Santiago Serrate: “Making music is an act of active meditation”
From this season, 22/23, Santiago Serrato joined the front of the Musical season of the BBVA Foundation, a proposal that broadens its horizons and contents. To find out more about the initiative, we spoke to the Spanish director.
He was recently appointed to direct the Music Season22/23 of the BBVA Foundation, when did it happen and what does your work there imply?
When I received the proposal to coordinate the bulk of the BBVA Foundation’s 22/23 Musical Season, it was a great honor and at the same time a great responsibility that I accepted quickly and with great enthusiasm in the setting of the splendid Madrid headquarters of the Palazzo del Marquis of Salamanca.
The proposal of the BBVA Foundation is to extend its musical programming to practically all eras, from the music of the court of Alfonso X to the premieres of newly created works. I believe that in this way the public can have a phenomenological vision of musical creation, in the broadest sense of the term, creating transformations, contrasts and thematic counterpoints within the canons of excellence because culture gives man the ability to reflect on himself and about himself. in relation to other congeners, making us specifically rational, critical, and ethically committed human beings.
Continuing with the Musical Season of the BBVA Foundation, what is the program you have prepared? I think it’s a very broad offer, almost forty concerts, with repertoires ranging from Alfonso X to Steve Reich.
The proposed programming for the 22/23 season covers 800 years of musical creation and this is one of the main innovations that the BBVA Foundation presents to the public, maintaining excellence and free concerts, as well as a new booking system for places accessible through its website and through which almost 90% of bookings have already been awarded.
For me it meant being able to artistically develop many of the ideas that I had not been able to materialize until now and that the public is welcoming very receptively when ten concerts have already been performed. I would like to underline the enthusiasm with which the proposals I sent to the artists involved were received.
I wanted to create a program that would ask the listener, as well as the performer, various questions and reflections, since making music is a very profound act of active meditation which can also make us reach certain stages of transcendence, losing the notion of space. -time and I repeat that it can be given in both directions. The fundamentals of music are purely physical and cosmological, so making music unites us with all of humanity and the universe.
Could you give us an example of what you are indicating?
Naturally, one of the distinctive features of the cycle as regards the programming is the presence of JS Bach, which in this Season consists of: the complete suites for solo cello, the sonatas for viola da gamba in the version for cello and harpsichord, the complete of the sonatas and matches for solo violin and the complete set of French suites played on the harpsichord. If we asked all the performers who have already performed or will perform, as well as the public, after hearing all these great works, I am sure they would answer that they have undergone changes – however subtle they may be – as Bach transforms into exponentially the capabilities of the human being! That is why part of those concerts make up the Alpha and Omega Cycles, since Bach is the beginning and the end; It’s like the Parthenon, our columns that support all Western music and still today, they are works that seem to have been written yesterday for their great audacity and modernity. As Igor Stravinsky said “Bach is the composer that every civil society needs”.
The presence of Spanish artists in the programming is important.
Yes, without a doubt it is another of the columns to highlight is the Season. We have the presence of several generations of important Spanish artists, many of which are National Music Awards and we have an important participation of Leonardo Scholars of the BBVA Foundation, as well as claiming the great composers of our history, with a concert in which we will hear a selection of the Cantigas de Alfonso X El sabio, the Códice de las Huelgas and the Llibre Vermell de Montserrat with the best specialist and connoisseur of these staves, Jordi Savall. These are the major works in our repertoire and should be performed every year, just like Handel’s Messiah or Beethoven’s Ninth. There is also an important presence of our Golden Age, one of the most prolific stages in terms of music, with Francisco Guerrero, Tomás Luis de Victoria and Cristóbal de Morales, composers little performed in our country, as well as the novelty of having heard in a session the original version of El Amor Brujo with the Corregidor and the Molinera, a pantomime that years later will be El Sombrero de Tres Picos by Manuel de Falla.
It was thought to perform all of Beethoven’s symphonies in chamber form, if I’m not mistaken, in two seasons.
Yes, I would like to highlight this first installment of the complete set of Beethoven’s Nine Symphonies, the most revolutionary symphonic corpus ever written, but in chamber format and which will take place at the BBVA Foundation’s Madrid headquarters for two consecutive seasons. Transcriptions of symphonic works have been a very common practice since classicism as it was the only way to disseminate the works in the city and in the world because not every city had an orchestra. In this first installment, the first 4 have been programmed in transcriptions for flute trio by Johann Nepomuk Hummel, who was a pupil of Mozart, and one by Beethoven himself, in the case of the second symphony, which is for trio with piano. In this format we will also have symphonies by Haydn and Mozart.
Continuing with this premise, we wanted to emulate the spirit of the Private Concert Society founded in the autumn of 1918 in Vienna by the composer Arnold Schoenberg, in which contemporary composers of the time were programmed, as well as the great symphonic and operatic musicians scores of all tempos in chamber format: You can hear waltzes and polkas by Johann Strauss in ensemble arrangements, Bruckner’s 7th symphony and a counterpoint from the Viennese schools with the 1st and 2nd within a week. There will also be a contrasting Stravinsky-Bartók programme.
I would like to underline the novelty of the themed Christmas concerts with Christmas carols by Cancionero de la Colombina and Francisco Guerrero or the aforementioned chamber music waltz concert; the Carnival concert with the great pianist Martín García who will perform a monograph by Schumann and the Easter concert with music from the Golden Age.
Another contribution is that the Spanish guitar has a place of reference with a series of three concerts with outstanding performers of Baroque, Classical and Flamenco guitar.
Three concerts dedicated to love in music, with a selection of Madrigals Warriors and Lovers by Monteverdi, Waltz d’Amore by Brahms and Dichterliebe by Robert Schumann under the gaze of the German composer Christian Jost. For me, love is what really moves the human being to create, to be a “doer” because, as Dante says in the last strophe of the Divine Comedy, it is “love that moves the sun and the other stars “.
The inclusion of traditional Basque music, with a concert by Txalaparta, a very particular instrument, which makes us connect with our most ancestral roots and with mother earth.
Artistic relationships will also be established with great international musicians such as the magnificent Meccore String Quartet.
Throughout his regular activity, he has demonstrated an intense commitment to contemporary music and newly created work. Does this also mark your proposal to the BBVA Foundation?
Contemporary music has been a hallmark of the BBVA Foundation for more than a decade and maintains an important presence in this musical season. Some of the most current proposals of the program come from the hand of PluralEnsemble, with a program in which the musical tradition is transformed by the revolutionary ideas of the avant-gardes of the 20th and 21st centuries. In this way, the BBVA Foundation continues a program that has characterized its activity for thirteen seasons, under the direction of the musical director of the PluralEnsemble, Fabián Panisello, who will perform the legendary The masterless hammer by Pierre Boluez among other works. The cycle of him will count with the presence of the great oboist, composer and conductor Heinz Holliger and Gregory Vajda.
Also noteworthy are the concerts dedicated to the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Awards.
Yes, without a doubt, in them we will hear important scores by Arvo Pärt, Philip Glass, György Kurtág, Cristóbal Halffter and a monograph dedicated to Steve Reich. Regarding the latter, I would like to contribute a reflection that amplifies what I have already developed: this concert wants to present the human being as a creator, but according to his “free will” he can use this power as a creator of life or a destroyer of it . This inherent duality will be reflected in two of his most impressive scores for string quartet. Several trains and WTC 9/11 both with electronics. Here we would have the coherent and programmatic relationship of works born with respect to two tragedies that have marked our evolution as a human species both in the 20th and in the 21st century and which are known to all. This is the spirit that I wanted to bring to the programming of the 22/23 Musical Season of the BBVA Foundation and which is shared by it: a concert goes beyond mere listening, but the logos it crosses us and produces changes in human beings because we are in continuous chronological evolution, but every present is eternal!
Photo: © Guillermo Mendo