One of the qualities that have been most associated with Basques through history is their musical ability. Without any doubt, they have been most associated with song, as expressed in the saying “one Basque, one beret; two, a game of pelota; three, a choral society.” It is also true, however, that there are few people in the world who do not share some similar descriptions about their innate ability for music. And it is equally true that the main currents of so-called classical music, erudite music or the Western academy have not been centred in the Basque Country.
Having said that, this does not mean that this small people have not had an interesting past, with certain major international figures both throughout their history—a history that has been officially present in far too few places—and during the compositional and interpretive present. The international renown Basque choirs continue to have today is, in effect, no different to what interpreters of past eras still enjoy, such as the violinist and composer Pablo Sastre or the tenor Julián Gayarre. One of the greatest composers of all time, Maurice Ravel, was also Basque, as are some of the most prestigious names in contemporary composition, led by Luis de Pablo and Agustín González Acilo.
Throughout this work I will attempt to summarize this activity, contending that music—whether classical, erudite or academic—is a key element of contemporary cultural activity in the Basque Country.
Karlos Sánchez Ekiza
Professor of History of the Music at the University of Basque Country
This is the introduction to the “Basque Classical Music” book, you can find the complete book here:
Sánchez Ekiza, Karlos, Euskal Musika Klasikoa/La musique classique basque/ Basque Classical Music, Donostia - San Sebastián: Etxepare Euskal Institutua, 2012. (French version funded by the Basque Cultural Institute)