Sunday 21 May at 4.30 pm in an Iberian programme also featuring music by Turina and de Falla.

> Further information on the St John's Smith Square website

Gerhard’s work grew from a dance commission from Colonel de Basil’s Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo: the score was underway when the composer fled from Barcelona in 1939 following the Spanish Civil War and the fall of the Republic, settling first in France, then in Cambridge in the UK. With the further double blow of the ballet company’s bankruptcy and the outbreak of World War II, the composer remained tied into the contract but had no opportunity for the score to be realised on stage. Gerhard had completed a piano score but left the ballet’s orchestration incomplete as he turned to other projects, and this was the case up to the time of his death in 1970.

Gerhard had adapted the piano score into a 16-minute ballet suite for keyboard around 1958, and David Atherton broadcast a four-movement orchestral suite drawn from the extant full score in 1972 with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Composer, musicologist and editor Malcolm MacDonald made a preliminary study of Gerhard’s materials for Soirées de Barcelone in a Tempo article in 1981, proposing that a completion would be possible, and Boosey & Hawkes commissioned him to undertake this complex task in 1995. The following year saw the 57-minute ballet’s first complete broadcast with the BBC Philharmonic in Manchester conducted by Matthias Bamert on 29 September 1996, as part of BBC Radio 3’s 50th anniversary celebrations.

The plot of the Soirées de Barcelone ballet is located in a town in the Catalan Pyrenees during the festivities of the summer solstice Night of Saint John the Baptist (Sant Joan is the patron saint of Catalonia). Fire symbolizes purification and fertility. During this night, two antagonistic religious traditions are mixed, the pagan and the Catholic. These two paradoxical elements appear and intertwine, so that the story becomes a metamorphic representation of the beliefs of the Catalan tradition.

As well as the London performance of Soirées de Barcelone, Edmon Colomer conducts Gerhard’s Violin Concerto on 16 June with soloist Abel Tomas and the Tenerife Symphony Orchestra in the Auditorio in Santa Cruz. Edmon Colomer is a leading authority on Gerhard’s music, conducting recordings of his ballet suites and vocal works in the Auvidis series devoted to the composer, and notable performances in Barcelona commemorating Gerhard’s 50th anniversary of death, including the Violin Concerto and Cantata: ‘L'Alta Naixença Del Rei En Jaume’.

Edmon Colomer has served as Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the Eastern Music Festival in the United States of America, the Daejeon Philharmonic Orchestra in South Korea, the Orchestre de Picardie in France, the Orquestra Simfònica de Balears, the Orquestra Simfònica del Vallès and the Orquesta Filarmónica de Málaga in Spain.

>  Further information on Work: Soirées de Barcelone (complete ballet)

Photo: Roberto Gerhard in Barcelona

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