J.S. Bach: Prelude VIII


Antonio Galera

A prelude generally precedes something but, in music, it is also a sort of separate piece that itself reveals all its relevance. Some examples are very clear in this album by Antonio Galera which contains more than just preludes. By adding them to the album, Galera creates a kind of implicit and explicit context of historical review about the meaning of a term which is at the same time an announcement, a complement of what is to come (Johann Sebastian Bach and Dmitri Shostakovich) and a unit (Chopin, Scriabin and Rachmaninov). It even serves as a starting point for a more complex formal conception considering thematic or structural aspects (Cesar Franck). Yet, there is another vision of the prelude as a pretext, as a composition whose lack of formality is worth the paradox. This form gives it the possibility of going beyond its possible technical approach, knot and denouement, and its own mechanism.


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I met the pianist Antonio Galera in 2011, when I went to his village to collect the Llig Picanya award for my work as a writer. At the end of the award ceremony, a young boy came out on stage and played a Mozart sonata with caring sensitivity. I thought he was almost a child, a prodigious child, which suitably matched the musician he was playing. Then, when he came down from the stage and I could chat with him, I perceived his mature vocation, the security with which he handled his art, the upright determination of those who only see their life destiny if it is linked to a profession, and all this is compatible with a visible candour I attributed to his youth. Even if it is a charming and magical feature, artists tend to lose candour along their way, shaped as they are by the gruelling struggle to which they have to devote themselves in order to find their place in the artistic universe. A year later, that boy who had seemed younger than he really was (because he was already 27 years old) wrote to me while I was in New York. He told me that he was making a stop in the city on his way to give some performances and that, if I found him a piano, he would be happy to give us a small private concert. A piano! Obviously, I didn’t have a piano in my apartment in New York, but I thought the suggestion was attractive and challenging, so I set out to find a piano for the young Galera. As the Spanish institutions told me that they could not afford to rent the instrument, I began to consider alternative spaces. I spoke to a Spanish neighbour, María José Pascual, a great classical music lover, occasional sponsor, and born adventurer. She had the wise idea of proposing a concert to an episcopal church in our neighbourhood, the Upper West Side, led by a female pastor and open to organizing cultural activities, especially musical ones, at its altar. We lived those arrangements with great enthusiasm and even had a designer make us a poster to advertise our performer. On the night of the concert the church was full of neighbours of the area who were very familiar with the dual cultural side religious places have, and the pianist shone and made Haydn, Brahms, Debussy, Granados and Ginastera shine too. My life as a concert promoter was fleeting, we could say that night it ended forever, but not my devotion to Galera, whom I’ve been following ever since. Now I have this conscientious and exquisite work in my hands, Prélude, which contains a series of musical pieces inviting us to define the pianist both for his selection and for his interpretation. If we listen to them attentively, we are revealed the performer’s personality. Here is the delicate spirit that is born from the respect for compositions and the art of combining it with a passion which is increasingly evident in him, a more determined and mature, amost daring. The playing of these notes in the hands of Antonio Galera is not based on an exhibition of skills that are no longer questioned but on the talented flow of music, which turns simplicity into poetry and passion into what is most difficult in its development. After listening to him over the years and observing his way of approaching the profession and his vocation, I perhaps feel an illegitimate pride for having immediately noticed in him, from the very first notes I heard, a generous talent and a character permeating everything he touches. Now that I do not have to look for a piano for him, because he surely has one in every city he visits, I hope he will always give me a seat near the stage to enjoy his exquisite sensitivity in the interpretation of pieces that tend to match, as a miracle, with the most intimate of my tastes. He preserves the candour, and this is a treasure for an artist. Maturity and candour, what a difficult combination and how it shines when it happens.» (Elvira Lindo, journalist and writer)