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Mompou, Federico

Born in Barcelona of a French mother and a Catalan father, attached to Paris — the land of his education and his adopted homeland for long periods — Frederic Mompou is without doubt the most representative composer in the whole history of Catalan music. Although other composers also born in Catalonia such as Albeniz and Granados achieved international celebrity before him, Mompou is nonetheless the one who really projected the soul of Catalan music into the world, since Albeniz was identified more with Andalusia and Granados with Madrid. Yet as Vladimir Jankélévitch* has said, “Mompou has never claimed to be a folklorist; but he does love and use popular song, Catalan popular song, and at times he reinvents it; he is himself the soul of Catalonia in song”. Born in the same year as Joan Miró and the great Catalan poet Carles Riba, the name of Mompou is associated with the Catalan renaissance movement which since Verdaguer (1845-1902) has given rise to such significant figures as Gaudí, Dalí and Casals. However if Mompou refuses to be a folklorist he also rejects the appellation of composer. “I have always protested when I am called a composer — he wrote to me several years ago — I am not a composer; I do not wish to be a composer. I believe, quite simply, that I am a music; a music which I am sure is not made by me, for I always have the feeling that it comes into me from without.” The essential thing for Mompou is to acquire “the greatest expressive force with maximum simplicity and economy of means, as well as a return to primitivism in order to present the musical idea naked and pure”. How can such an intuitive being have composed such a large body of works, of which those for piano represent one of the most singular and considerable contributions to the piano repertory of the 20th century? “The mystery of Mompou - to quote Jankélévitch again - eludes us as soon as we try to label it or attach it to some conceptual category. Yet we are able to perceive this sensitive, inimitable voice, the voice of silence itself... Mompou’s desire in seeking this solitude in sound, is to reach the unattainable point where music becomes the very voice of silence, where silence itself becomes music.”