Roberto Gerhard

(1896—1970) composer

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(b Valls, Tarragona, 1896; d Cambridge, 1970).

Composer and pianist with Swiss‐Ger. father and Alsatian mother, who identified himself with Sp. mus. and eventually became Eng. cit. Added Hispanic ‘o’ to his forename in 1940. Returned to Barcelona to teach 1929 but moved first to Paris then to Eng. after Republican defeat in Sp. Civil War, having been adviser to Ministry of Fine Arts in Catalan Govt. 1937–8. Visited Ger. for first time for 20 years in 1951 to hear concert perf. of The Duenna in Frankfurt. Taught at Dartington 1956 and Tanglewood 1961. Last visit to Spain 1967. Left 5th sym. incomplete. CBE 1967.

Influenced at first by Debussy and Ravel, Gerhard became a Schoenberg pupil on the strength of his 7 Hai‐Ku for sop., wind, and pf. (1922). His wind quintet (1928) was basically serial but not 12‐note and, despite the influence of Schoenberg, his mus. of this date remained tonal in essence and had a distinctive Sp. melodic and rhythmic flavour. On settling in Cambridge in 1939 he seemed to expand as a composer. His idiosyncratic 12‐note serial method was first used in 3 Impromptus for pf., 1950, comp. for Marion Stein (then Countess of Harewood). This period of his development culminated in the 3‐act Sheridan opera The Duenna (1945–7, rev. 1950) where a Sp. idiom is combined with tonal, bitonal, and serial harmonic styles. For 3 years Gerhard reassessed his attitude to Schoenbergian methods and studied the serial opinions of Hauer and A. Hába. His pf. conc. (1951) was consistently 12‐note but was not ‘strict’ and drew on early Sp. kbd. styles. In a series of splendidly individual works from 1952 onwards, Gerhard adopted Hába's ‘athematicism’. Sometimes, as in his 3rd sym. (‘Collages’), he combined orch. sound with elec. tape. All his mus. has imaginative genius and colour, its fundamentally lyrical and original nature never being sacrificed to doctrinaire procedures. Prin. works:


The Duenna

(after Sheridan) (1945–7, rev. 1950) (BBC broadcast 1949, concert perf. Frankfurt 1951, f. stage p. Madrid 1992);

El Barberillo di Lavapies

, zarzuela (1954).




Soirées de Barcelone






Don Quixote

(1940–1, 1947–9).


Albada, Interludi i Danza


Hommaje a PedrellPedrellianaMetamorphoses

, sym. (1941), its final movt. pubd. separately as (1941); vn. conc. (1942–3); pf. conc., with str. (1951); sym. No.1 (1952–3), No.2 (1957–9, recomp. as 1967–8), No.3 (‘Collages’) (1960), No.4 (‘New York’) (1967); hpd. conc. with str. and perc. (1955–6);

Concerto for Orchestra


EpithalamionThis Sporting Life

, orch. (reworking of film score , 1963) (1966);


, 11 players (1963);


, chamber sym., 10 players (1969).

voice(s) & instr(s).:

L' alta Naixença del Rei en Jaume

, cantata, sop., bar., ch., orch. (1932);

L' Infantament meravellos de Shahrazada

, sop., pf. (1917);

7 Hai‐Ku

, v., 5 instr. (1922);

The Akond of Swat

, v., perc. (1954);

The Plague

, spkr., ch., orch. (after Camus) (1963–4).

chamber music:

pf. trio (1918); va. sonata (1950); str. qt. No.1 (1950–5), No.2 (1960–2); Nonet, 8 wind instr., accordion (1956);


Subjects: Music.

Reference entries