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ClassicsOnline Home » MARCO, T.: Symphonies Nos. 2, 8 and 9 (Malaga Philharmonic, Serebrier)
Madrid-born Tomás Marco is a multi award-winning and prolific composer whose compact Symphony No 2 is a single ‘Espacio cerrado’ or ‘Closed Space’, expressed using a massive orchestra. As the subtitle ‘Gaia’s Dance’ suggests, the colourful and rhythmic Symphony No 8 borrows elements of dances from different parts of the world. Marco’s Symphony No 9 draws inspiration from the primeval sea spirit ‘Thalassa’, and combines studies in sonority with medieval music sources to create a work which unfolds in a single, extended breath.
Here are three symphonies by contemporary Spanish composer Tomas Marco (born 1942). The disc kicks off with the one-movement Symphony No. 2 entitled Espacio cerrado (Closed Space), and as one might suspect the general texture is one of inclosing walls, slamming doors and claustrophobic uncertainty. That said, the sound is rich with deep, disturbing colour and has an embracing quality.
The same can be said of Symphony No. 9 Thalassa - imagine being in a huge gothic hall and you are deliriously drunk, everything is slowly turning - the walls, the ceiling, the chandeliers, the paintings, the furniture, the ornaments... whoa! woozy, queasy. Also, in Greek mythology Thalassa is a primordial sea goddess, so perhaps the vibe conjured is one of being cast adrift in a boat on undulating waters under a pristine yet sun-dazzling sky... woozy, queasy, giddy and choppy.
Symphony No. 8 Gaia'a Dance concludes the triptych of dizzying delights, yet into this work comes an added dose of quirky playfulness, a sort of cartoonish mischief (with Arabian tinges). Again the mood feels drunk or delirious. Strange people are dancing. The world is turning, spinning and whirling. Beware, the ground beneath this music's feet is not stable!more....
By Phillip Scott
By Frédéric Cardin
Musique pour tous
Tomás Marco (b. 1942)
Symphony No. 2 ‘Espacio cerrado’ • Symphony No. 9 ‘Thalassa’ • Symphony No. 8 ‘Gaia’s Dance’
Tomás Marco was born in Madrid in 1942. He studied violin and composition as a boy, continuing his musical training while also undertaking a degree in law. He went on to study in France and Germany with Maderna, Boulez, Stockhausen (whose assistant he became in 1967), Ligeti and Adorno, but also took courses in psychology, sociology and the performing arts. Marco has won many prizes, including Spain’s National Music Prize (1969); awards from the Gaudeamus Foundation (1969 and 1971), the Sixth Paris Biennale and the Casals Centenary Competition; an Arpa de Oro (Golden Harp) trophy and a UNESCO International Rostrum of Composers prize. He has taught composition at the Madrid Conservatory and music history at Spain’s National University of Distance Education. As well as having written several books, he has lectured at various European and American universities and institutions and has worked as a critic across the different media.
Marco spent eleven years working in Spanish National Radio’s music programming, winning further awards as a broadcaster (National Broadcasting Prize and Ondas Award). Between 1981 and 1985 he was General Manager of Spain’s Orquesta y Coro Nacionales, and from 1991 to 1995 their Technical Director. For ten years, from 1985 to 1995, he was Director of the CNDM (National Centre for the Promotion of Contemporary Music), setting up its electro-acoustic laboratory and establishing the Alicante International Festival, directing its first eleven editions. Marco was made a member of the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in 1993, and in 1996 was appointed Festival Director for the Madrid Regional Council. Between May 1996 and July 1999 he was Director General of the INAEM (National Institute of Drama and Music), and in 1998 was awarded an honorary doctorate by Madrid’s Universidad Complutense.
Marco has written six operas, a ballet, nine symphonies and choral and chamber music, as well as works in other genres. He currently devotes his time exclusively to composing and writing about music. In November 2002 he received the Spanish National Prize for his body of work, and in 2003 was awarded the Madrid Regional Council’s Music Prize.
Symphony No. 2 ‘Espacio cerrado’
I completed my First Symphony (‘Aralar’) in 1976. As there was no urgency for me to complete another large-scale orchestral work, I took my time and set to work on a reasonably substantial second symphony while I was composing other things. As time went on, I realised I had far more material than I had originally planned, so when in late 1984 I received two commissions for orchestral works to be written during 1985, I decided to use everything I had accumulated and create two separate pieces. These became my Second and Third Symphonies, works that are very different from each other and yet as closely interlinked as a photograph and its negative. While the Third employs an orchestra of soloists and considerable mobility in its pursuit of an electro-acoustic-like soundworld, the Second uses a symphony orchestra as a single, compact block.
The Second Symphony was commissioned by the Ravenna International Festival. My fascination with time in musical composition had led me into explorations of the ‘sound space’. In an earlier work, Espacio sagrado (Sacred Space) for piano, chorus and orchestra, I had considered it in terms of creating and destroying globular spaces in a continuum of sound. Here, I was interested in exploring the creation of a single, compact, self-contained space, hence the title ‘Espacio cerrado’ (Closed Space). In addition to a powerful diatonic chord whose clarity sets it apart from the rest of the material and which is used to emphasize the change from one section to another, there are two principal ideas: one is compact in nature and given in the main to the strings, the other is faster and appears predominantly in the woodwind writing; the two come together to achieve a strict formal unity. The intended outcome is an absolutely formal configuration of the material, which is why I chose to call the work a symphony, even though it is relatively short in duration and written in a single span, rather than being divided into distinguishable movements.
The orchestration is massive, adding to its symphonic stature, while the path travelled by the music is like a spiral closing in on itself—it is a closed space, but also a fairly desolate one since, although it is an abstract work, it is neither happy nor neutral, but intended to convey an underlying note of tragedy, almost of nightmarish suffocation. The symphony was first performed in Ravenna, on 5 November 1985, by the Berlin Symphony Orchestra and Klaus Peter Flor.
Symphony No. 9 ‘Thalassa’
Symphony No. 9 was completed in late 2009 in response to a commission from the Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia; it is dedicated to Víctor Pablo Pérez. It was not the first time I had drawn inspiration from the sea—my catalogue already included such works as the Concierto del agua, Laberinto marino and Como la mar océano, among others, as part of my interest in forms that have more to do with fluidity than solidity. And one movement of my Sixth Symphony is entitled La persistencia de la marea (The Persistence of the Tide), although the work’s broader context is that of global statistical processes.
The Ninth Symphony comprises two linked movements, Nun and Okéanos (Oceanos). Nun, in Egyptian mythology, was a god of water, representing the concept of primordial chaos associated with the dark, impenetrable waters out of which the world emerged as a result of a dialogue between Nun and a creator god engendered by him. This movement is essentially a study of the lower registers of sound. In Greek mythology Oceanus was one of the Titans, the son of Uranus and Gaia, represented as the sea in which the habitable universe floated, a river encircling the world, and as such is given a dynamic treatment here. The two movements come together to give the symphony its overall title: Thalassa, the primeval spirit of the sea, again according to Greek myth. Although each movement has its own material, I bind them together by using elements of the music to which Martín Códax (fl. mid-thirteenth century) set the poem Ondas do mar de Vigo (Waves of the sea at Vigo). This runs through my work, in fragmented fashion, and at certain points becomes a block within which everything crystallizes, unchanging except for the timbre. The dialectic between the Códax material and that of Nun and Okéanos respectively allows the work to unfold as if in a single, extended breath.
The symphony was given its première in the Auditorio de La Coruña on 23 April 2010 by the Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia under the baton of Víctor Pablo Pérez.
Symphony No. 8 ‘Gaia’s Dance’
Symphony No. 8 ‘Gaia’s Dance’ was written in 2008 to a commission by the Orquesta de Navarra and the Fundación Autor (the charitable arm of the Spanish Performing Rights Society, SGAE) as part of a collaborative initiative with the Spanish Association of Symphony Orchestras, AEOS, to encourage new symphonic compositions. It is dedicated to Ernest Martínez Izquierdo. The symphony borrows elements of dances from different parts of the world, the idea being that dance is common to all cultures, hence the work’s subtitle ‘Gaia’s Dance’, Gaia being the name given to a holistic concept of Earth.
The work is cast in three linked movements, the first of which is entitled Gondwana, the name given to the ancient southern land mass that included today’s Africa and South America. The music is based on elements of African and Latin American dance, led by the djembe, an African percussion instrument, and focuses on rhythm and tempo. The second movement is Laurasia, the northern land mass that included Europe and Asia. Again, it uses dance motifs from these areas, but here the emphasis is on tonal and melodic elements. The third is Pangea, the single supercontinent that encompassed all the continents as we know them today. It therefore employs elements from all over the world, including modern popular dance music—two sets of drums provide a thread that weaves its way through the entire movement.
The aim of the work is not to portray any of these dances in a kind of recognisable entirety, but to borrow metrical, melodic and tonal elements from them in order to build up a symphonic development capable of turning form into expression.
Symphony No. 8 was first performed by the Orquesta Sinfónica de Navarra, conducted by Ernest Martínez Izquierdo, in Pamplona’s Auditorio Baluarte on 17 June 2009.
English translation by Susannah Howe
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