Oscar Espla (1886 - 1976)
Óscar Esplá y Triay was born on 5th August 1886 in Alicante (in the province of Valencia on Spain's East coast, also referred to as the Spanish Levante) and died on 6th January 1976 in Madrid.
He began his musical education while still a child, but following his father's wishes, studied philosophy and engineering at the university of Barcelona. However, after his "Dream of Eros" won him first prize in an international composition competition in Vienna in 1911, he decided to dedicate himself entirely to music.
Having been until then almost entirely self-taught as a composer, he moved to Meiningen (Germany) to study composition and conducting with Max Reger, and a year later to Paris to study counterpoint and
composition with Camille Saint-Saens.
A prolific composer of wide cultural interests, he enjoyed a distinguished international career, though his fame was somewhat eclipsed by that of his contemporary, Manuel de Falla. He absorbs into his musical language the idioms of his native Alicante in compositions that at times suggest the influence of Debussy and Stravinsky. He was friend and mentor to many of his contemporaries, including Rodrigo, Montsalvatge, and Mompou.
In 1930 he was offered a professorship at the Madrid conservatoire, a post which was combined with presidency of the "Junta Nacional" for Music. In 1931 he wrote a republican hymn which was to form the basis of the Second Spanish Republic's official national anthem. However, with political tensions getting out of hand (the Spanish civil war was imminent), as a republican he feared for his own life and that of his family and in 1936 fled to Belgium.
Despite financial worries during his self-imposed exile resulting from being unable to access his Spanish assets, it was 1951 before he felt safe enough from possible nationalist reprisals to return to Spain. Help from various sources, and also the new regime's need to make good use of intellectuals returning from exile, permitted him to enjoy a few last pleasant and productive years. But he refused to have anything to do with the 1964 celebrations of the 25th anniversary of the end of the civil war, because they were in effect (as everyone knew) a celebration of Franco's victory and not, as the official line had it, to celebrate "25 years of peace".
The music Conservatoire of his native city of Alicante carries his name, and so does one of the most important avenues in the centre of Alicante, near the train station.
His compositions include operas and ballets, choral works, and a variety
of instrumental pieces. Some of these are:
Symphonic poem "The Dream of Eros", 1910;
Sonata for violin and piano, 1913;
String quartet, 1920;
Symphonic poem "Don Quijote Guarding the Arms", 1924;
Cantata "The Devil's Christmas Eve", 1926;
Ballet "The Smuggler", 1928;
Suite Levantina (piano), 1931;
Sonata of the South (piano and orchestra, originally piano only), 1943;
Spanish Sonata (piano), 1949.