The composer Benet Casablancas Has published «Landscapes of Musical Romanticism» (Gutenberg Galaxy), an extensive and intense volume in which he relates music with other artistic disciplines, especially painting and literature, to offer what he defines as “a cartography” of the common places that define that creative era. In addition, it follows in its wake along paths that can lead to Hitchcock and even “Game of Thrones.” National Music Award in 2013, Casablancas has established himself as one of our authors with the most international projection. Last week, without going any further, a monographic concert with his music was organized in Japan, a country with which he has established a creative bond in recent years.
Hey, the book is called “Landscapes of Romanticism,” but the first fifty pages are devoted to Haydn, and the next twenty to Mozart.
And the last fifty pages reach the 20th century and even the 21st! Haydn was defined as Romantic by the writer and critic ETA Hoffmann. If some of his contemporaries already read Haydn as a Romantic composer, imagine Kierkegaard’s Mozart, who reads him almost as an Expressionist composer. It seemed very coherent to start with the immediate roots, if not even overlapping, of the romantic movement of the nineteenth century, and also to see the continuity that many of these elements, figures, motifs, topics, have even to this day.
It is fascinating to think of the few years that separate the best Haydn from the revolutionary Beethoven, they are practically two different worlds that overlap.
It is a golden bloom, there are moments when a series of forces explode in an impressive way. It has been difficult for me not to fall into the temptation of making the book even longer. One has to know how to limit oneself, but I was interested in transmitting to the reader this idea of historical continuity, whether he is a musician or has an interest in music, literature or painting. I try to establish a cartography of the common places, the motifs, the figures that define music in this period.
Why is it so important for you to dedicate a book to these threads that unite different disciplines?
If I hear a chromatic bass like that of the “Crucifixus” in Bach’s Mass, I think of the “Pietà” of his time, with Christ in the arms of the Virgin. Music has the same aesthetic stimuli as the rest of the arts of its time. If we focus on the purely technical, the way we deal with music ends up being reductionist. That is necessary to do in a higher conservatory, but if we are talking about enjoying, then it is natural that we include other keys. Goethe said it: music does not need us to translate it into words, but if you put effort into it and try to analyze it and reflect deeply on it, you can enjoy it even more.
Reading his analyzes and his reflections on other disciplines I have seemed to feel like I was in one of his composition classes.
Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you because in classes I never use anything other than sheet music with my notes. In the book, on the other hand, I work in a different way. The way to prepare these scores, to guide the auditions, to talk about historical and stylistic issues, about topics that are not purely musical … All this fabric of relationships between arts is the most valuable thing we have in the European humanistic tradition.
What drives you to write books, in addition to composing?
It helps me get my thoughts in order. My books and my writings are a consequence of my pedagogical activity, which has always seemed to me a very enriching activity. In addition, there is a certain moral debt with young people, you have to help them even with a grain of sand. All this has been for me a way of personal learning and a way of responding to society and to the new generations. As a result of all this, the books have been writing themselves.
Man, this is over six hundred pages. They will not have been written alone.
I started the book a long time ago. It was almost ready to go to the press, but then I assumed the responsibility as head of studies at the Conservatorio del Liceo. I was twelve years. The book was parked, but he was always taking notes. After the opera “L’enigma di Lea” was released, which involved three years of absolute isolation, I thought it was time to take it up again. I spent my confinement proofreading, as there are many musical examples that I have selected myself, and it also includes a wide selection of paintings. It is my most important and most ambitious project, after the opera.
In some passage I could not help wondering if a certain composer is speaking or if, deep down, he is talking about yourself, his way of understanding music.
There is no desire to bring the subject of the book to my field. The authors that appear does not mean that they are my favorites, although all of them I think are liked by many readers. That I like Schubert is not anything particularly original. There are figures who have built the house in which very diverse people live. The selection responds to the authors and works that seemed to me that fit more clearly in this trip. Now, in the tone, the way I express myself, the comments, the selection, the emphasis on certain aspects, it is me, of course. I am not two people. It would have been hard for me to write about music that I didn’t love, which is not to say that the selection is my canon. In fact, when reviewing the book, once it was written, I had surprises.