Biblioteca de Catalunya commemorates Catalan composers lives

Since 2006, the Biblioteca de Catalunya has contributed to the celebration of the World Day for Audiovisual Heritage on October 27th.

This year we commemorate various events related to Catalan composers lives. Among them, it is the 25th anniversary of Manuel Blancafort's death, from whom we wish to divulge two musically and heritage significant documents: Homage to Chaplin (from "American souvenir," 1923) and L'orgue de cavallets (the first part of the suite "Parc d'Atraccions", 1924) recorded in piano rolls.

Manuel Blancafort (1897-1987) was the son of Joan Baptista Blancafort, owner of a Spa in La Garriga, a village not far away from Barcelona. Persuaded by a piano trader in 1905, Joan Baptista Blancafort was engaged in a business to distribute "Angelus" piano rolls. Soon after, he set up his own enterprise, which gave him worldwide recognition for the quality of this production, the "Rollos Victoria". Thanks to the collaboration with one of his brothers, he could export music off (namely Argentina, where the rolls are marketed under the name "Best"). "Rollos Victoria" was the first factory pianola rolls who settled in Spain but unfortunately, and due to the civil war, all documents related to this business are missing.

Manuel Blancafort, made a trip to New York and Chicago to learn firsthand some of the new technology to make piano rolls. He boarded the liner "Mauretania" in July 1923. As a result of the experience of this trip, he wrote Transatlàntic en ruta and Homage to Chaplin, a couple of fresh and almost pictorial works in nature, due to the sound palette of the first title and the mute- film-liker rythm of the second one.

In 1924, the Catalan pianist Ricard Viñes premiered "Parc d'Atraccions" in Paris, a suite that will be released worldwide. L'orgue de cavallets needs three staves to be printed, evoking the turn of Carroussel. The title refers to the instrument used to make the music sound while the carroussel is spinning. Both this instrument and the player piano have a certain similarity, for both involve air (sucked or issued).

The two rolls with works by Manuel Blancafort arrived at the Biblioteca de Catalunya in October 2000, together with other funds donated by the daughter of the composer, Camil·la Blancafort.

You can listen to the audio files at

Margarida Ullate I Estanyol
Sound and Audiovisual Unit
Biblioteca de Catalunya
Barcelona (Catalonia, Spain)