Antón García Abril and piano music It is universally agreed that one of the greatest contributions of Spanish classical music is that relating to the keyboard. From earlier centuries one only has to think back to Cabezón, Cabanillas and Father Antonio Soler, while at the end of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth, the marvellous creations of Albéniz, Granados and Falla took Spanish piano to its highest international levels of acclaim. An exceptional preface which was to be followed in the mid nineteenth century by some new Spanish names, who were no less appreciated and welcomed in the country’s normally conservative repertoire - an excellent example is Federico Mompou - an artist with an individual style to his compositions, a subtle and intimate handling of the keys, one who chose to rise above the period’s ephemeral mainstream fashions. In this short but illustrious list of Spanish composers who have produced keyboard masterpieces and in the process won in their own right a position in the most prestigious concert pianists’ hall of fame, it goes without saying that the Aragon-born composer Antón García Abril (Teruel 1933) holds a highly distinguished place. This year, amid critical and popular fanfare and at the height of his personal and professional career, he is celebrating his eightieth birthday. Both in terms of quality and quantity, and from the very beginning of his composing career, piano has played the lead role in García Abril’s repertoire. His unmistakeable style is a fine blend of beautiful melodies, frenetic rhythms and innovative harmonies whose refreshing modernity never sacrifices the emotion and intelligibility innate to legitimate aesthetic enjoyment (as worthy and necessary as it was vilified by certain prophets of the Adorno school who, tragically, convinced many that new art was incompatible with human satisfaction). Evidence of this happy relationship is seen in the string of works devised at and for the keyboard by Antón García Abril, whether in his Cuadernos de Adriana – a more than valid alternative to Bartok’s Microcosmos, with a well-thought out technical scale and huge musical attraction for children, or in his major scores showing truly virtuoso display - as is the case with Concierto para piano y orquesta and Nocturnos de la Antequeruela. Nor must we omit his superb one-off pieces (starting with his early work Sonatina) and others that are brilliantly linked to one another: Preludio y Tocata, Dos piezas griegas, Tres piezas alejandrinas, and last but not least, his exceptional series of six splendid and varied Preludios de Mirambel. A special mention must also be made of his piano four hands compositions (Homenaje a Copérnico, Zapateado) his less frequent works for two pianos (Madrid, 1948-1998, and the more demanding piano duo in front of the orchestra in Juventus), and also when the keyboard plays a burgeoning solo along with another instrument, Concierto de la Malvarrosa for flute, piano and string orchestra. García Abril’s piano work is equally outstanding in his delicate and efficient work in chamber accompaniment (in the Homenaje a Mompou trio, the Cuarteto de Agripa and the Alba de los caminos quintet. He plays a no less essential role as accompanist in his prolific song production (one of the composer’s most extensive and well-known contributions), together with his successful experience co-leading a select list of duos with other instruments: Fantasía Hispalense, Syrinx, Sonata de atardeceres, as well as the intelligent keyboard solution in reducing the orchestral part of some of his most important scores: Cadencias for violin, Concierto Aguediano for guitar, and Concierto de las tierras altas for cello, for example.
In short, if the work of GarcĂa Abril has its artistic foundations in the defence of melody, its differentiating characteristic in its rhythm and its finest resource in the human voice, it is at the keyboard where he provides us with a perfect harmony between mastery and inspiration, technical demands and expressive communicativeness: the best testimony of a hugely alluring artistic personality which is instantly recognisable thanks to its tireless creativity. Dr. Ă lvaro ZaldĂvar Gracia. Professor of Musical Aesthetics and History.