nicole.medina-(gestion.cultural)
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Nicole Martín Medina

Gestora Cultural – Abogada/MBA

String Quartets, Marrero

Presentation of the third monographic work (CD) of string quartet music by Juan Manuel Marrero

 

Alfredo Kraus Auditorium / Chamber Hall –

Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

19th March 2024

 

Recorded from 7 January to 10 January 2021 in the Atlantic Hall of the Alfredo Kraus Auditorium

 

Produced by the German record label NEOS

 

String Quartets, Juan Manuel Marrero (NEOS)

Last night, the album String Quartets by Juan Manuel Marrero was presented at the Alfredo Kraus Auditorium in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. The presentation was framed by a concert of three works, two of them by the composer and performed by the Ornati Quartet and six other colleagues[1]. It was a very emotional event, warmly received by the audience.

String Quartets, Juan Manuel Marrero
Image: Juan Manuel Marrero - 19th of March, 2024 – AAK- Nacho González
Nicole Martín Medina - String Quartets, Marrero
Image: 19th of March, 2024 – AAK- Nacho González

(...), I have always considered that music must be listened to, then discovered and therefore spontaneously appreciated or understood before being explained. Nonetheless, these notes are a slight introduction to this part of my musical production.

The invitation was extended by the Taller Lrico Association, the financial sponsor of the disc, and its presentation was executed by Manuel Bentez. He began by describing the world of Marrero with words of acknowledgement and profound appreciation. Manuel Bentez hailed a truly exceptional musician, both for his originality and for his solid technical education.

Marrero, like many young people of his time, grew up listening to the 40 Principales radio station and vindicating pop music. This did not prevent him from carving out a niche for himself among the greatest contemporary composers of the present. His record of accomplishments is impressive, encompassing a catalogue of approximately 70 published and premiered works, including electroacoustic, instrumental, and orchestral works, as well as numerous unpublished and unreleased works, academic diplomas, and a total of 14 international prizes. He is an extremely reflective, sensitive, and multifaceted person who, by analyzing the everyday, immerses us in the extraordinary.

Marrero is a composer from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria who was born in 1970 and has lived in Paris since 1995.

I’m curious to know, and this coincides with Manuel Bentez’s reference to pop, that Marrero in his early days wanted to be a singer-songwriter[2], . Reading his curriculum[3], I imagine that, as a young adult, he must also have gone through a very intense and profound personal search, as he left behind his studies in Hispanic Philology, Law and Music Education because, in the end, he was not into any of them. Being unable to accomplish his task on a tiny island, and driven by a deep love, he relocated to Paris, where the famed composer Horacio Vaggione had a significant impact on him. He ended up, and I am not sure if the verb “to end” in the case of our intellectually restless protagonist is the right word, finally as a Composer and Doctor in Aesthetics, Sciences and Technologies of the Arts at the University of Paris 8. Perseverance triumphs in the end, not only academically, but also in terms of international professional recognition.

An extensive and very interesting article dedicated to Juan Manuel Marrero was published by Antonio Miranda, the technical engineer of this disc project, in 2004.  He asserts that Marrero comprehends knowledge as encompassing, encompassing, and plural, and he regards him as a man who upholds a certain notion of universality. He believes it is advantageous to maintain a curious nature that leads to openness of spirit and the availability of the individual in the face of unexpected events.

These words resonate the most with me when I listen to his album. His disc was entrusted to me several weeks ago, and I had the opportunity to give it the attention it deserves and learn some details about the style that I was unaware of.

All six pieces of String Quartets are pleasing to the ear; the first two pieces are minimalist and repetitive, all of them aesthetically elegant and, as a whole, surprising. I sense a texture of ephemeral musical poetry that is highly rationalized. Clearly, we are dealing with a new language that leaves behind the strict limitations of tonality and is influenced, as the composer himself commented at last night’s performance, by the aesthetics inherited from contemporary Central European music.

The final two quartets on the CD merit special attention as they were composed for a painting, titled “El ámbito del Demiurgo” (Acrylic on canvas, 200×400 cms), a work by Juan José Gil (1947-2023), a close friend and painter from Spain.

      1. Quatuor pour un tableau: première partie
      2. Quatuor pour un tableau: deuxième partie.

 

Like two sides of the same coin, Marrero himself says that these are more abstract works that require more committed listening. If we understand that these two quartets are a profound observation of the instruments themselves, then enjoyable access will also be guaranteed to the ear less familiar with the style.

The maestro explains that in the first part of the piece, the musicians are stripped of their bow and compelled to use a credit card to play, with the corresponding changes in sound, and then in the second part, the bow is returned and the instrument itself is removed, replacing it with a balloon. Those who are most resistant to the sonic complexities of the 20th and 21st centuries should be drawn to this acoustic curiosity.

1710939783311
Image: 19th of March, 2024 – AAK - NMM

 

In conclusion, I quote Manuel Benítez as saying that Marrero is “a popular musician with principles as much as an uncompromising avant-garde musician. I would dare to say [Benítez], and I steal this from him [Marrero] himself, that Juan Manuel Marrero is a prisoner of the freedom to choose. In his own words, “I am the metaphor of myself but not the certainty of myself”.

Those who know me well know that there are works in contemporary music that don’t come easily to me either, but I think Marrero is suitable for a broad range of listeners.

This conclusion is based on his CD, yesterday’s concert, and the opera Clara y las sombras[4] (trans.: Clara and the Shadows), which I had the pleasure of seeing in its 2014 premiere at the Teatro Pérez Galdós in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. Yesterday, I reinforced my opinion by watching the premiere of his four-movement French Suite (I. The nude ballerina, II. A drink at Montmartre, III. Furtive thoughts, infinite boulevards and VI. Coffee and rain), which made me feel the synesthetic effects [5] that I like so much if the works are recent.

In other words, I am already an unconditional admirer of Marrero’s work.

By the way, every time I think about contemporary music, I wonder why the world around us accepts abstract painting without any problem, but is so resistant to abstract music. It must be the Instagram & Co. effect, which makes us so visual that we leave the other senses underused. Extremely curious.

My regular readers will be imagining it, but the affection I have for this CD is particular. It is indeed my second involvement in a CD production with the NEOS label and Taller Lirico de Canarias, where I am assisting as a liaison between all participants, artists, and collaborators, a role that I greatly enjoy.

Even though I am German, I feel very proud of our Canarian achievements and I cannot be happier with all that I have learned. Getting to know Marrero better has been a great experience that I hope will last a long time.

Finally, Antonio Miranda, the sound engineer, and José Brito, the artistic director, gave me their comments on the work as a special gift to the composer and my blog. I am allowed to quote them here.

Bravo, maestro! Congratulations!

"When we think of the work of our beloved Juan Manuel Marrero, we imagine, for those of us who have become accustomed to listening to his world full of textures, exoticism and sonorous filigree, a single stylistic image that seduces and intoxicates those who approach it. However, in this inspiring discographic work that deals with the integral of his string quartets, and which I have had the pleasure of producing musically, we will have the opportunity to contemplate Marrero's different universes, which not only deal with extended techniques, sound clouds or timbre development, but also dare with the complex writing of minimalism, which, from the simplest rhythmic and melodic elements, generates a state of mind that confronts spirituality, without moving away from the telluric. It is a kaleidoscopic experience of multiple sensibilities, which will not leave indifferent any of those who, without aesthetic prejudice, wish to enter its sonorous abode".

There are two entirely different aesthetics on the disc: on the one hand, there is the "Cuarteto para un cuadro", which is dedicated to Juan José Gil, also an academic and painter and a great friend of Juan's. Juan José Gil passed away a year ago. This and similar works are influenced by the French spectralist movement, whose greatest exponent is Gerard Grisey. Marrero studied with Horacio Vaggione in Paris 8 and ended up working at the electroacoustic music laboratory in Bourges. Later, he worked at IRCAM, which was directed by Pierre Boulez. There is a lot of documentation on the aforementioned online. The transformations in these works are both explosive and expansive. This is Marrero, whom we know and love. His YANG, or masculine, side. On the other hand, the friendly side of the album (the walks through Central Park) has a minimalist and repetitive aesthetic. Mantras are almost created that evolve slowly, generating changes in an almost imperceptible way, and where one can recreate oneself in the beauty of the moment. It is as if it were a meditation. The music is calmer and more reflective. Likewise, it is Marrero YIN, or his more feminine side. The direction he's currently taking is calm, and I think it's just what he needs to stay calm.   The minimal movement comes from the second school in New York, and they are almost all disciples of Morton Feldman (1st school). Among his references are John Adams, Steve Reich and Philip Glass. Marrero's relationship with New York began (I think I remember) when he visited there in 2003 to give concerts of his electroacoustic and instrumental work in one of the halls of Carnegie Hall and the Lincoln Center.

 

SPOILER: My third “recorded baby” is about to come out.

Keep an eye out for Nico’s next posts.

 

Nicole Martín Medina

Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

20th of March 2024

(Originally Spanish, translation Deepl, Revision NMM)

 
This article is available in Spanish and German, too:

Spanish (original):  https://nicolemartinmedina.com/string-quartets-marrero-3/

German: https://nicolemartinmedina.com/de/string-quartets-marrero/

 
To purchase String Quartets:

Please visit: https://neos-music.com/product/juan-manuel-marrero-string-quartets/

Available also in all other sales channels!

 
The press on String Quartets:

https://www.laprovincia.es/cultura/2024/03/19/compositor-canario-juan-manuel-marrero-99665990.html

 

*****

Footnotes: 

[1]  The Ornati Quartet are Sergio Marrero violin 1, Adrián Marrero violin 2, Adriana Ilieva viola and Carlos Rivero cello. The other partners were: Carmen Ojeda flute, Verónica Cruz oboe, Laura Sánchez clarinet, Miguel Ángel Mesa bassoon, José Zarzo horn and José Luís Castillo piano.

 [2]  Antonio Miranda (2004) – Juan Manuel Marrero/ De causas y azares (trans.: Of Causes and Chances), for the International Music Festival of the Canary Islands, Ed. XX

[3]  Please visit: www.compositoresfaic.com y www.scanarias.wordpress.com

Also: Antonio Miranda (2004) – Juan Manuel Marrero/ De causas y azares (trans.: Of Causes and Chances) –for the International Music Festival of the Canary Islands Ed. XX

[4]  Composed by Juan Manuel Marrero and Libretto by Alexis Ravelo.

[5]  For the curious among my readers, I noticed a grey background, perhaps the streets of a rainy day in Paris, with a jumping ball of multiple colors, bright and cheerful, intense colors, colors drawn in the form of stripes, and splashing drops of water. It was beautiful!

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