Hidalgo, Manuel (*1956)
"... sensual, archaic, without respect, free of binding dogmas. What we hear in Hidalgo's music is always eloquent in its gestures and motions, and arouses a series of associations that contrast with the mere compositional self-image."
(Frank Kämpfer, 1999)
Photo © by Charlotte Oswald, Wiesbaden
|1956||born in Antequera, Andalusia |
music theory and composition with Juan-Alfonso García, the organist of the Cathedral of Granada
|1976-1979||composition lessons with Hans Ulrich Lehmann at the Zurich Conservatory|
|1979-1984||composition lessons with Helmut Lachenmann, first in Hanover, and later in Stuttgart|
|since 1981||free-lance composer in Stuttgart|
|2002||Composition courses at the Music Conservatory in Barcelona|
|2002/03||Composition courses at the Musikhochschule Stuttgart|
There is an event in the life of Manuel Hidalgo which brings to mind the dime-novel cliché of the young artist who suddenly has an inspiration and discovers his true vocation: Hidalgo's first encounter with the music of Helmut Lachenmann. "I first heard Lachenmann's music in 1979. That was in Zurich. The radio was playing his piece Accanto. I had a sensation as if a door were being opened. I had already been interested in writing a different kind of music than what I had been writing up to then, different from what I knew. And then I heard Accanto. I had no idea who the composer was; I just heard this music which simply offered something totally new and opened up a new world, a new space to me." Hidalgo studied with Lachenmann from 1979 to 1984. The experiences he made during these five years have found their way into the works written at this time, and especially into the orchestral piece "Harto", premiered in Donaueschingen in 1983. These early works resemble those of Helmut Lachenmann in their sound form. Hidalgo made generous use of elements which Lachenmann groups under the catchword "Klangverweigerung" (denial of sound): toneless bowing and blowing, knocking and scratching on the instruments, muffled and stiffed tones - in a word, composing with extreme distortions of sound.
"Harto" means "satiated, weary, disgusted" and is used almost programmatically to refer to the tiredness of musical material as it is traditionally used. Distortions of sound offer new possibilities which are played out to a certain degree in Harto. Hidalgo set "normally" produced tones against noise in a very pointed manner in this work. In addition to similarities of sound, Hidalgo's works are related to Lachenmann's through their writing, which is rigorously conscious of the material yet treats it critically as well. Hidalgo maintains that his philosophy has rather little in common with constructivist thinking. He proceeds from the sound, from the "sound value" of music, which he places above all musical architecture, even within the works of Anton Webern, which are considered as the epitome of a constructivist musical idiom. In his orchestration of Beethoven's "Große Fuge" for string quartet Op. 133, Hidalgo does not illuminate the structure of the work, as is usual in such arrangements, but scans the music in search of its sound value and paints it in imaginative colors.
Manuel Hidalgo's compositional goal has always been to work on the sound, not in the sense of producing impressionistic tone paintings but in the sense of achieving a highly individual and personal concept of sound. "What I wanted back then was to write music which has another perspective and does not follow any specific tradition or school. The material must acquire a different meaning, a different perspective." This intent characterizes the writing of "Harto". The notes and sounds are placed in space "without consideration of the quality of the sound", as is expressly indicated in the score. Unembellished, raw, free of pomp and drained of all expressiveness: this is how they are to sound and to unfold their intrinsic value. What seems familiar assumes a strangely rigorous, almost foreign character in this diction. Later, for example in the "Trio esperando" for viola, violoncello and piano (1989) and in the orchestral work "Física" (1991), this specific and very peculiar world of sound takes on many more, sharper contours.
The composer sets his tones and chords as rudimentary shapes and dots in a musical space. They are tones and chords which we know, material derived from traditional music, a conventionally sounding vocabulary. But Hidalgo uses this vocabulary without the grammar that belongs to it. He exposes material rich in tradition and history and composes with it, but not in the way one might imagine. As if not understanding the semantics of his tones, Hidalgo deliberately "misses the point" by falling short of the expectations which they give rise to. He tries, for example, to shake off the harmonic system of reference among the chords and to free the tones from the expressiveness which adheres to them. Whenever he is successful in this endeavor, there arises a free space in which we can truly experience the tones and sounds anew. This is why Hidalgo's music makes such a direct and, on a de-emotionalized level, highly sensual impression on us in spite of its anti-expressiveness.
Hidalgo does not like to speak about his music and generally refuses to provide comments on his works. This is neither a caprice nor a sign that he is not willing to reflect. On the contrary, Hidalgo intensively thinks through matters of compositional aesthetics, draws his compositional ideas from this and, moreover, has a lively interest in philosophy and natural sciences which he also integrates into his works. The severity of his musical language, the often extreme reduction of the material and the absolutely unwavering consistency which stamp Hidalgo's scores no doubt must be seen in the context of his affinity to exact thinking and empirical logic. The rejection of verbal articulation thus only seems logical. The composer, whose goal is to achieve a new and individual concept of sound, places his faith in the intrinsic value of his sound worlds, in their capacity for (non-expressive) statement, in the music's own power of conviction.
Hidalgo's works provoke resistance, for they create expectations which are not met. This is why the music, despite its occasionally bustling activity, sometimes hardly seems to get off the ground, as if remaining stuck in its inception, to put it negatively. Forms promising tension and excitement dissolve before they can unfold themselves, and the music makes no headway. The fundamentally beautiful tones suddenly sound completely different, since they have been stripped of their traditional garment and appear in a new, strange-looking guise. Hidalgo places the tones laconically, almost tersely, in space, without any sentimentality or other portentous blurring. He obtains this terse effect through a stunning diction, forti and sforzati, sudden entries or contrasts of dynamics, but at the same time through his always transparent, limpidly formulated musical writing.
This is Hidalgo's way of shaking off the historical ballast of the material. "Física" was an attempt to create a piece without taking into account the background of the material. A violin, for example, is made of wood and metal. I simply attempted to show how this raw material could have an effect on the origin of the music, for example with the Bartók pizzicato, which is just pure metal on wood." Such a "cleaning" of the sound material is carried out with the intent of letting the material accomplish something utopian or, to put it more precisely, of letting it take on another "perspective" and "meaning", which is Hidalgo's compositional goal.
One cannot, however, prevent associations with the historical importance of the material from arising when listening to this music. These associations document the fundamental difficulty of counteracting the weight of musical phenomena. Hidalgo's attempt to give back its virginity to music, as it were, and the almost insurmountable difficulties of doing so - these are the two poles between which the composer moves, the field of tension in which he is pursuing his quest for new perspectives for his music.
(Translation: Roger Clément)
Ehrler, Hanno: Utopien neuer Klangräume. Der Komponist Manuel Hidalgo, Sendung DeutschlandRadio Köln, Juli 1995, auch in: MusikTexte 72, S. 5-9
Hentschel, Frank: Formen neuer Tonalität in der zweiten Hälfte des 20. Jahrhunderts, in: Archiv für Musikwissenschaft 63 (2006), Heft 2, S. 67-93
Jahn, Hans-Peter: Manuel Hidalgo, in: Metzlers Komponisten-Lexikon, hrsg. von Horst Weber, Stuttgart 1994, S. 343-344
van der Kooj, Fred: Manuel Hidalgo. Fernsehportrait des Südwestfunks mit Visualisierungen der Werke "Al Componer", "Alegrías" und "Trio esperando"
Erstsendung 8. November 1990, Teilabdruck in: Up to Date 4/1990, S. 13