Luis de Arquer
I was Born in Cerdanyola, a small summer town near Barcelona, and surrounded by a family of great artists, named Buigas… with successful engineers, architects, writers, painters … only musicians were missing …! so since I was 5 years old I was fond of playing an old pianola and before long I was introduced to my first great teacher, LOLITA MARTÍNEZ, a great musician!
Still in the same place, but a few years later… The picture is now of an adolescent Luis de Arquer, putting together that which would become one of his first recordings… All those hours of improvisation that took place during long years of study and research are today his music’s great allies!
MY SECOND PIANO!
My second piano was a present from my parents and uncle José. Although it was certainly not a first class piano, I greatly enjoyed this distinctly more reliable instrument than my old “pianola”. I could study by listening to my own playing and so empathise with the kind of experiences lived by the great pianists which so amazed me! I put it in the attic or “golfas” as we call it in Catalonia in my parents’ house in Sardanyola. There, I set up my room which I heated using an old coal stove, a “Salamandra”, during the silent winter nights while I devoured great literary and musical masterpieces. In the dark, with the red flames reflecting on the pot, I floated away to the music of Beethoven, Supertramp, Mike Olfield, Richard Strauss and so many others…
ALICIA DE LARROCHA
Carlota Garriga, on the left, and Alicia de Larrocha next to Luis de Arquer during a concert in La Casa dels Músics in 1999. The two teachers that shaped his musical personality, apart from Aquiles Delle-Vigne. Carlota Garriga, one of Alicia de Larrocha and Frank Marshall’s disciples, was his teacher from aged 15 until the end of his studies. “I remember arriving in class with dirty hands after fixing some motorbike and barely having studied. Naturally, she was angry, but fortunately continued to give me classes. … Alicia de Larrocha nurtured my self-belief and sensitivity. The first day that she listened to me, I must have been 16 years old. I played one of Chopin’s Scherzos and Schumann’s “Scenes from Childhood”. When I had finished playing, she uttered in a sufficiently audible tone: “This boy is an artist!”. When the concert was over, all the teachers from the school were very excited: “She never says that, you can be very happy!!!” The fact that someone of the calibre of Alicia de Larrocha, one of the greatest soloists of our time, believed in me, made a deep impact. From this moment on, I truly became a musician and no longer merely a child who played the piano!
Xavier Montsalvatge, one of the finest composers and orchestrators of our time. I knew him through my aunt, Mercedes Rosales, who always helped me throughout my studies and beyond. I must have been around nine years old when my aunt took me to hear Wagner’s Parcival at the Palau de la Música in Barcelona. After 5 hours of opera, she introduced me as a new piano-playing talent to Javier Montsalvatge, who was working at the time as a critic for La Vanguardia. I remember the first question he asked me, “How many hours do you study?” If I remember correctly, I replied that I studied about one hour a day… He retorted that if I was not willing to study for six hours, I may as well forget the piano!! I recall that this did me the power of good! Years later, he listened to my opera and liked it a lot. He told me that the music conveyed what was happening in the work, and that this was something that is very hard to find today… But what I remember with the greatest affection, apart from several very interesting conversations, (he was an intelligent man), were his comments to me about an improvisation after interpreting Mozart’s Concerto nº 14 for piano and orchestra. “Listen to yourself when you improvise. Your music is in your improvisations. Listen to yourself and write!” Elenita Montsalvatge, his wife, looked at me and said: “Hold on to that! He does not tell anyone that!!”.
Aquiles Delle-Vigne, together with J.R. Ricart and Luis de Arquer in a hall in the Academia Marshall. At the end, a photo of Alfred Cortot. “Aquiles was my great teacher in Paris”. Both a teacher and friend, possibly he was the person who prepared me in the most serious way for an international career… Thanks to him, I could soak up the end of a golden musical era between the very same walls within which it took place. L’Ecole Normale de Musique, established by Alfred Cortot in 1919, was famous for the quality of its teachers. Composers such as Paul Dukas, Arthur Honegger, etc. Interpreters of such international repute as Pau Casals, Alfred Cortot, Wanda Landowska… and many more.