Joan Manén c. 1908 / © Associació Joan Manén

Joan Manén c. 1920 / Foto: Antonio Calvache / © Associació Joan Manén

Joan Manén l´any 1957 a Cannes / © Associació Joan Manén


Joan Manén, an artist to be discovered

(Barcelona, 1883-1971)

Joan Manén is one of the most paradigmatic cases of how an artist with great fame and recognition during his life time can fall into absolute oblivion after his death. Manén had one of the most prestigious international careers among Spanish violinists of all times, with more than four thousand concerts in Europe and America and the consideration by music critics of being the heir to Pablo Sarasate. He dedicated a large part of his life to composition and with a true vocational spirit, considering it much more than a mere complement to his solo career. This vocation is corroborated by an extensive catalogue of works, including seven operas, symphonic works, ballets, concerts for various instruments, chamber music, vocal music and music for solo instruments. There are many indications regarding the recognition of Manén’s compositions throughout Europe during the composer's lifetime: four of his seven operas were performed in various cities in Germany, Spain and Finland, and his symphonic works were performed by orchestras such as the Berlin and Wiener Philharmoniker, the “Amsterdam Concertgebouw”, the Pau Casals Orchestra or the Cologne Orchestra, under conductors such as Felix Weingartner, Fritz Reiner, Willem Mengelberg or Bruno Walter.

His works span a period of over fifty years and their stylistic profiles expose a wide range of influences and the assimilation of many different aesthetics into a resulting eclecticism. The influences of Germanic, French, Spanish and Catalan music are deeply present, nevertheless, Manén has a personal composition style with an original harmonic development that defines his work. In his music we find a formal solidity of Germanic influence, a talent for thematic development and some very characteristic rhythmic and melodic elements, of great personality and inspiration.

Joan Manén was a typical child prodigy, showing extraordinary gifts on both the violin and the piano already at a young age. His training as a violinist was quite limited and he only received instrumental lessons until the age of eleven, thereafter being exclusively self-taught. Accompanied by his father, the young violinist embarked on his first adventure at age eleven, when he toured America extensively and made his debut at the Carnegie Hall in New York on the 15th of January, 1895. From 1898 onwards he settled in Berlin where he continued his career, aided by an important artistic relationship with Otto Goldschmidth, who had previously represented the violinist Pablo Sarasate. His debut at the Hochschule in Berlin in 1904 marked his consolidation as a violinist, and he became solicited by the most prestigious halls and orchestras, touring throughout Europe and America. Within the figure of Joan Manén, the facets of composer, violinist and conductor were interconnected and he often performed or conducted his own works. During the course of his long career, which continued until 1959, he enjoyed the prestige of being a great virtuoso violinist with a repertoire that highlighted his technical abilities. According to the German contemporary critics, Joan Manén's technique was extraordinarily developed and precise, his sound dolce, pure and always cantabile, with a musicality that exuded elegance and simplicity.