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Creating a Music Festival: A Presidential Anniversary Reflection

Celebrating an anniversary means turning to the past and that is what leads me to investigate the reasons why, a few weeks after being elected President of the Government of the Canary Islands, it occurred to me to create a music festival.

I think that those of us who suffered a long dictatorship, I was born fifteen days before its beginning, had the need to dream and imagine a different society. Since childhood, dreams have come true in me, developing my interest in music. Our two provincial capitals maintained a worthy tradition with the Philharmonic Society of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and with the Chamber Orchestra in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. With their vocation, at a non-professional level, they were a motivation for those attending their concerts who yearned for more.

The national panorama, at that time, was mediocre and only the appearance of Grupo El Paso, the premieres of Buero Vallejo and Alfonso Sastre, the compositions of Cristóbal Halffter and Luis De Pablo, encouraged us restless young people to cross the border to discover democracy and culture that was renewed. In the plastic arts, Picasso was banned and Miró marginalized. Only the imagination of the El Paso Group opened the windows to abstract art for us.

When I began my doctoral studies in Law at the Complutense University of Madrid, I was advised to go and train at the University of Cologne. I went there two summers and, three years later, to Florence. Both cities brought me enormous personal enrichment.

In September 1959, Cologne public radio offered a series of programs under the title “Musik der Zeit” (Music of Time), dedicated to contemporary music. I physically attended one of them where works by Cage were performed, and Stockhausen premiered “Zyklus fur einen Schlagzeuger” (Cycle for a Percussionist). The program was completed by Debussy’s little-known work “Trois chansons de Bilitis” (Three Songs of Bilitis), with Madelaine Renaud as performer.

On Rudolf Platz there was a bar that I went to at night because some Spanish immigrants came there. From there I returned alone to the student residence, on Hans Sachs Street, and dreamed that I would like a musical life like that in my homeland. It would combine opera with concerts, chamber music and zarzuelas, throughout the year. I thought as if I were a businessman. The politician in those years did not exist.

Florence was even more decisive in the development of this embryo in just one year of stay. There I enjoyed their festival, which is the second oldest in Europe: Il Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. From there, in August 1963, I attended my first Salzburg Festival, the oldest of all created in 1920.

The recovered democracy encouraged the two island councils to deepen the current capital adjustments at the national level. The Minister of Culture Javier Solana informs me that he has a plan for auditoriums and that one would be the current one in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. I told the then mayor Juan Rodríguez Doreste to look for land. Simultaneously, the Statute of Autonomy of 1982 was approved and I was elected president of the Government of the Canary Islands.

I think it was in the fall of 1983 when I made the decision to create a music festival in the winter months, when there was nothing else that could compete. For its implementation, it had the ideal person: Rafael Nebot. We had met in La Laguna, where I had just joined his University, in a talk I gave about Mahler at the Colegio Mayor San Agustín where he resided. We always maintained a close and excellent friendship.

I called him and told him that we had to create a high-class festival, without copying anyone and that it should be held in the first months of 1985 and that it should be an attraction for tourism and not just sun and sand.

Thus we approach the end of a long dream pregnancy in two European cities. It is not my place to take stock of these forty years. Yes, I must confess that I have acted like many countrymen throughout our history as insular beings.

We need to go out, learn, observe, dialogue, experiment, perfect ourselves so that, at the right moment, we return and make ourselves available to the common people.

2024-01-12 11:31:52
#Remembering #unpublished #words #Jerónimo #Saavedra

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