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INTERVIEW WITH PAU CLADERA: COMPOSER OF THE PIECE DANSES I FESTES DEDICATED TO LÍTORE QUARTET

Today we bring you to the Lítore blog the interview we have with our friend and Mallorcan composer Pau Cladera. On the 6th of May we will premiere a piece by him dedicated to our quartet, entitled Danses i Festes. Below, Pau will tell us all the details of this piece with roots in his homeland. We leave you with the words of one of the protagonists of the future (and also of the present) of musical composition in Mallorca.



 

Interview with Pau Cladera, march 2023


What do you do at present?

At present, I am a second-year piano and violin student at the CSMIB and a member of the JOIB (Youth Orchestra of the Balearic Islands). At the same time, and in a freer way, I have started a career as a composer.


How did your interest in composition come about?

I can't really say. I have always liked the creative task very much. In fact, for as long as I can remember being able to hold a pencil, I've loved writing. Therefore, as soon as I started studying music, I began to dare with small pieces which, of course, have now become increasingly ambitious projects. If I had to mark an approximate date, it would be around the age of eight.


Is this the first time you have composed for saxophone quartet, and what sound qualities would you highlight in this instrumental ensemble?

Although this is not my first approach to the saxophone, it is the first time I have written for saxophone quartet. It is an instrument that has always fascinated me: in fact, in a work that I didn't finish (which I began to compose even before studying at the conservatory) the saxophone was already integrated into the instrumental ensemble with a role that was, moreover, quite relevant. Later on, for one reason or another, I was more focused on other works and projects, and the saxophone remained in the background. But this year, at last, I have been able to complete my first piece for saxophone: a solo to the prelude of the second act of my zarzuela Si vas a Batabanó, finished a month ago.


Rediscovering the saxophone reminded me of everything I liked about this instrument: because although as a child I liked it for its exoticism, what I would emphasise today is the versatility that the instrument offers in many aspects: both timbrally and technically. The saxophone has a great adaptability to many different atmospheres and styles and is able to perform numerous technical skills and also to obtain maximum precision in tuning. Moreover, the fact that a saxophonist can play a saxophone of any size is another very successful element of its construction, not to mention the enormous amount of extended articulations and techniques that the saxophonist is often able to perform...


And as a violinist, when I think of the saxophone quartet, I can't stop comparing it to the string quartet. I think, moreover, that it is a formation that on a sonic level can be on exactly the same level. Because the saxophone quartet achieves something that other attempts to emulate the queen wind formation (such as the woodwind quartet, for example) have not achieved. What makes the string quartet so unique is that the timbres of the instruments are similar enough to ensure a uniformity of sound, but also characteristic enough to be defined as autonomous voices. And these are qualities which I also perceive in the saxophone quartet (and which until now I thought the most successful was the brass quintet, which for me had too many different timbres). It is no coincidence that many works written for string quartet work really well with saxophones. The only disadvantage is that, as the saxophone is an instrument born in 1840, original literature (and good literature) is needed to give it the value it deserves. It is also the task of contemporary composers, who of course can go back to the big ensembles, but we have to bet, at least at some point in our career, to promote the repertoire of smaller ensembles and instruments for one reason or another.


Tell us about the background of your new work: How did the idea of composing Danses i festes come about? What elements inspired you to compose it?

The idea of Danses i festes comes from the music festival organised by the association Aprojove in Llubí, the first Km 0 music festival, where we defend local music and local composers. Not having (as far as I know) any work for saxophone quartet that uses popular Mallorcan themes, I decided to do this piece, to which I have taken three popular songs well known here on the island and integrated them into a single movement in sonata form. And without being excessively groundbreaking, I have harmonised the melodies (some in a more conventional way and others more different) using some harmonic and rhythmic resources from the original music and instruments, such as the pedals (which come from the sounds of the shawm), the hemiolias, the zambomba rhythms... in this way we obtain a quite tonal and classical sonority but at the same time it also has this liveliness and this popular timbre that makes it so much ours, to put it in a way.


If you had to describe the work Danses i festes in three words, which ones would you use?

I would describe it as lively, intense and joyful.


In your works we find a clear influence of the traditional music of Mallorca. Where does this interest in roots music come from?

Well, to begin with, I am Mallorcan! However, I have been involved in Mallorcan popular culture since I was very young, and in fact I still am: I am a member of the folklore association Aires d'Andratx. Therefore, I carry Mallorcan music within me and sometimes it is inevitable that its influences come to the surface. However, in some works, such as Danses i festes, I have taken popular melodies more directly as melodic and thematic material for my music. It seems to me a way of not only honouring my roots, but also of highlighting the enormous musical and folkloric heritage we have in Mallorca.


Has it been easy to write for saxophones, and what difficulties or limitations have you encountered?

The main difficulty has been the lack of knowledge of the instrument. Although it is true that it is neither the first nor the second time that I have written for wind instruments, the saxophone is an instrument with which I had not had (until now) so much interaction, and I was not used to its peculiarities. That's why it went very well and I'm very grateful for the constant feedback I've had with you, which is partly what has made the result quite worthy.


Do you think you will write for saxophone quartet again? Why?

It's not that I think so, but that I have no doubts whatsoever! To begin with, I like chamber music very much, even more than symphonic music or pieces for solo instrument. Besides, I have several ideas for saxophone quartet works that I will eventually realise. In fact, one of them would be a slow movement that would precede Danses i festes, which I ended up discarding, but seeing how it has turned out, I don't rule out taking it up again. As I have already said, I have enjoyed composing for saxophone quartet and I don't think I have made the most of it.


What projects do you have in your sights for the future?

Well, a month and a half ago I finished writing my first zarzuela, and now I'm working on two works for the "Km 0" festival in Llubí. The first is the one that will be premiered at the concert on 21 July, Reminiscències Rurals: a work in twelve movements for piano and recorder that uses as melodic material working songs and popular tunes that were recorded or transcribed in Llubí. And then, a cycle of songs to be premiered at the last concert of the festival, on 23rd September, with the soprano Natalia Salom: Impressions cosmopolites, with texts by Miquel Campaner. Of course, my head is full of ideas for when this is over, but for the moment they are just ideas, which I hope and wish that they can become a reality like Danses i festes and the rest of the projects I have mentioned.


 

Thank you very much for your words Pau. We are sure that the premiere of Danses i Festes will be a success. We hope that we will be able to continue performing your music in the coming years. All the encouragement and support from the four Lítores, see you on the 6th of May in Llubí!


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