Uncovering Elements of Roberto Gerhard's Post-Exile Style in the "Wind Quintet" (1928)

Rachel Mitchell, State University of New York at Albany

Roberto Gerhard (1896-1970) was a twentieth-century Spanish composer known for his unique treatment of the twelve-tone system. A student of Felipe Pedrell, a Spanish nationalist composer in Barcelona, and Arnold Schoenberg, in both Vienna and in Berlin, Gerhard's diverse musical background led to a synthesis of these disparate compositional traditions. In this paper I explore the early development of Gerhard's compositional procedures through an examination of his Wind Quintet (1928), which was written following the end of his studies with Schoenberg and is regarded as his first serial work. This composition is significant because it showcases the early stages of two elements that become unique features of Gerhard's late style: 1) his unusual serial organization of pitch material, such as his use and reordering of incomplete row aggregates, along with use of multiple transpositions within a single melodic line, and liberal use of invariance to create melodic and structural continuity, and 2) his successful integration of these serial pitch structures with folk elements derived from his Spanish background.

Despite the fact that Gerhard's Wind Quintet features many of the traits valued in his later compositions, notably his rigorous integration of serial and folk elements, it was met with sharp criticism at its 1929 premiere, leading him to abandon serialism for over two decades. The analysis of this quintet, then, provides a basis for comparing his early style to his celebrated post-exile period of the 1950s-60s.