Cançó d’amor i de guerra was premiered in 1926. Ninety-one years later I stood in front of the Simfònica de Cobla i Corda de Catalunya to start recording the work. The average age of the musicians was scandalously young so I thought it appropriate to explain to the young people of the orchestra what that music represented. I remember making them laugh when I used the Spanish expression viejuna (old-timer) to describe what –supposedly– they might think of a work from that time, framed within the context of zarzuela and with some apparently old-fashioned clichés.
I did warn them, however, that the music was magnificent. Inspired by the Catalan Renaissance and heir to nineteenth-century European romanticism, yet also with the nationalistic touches typical of the time, it also features a beautiful lyricism, almost characteristic of Italian verismo. Despite all these influences, however, the work is undeniably Catalan in nature. Because of the structure of the phrases, of the use of popular motifs, and of intrinsically Catalan rhythms, we quickly realise that although Martínez Valls was from Valencia, like Chapí or Penella (famous zarzuela writers), his music developed along quite a different path.
The initial contact with the score was enough for the musicians. The music flowed easily and the adaptation of the original for a small symphonic orchestra like the SCCC –which was my own work– went smoothly. The format of the work, which advances song after song and scene after scene, frequently yielded a powerful finale, of the type that increases the musician’s adrenaline. Everyone eventually realised why this work has been so successful whenever it has been performed.
The power of the cobla ensemble, which in our orchestra replaces the symphonic woodwind and brass sections, yielded such drive that many of the string musicians thought that this was the original version of the work. Even Josep Maria Conangla, joint director and alma mater of the Polifònica de Puig-reig choir, publicly stated that this work should have been originally written for a cobla ensemble!
The lyrical aspect, however, has always predominated the work. The orchestra appears at the start of each act yet thereafter becomes the optimal accompaniment for the vocal performances. The presence of the Polifònica de Puig-reig choir makes the orchestral interpretation even more brilliant while the soloists, Marta, Roger, Toni, Laura, and Ricard, who are exceptional in everything they sing, prompt delight with a different, unique and local version, which we are particularly enthusiastic to be premiering and offering to everyone.