Gerhard, Roberto [Gerhard Ottenwaelder, Robert]
- Malcolm MacDonald
[Gerhard Ottenwaelder, Robert]
(b Valls, Sept 25, 1896; d Cambridge, Jan 5, 1970). Catalan composer, active in England. The most significant figure of the generation after Falla, he continued and extended the folkloric vein of his predecessors, while also internationalizing it through his firm commitment to an altogether more broadly based European modernism, and through his relocation to Britain after the civil war. Establishing a wider reputation only in the 1950s, he displayed an increasingly radical and exploratory outlook and until his death contributed energetically to the development of serial and electronic composition, and to timbral and textural innovation.
Gerhard's family origins (German-Swiss father, Alsatian mother) produced a polyglot European conversant in several cultural traditions; nevertheless he identified strongly with the region of his birth, considering himself a Catalan. In Catalan as in German his given name was Robert; he assumed the Castilian form ‘Roberto’ in exile, after the defeat of the republic and Franco's suppression of Catalan autonomy, language and culture. The Spanish Civil War marked the great fissure in Gerhard's life, around which so much of his music resonates with irony, longing and defiance....