History

The Royal Basque Society of the Friends of the Country and Music: 250 years advocating Musical creation, performance, research and education in the Basque Country

JON BAGÜES ERRIONDO
Amigo de Número de la Real Sociedad Bascongada de los Amigos del País

The Royal Basque Society of the Friends of the Country has cultivated a strong and ongoing relationship with the art of music all throughout the three different stages of its development. Music was undoubtedly one of the binding factors of the characters that shaped the Society itself from when the festivities were held in Bergara in 1764. Music also played a very prominent role in the pursuits of Society during the transition from the nineteenth to the twentieth century. Musicians also contributed to the work undertaken at the Royal Basque Society of the Friends of the Country during the third era.

The initial presence of music in the work undertaken by the Royal Basque Society of the Friends of the Country during the eighteenth century, which was also something completely new to the Basque Country, contributed new musical creations in Basque in a genre, opera, an art form requiring complex management. Along with this, there was another musical genre, symphonic music, which was also new in our context. Along with musical creation and performance, the Society has also provided tenacious support in two main areas, namely research and education, throughout the past two hundred and fifty years.

We should not forget the perspective in relation to the position music held in the Basque Country when the Royal Basque Society of the Friends of the Country emerged with methods of musical training, reception and transmission, based almost exclusively on the church choirs. These were also lay members, bearing in mind the non-existence of episcopal sees in the three provinces, and the weak position of the noble estate. There were virtually no theatres in the Basque Country throughout the century where plays or concerts could be performed, nor did we have important educational institutions at our disposal. Children from privileged families had to travel outside the Basque Country to be educated. Thus, the musical work undertaken at the Society in relation to composition, performance, education and research was of major importance.

The main driving forces behind musical change in Basque society during the first era of the Real Basque Society of the Friends of the Country were both the founding members, who had a fervent interest in music, such as Peñaflorida, Rocaverde, Mazarredo, Mugártegui and Samaniego and the musician members Fray José de Larrañaga, Manuel Gamarra, Juan Andrés de Lombide, Pedro de Landazuri, José Ferrer, Joaquin Montero and Fray Martin de Crucelaegui. They served primarily in the Basque Country but their work took them further afield to Oviedo, Madrid, Seville and Mexico.

During the second era, the composer Beltrán Pagola and musicians Germán Cendoya, Juan Guimón, Alfredo Larrocha, Leonardo de Moyua and Javier Peña y Goñi, as well as the music critic and agent Francisco Gascue all deserve special recognition. This period developed mainly in San Sebastian and they were acknowledged for their pursuits in the field of education, as well as contributing to the appreciation for chamber music.

There were no shortage of musicians in the Society during the third era. There are about thirty Society Friends who have excelled in the field of music. To mention just a few of the leading figures who are no longer with us, we must include the composers P. Donostia, a real beacon for music in the Basque Country during the first half of the twentieth century, and along with him there were Jesús Arámbarri, José Maria Olaizola, Román de Oyarzábal, Sabino Ruiz Jalón, Juan Urteaga, Francisco Escudero and Javier Bello Portu. Performers and musicians include figures such as Isidoro Fagoaga, Nicanor Zabaleta, José Mª Zapirain, Luis Mª Bandrés and José Manuel Azkue. Researchers include the renowned José Antonio Arana-Martija.

The significant development of music in Basque society in the second half of the twentieth century also led musical institutions firmly rooted in Basque society to become members of the Royal Basque Society of the Friends of the Country. Such institutional members of the Society include the Coral Manuel Iradier choir, the Choir of San Sebastian, the Schola Gregorianista Donosti Ereski choir and Capilla Peñaflorida music group. The Society also supported the creation of the Johannes de Anchieta Institute of Musicology in the 60s and the activities of a music department in Bilbao.

We could highlight several symbols of modernity as characteristics the three eras shared in common, in addition to those already mentioned in respect of the support for the creation and performance of new genres and work undertaken in education and research.

The presence of female composers within the framework of the Bascongada became a symbol of modernity. Along with Peñaflorida's zortziko (Basque folk dance music), which was released in 1813, there are records of another zortziko by Mme. Mazarredo. Epifanía de Argaiz y Munibe, the Countess of Peñaflorida during the nineteenth century, was also a composer.

A symbol of progress being made was also her influence on popular music, which incidentally requires constant changes in order to maintain the traditional character of the music. It comes as no coincidence that J.I. de Iztueta mentions the Count of Peñaflorida in the preface to his well-known edition of dance melodies.

It could be argued that the musician members of the Royal Basque Society of the Friends of the Country were, and have been, the main driving forces behind musical change in the Basque Country for two hundred and fifty long years.

The Society became an alternative to the absence of important court nobility, such as the Central European court nobility, or large urban centres that were in a position to capitalize on musical development in the eighteenth century.

During the late nineteenth century the Society had an impact on music education, heralding the emergence of prominent names in musical composition in the Basque Country.

It supported research throughout the twentieth century, beginning with its own history, to show the roots of what is one of the most notable artistic activities in Basque society in the twenty-first century.

Acting on all fronts, from aesthetics to pedagogy, including technique, from composition to performance, from musical theatre to the sinfonía concertante genre (essentially a mixture of symphony and concerto genres), it could be argued that the musician members of the Royal Basque Society of the Friends of the Country were, and have been, the main driving forces behind musical change in the Basque Country for two hundred and fifty long years.

 

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DIRECTION OF THE ROYAL BASQUE SOCIEY OF THE FRIENDS OF THE COUNTRY

Palacio Intsausti
Aptdo. 105 – 20720 AZKOITIA
Tel. 943 285 577
E-mail: intsausti.rsbap@gmail.com

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