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Musical World

Leonardo Balada

  • Composer


Leonardo Balada's exposure to the plastic arts in New York was perhaps of greater significance to his style than the music heard around him. In Balada’s music one finds by his own admission a perplexing amalgamation of traditional Spanish culture influenced by modern concepts of geometric art, “collages” as seen in the paintings of Rauschenberg and the surrealism of Salvador Dali. Balada had collaborated with Dali several times in New York during the early ‘60s. There is a plasticity and a theatricality in his music and also a dichotomy, for while sometimes expresses the abstract, in other moments he mixes in the ethnic.

            In an interview over a generation ago Balada explained his position towards this dichotomy saying: “If I go to Andalusia and choose to wear a “Cordobés” hat, or a “cowboy” hat in Texas or no hat at all in Wall Street, I still will be recognized as “me,” provided that my personality emerges in spite of my disguise.” And his works are very personal indeed, through textural writing, blunt contrasts of ideas and dynamics, juxtaposition of opposing harmonies, mechanistic passages in layers of “staccato” writing, a rhythmic constancy and above all, a compelling sense of direction and goal in the form and drama of his music.

            A characteristic of some of Balada’s works is his interest in controversial subjects: antiwar (Guernica), freedom (Sinfonía en Negro-Homage to Martin Luther King), historic and social issues (the cantata Torquemada, the opera Zapata), environmental concerns (Music for Oboe and Orchestra), protest against death (the cantata No-res). In Spain, his childhood and adolescent years during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) and after that under the dictatorship of Generalísimo Francisco Franco, had an impact on Balada’s psyche. When he came to the United States the gates of openness and freedom were open to him and with that a compelling desire for expressing in music the frustration experienced in his native country.