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Fleeing Franco’s Spain: Carlos Surinach and Leonardo Balada in the United States (1950–75)

  • Author(s): Wahl, Robert
  • Advisor(s): Clark, Walter A
  • et al.
Abstract

As a result of Francisco Franco overthrowing the young republican government during the Spanish Civil War (1936–39), countless citizens fled their home country in search of personal security and economic prosperity. Significantly, many of these expatriates were artists and musicians who eventually made their way to the United States, where they achieved celebrity status as dancers, singers, instrumentalists, and composers. This dissertation examines the lives and works of two such composers.

In the 1950s, Carlos Surinach (1915–97) and Leonardo Balada (b. 1933) came to the United States by way of New York City. Although both men were from Barcelona, their music and careers followed different trajectories. Surinach is often best remembered for his collaborations with choreographers of modern dance, such as Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, Pearl Lang, and Alvin Ailey; however, his contributions to dance constitute only a portion of his creative output and were often adapted from his concert works, as choreographers found the rhythm and drama of his music appealing. Surinach’s style often exhibits a deliberate use of flamenco idioms and is examined in three of his most important flamenco-inspired works: Ritmo Jondo (1952), Sinfonietta Flamenca (1954), and Flamenco Cyclothymia (1966). This dissertation also presents new biographical details regarding Surinach’s education and conducting career in Europe, the impact of his lover Ramón Puigcerve Bel on his career, and his work in the film and television industries.

Whereas Surinach maintained a consistent style throughout his career, Balada recognized the advantages of experimenting with new techniques, which he has done with great success. This dissertation examines three of Balada’s works from his self-described second period, which began in the mid-1960s. For ten years, Balada moved away from tonality in order to explore new timbres, textures, rhythms, and avant-garde techniques that led to three of his most important works: Sinfonía en negro: Homenaje a Martin Luther King (1968), María Sabina (1969), and Steel Symphony (1972). All three pieces have been recorded and widely performed, and they mark the beginning of a decades-long career as both professor and composer.

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