INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE REPORT: MUSIC CRITICISM 1900-1950

Barcelona: October 18, 2016

Conference Organized By: Centro Studi Opera Omnia Luigi Boccherini, Lucca and the Societat Catalana de Musicologia, Barcelona

Greetings from Barcelona! This is CT.com Executive Editor David Hurwitz reporting as a participant in the above conference, part of a series devoted to the history of music criticism in the 19th and 20th centuries. This is, obviously, a topic near and dear to our hearts, particular as members of a profession whose work is so often regarded as ephemeral and of little lasting value. This year’s event promised to be a great opportunity to learn about the impact and history of our profession as seen through the eyes of a broad assortment of noted international scholars and researchers.

Day One of the conference has just concluded, and given our location at the beautiful Instutut d’Estudis Catalans, it should come as no surprise that the topic of Music Criticism in Spain predominated. Lead-off presentations considered the impact of the Spanish Civil War and Early Francoism on music journalism, as well as a wide range of individual topics, from the writings of individual critics to the reception of specific works.

Perhaps the most interesting series of presentations, however, concerned Music Criticism in Portugal, where a singularly well-informed and coherent picture of Portuguese musical culture was presented in four papers whose topics included surveys of the writings of composer Luis de Freitas Branco (Isabel Pina), an overview of new music reception and some juicy internecine critical combat (Mariana Carvalho Calado), the intellectual foundations and aesthetics of music criticism in Portugal (Paulo F. de Castro), and a very interesting discussion of the political propaganda value of the touring “Verdi Gaio” ballet company in the early years of the Franco and Salazar dictatorships.

The day concluded with two presentations on Music Criticism in France, an excellent paper from Canadian musicologist Christopher Moore on the left-wing criticism printed in the French Popular Front newspaper L’Humanité, and an equally thought-provoking survey by Vicent Minguet of the Universidad de Valencia on Messiaen’s early musical journalism. Hint: it was mostly about himself, even when he pretended otherwise.

More to follow, including my own presentation on Tuesday….

David Hurwitz