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Peralada, the cultural environment

He was born in Peralada on September 1, 1883 and was a member of a family saga of musicians linked to Catalonia and in particular to the towns of Peralada, Figueres and Roses, where he lived throughout his life.


In Peralada he received his musical training from the hand of his father, Jaume Cervera Marquès, who was the director of the School of Music of the Palace of Peralada since its foundation in 1882 by Antoni de Rocabertí-Boixadors Dameto y de Verí, Conde de Savallà, until its definitive closure in 1914. This school was originally intended for the children of the castle employees, and shortly afterwards it was extended free of charge to the rest of the children of Peralada and the surrounding towns, to train them musically and, if they had qualities , they could dedicate themselves to music in a professional way. In this way the counts gave the student the instrument with which they had studied at the end of their studies so that they could start their career as musicians.


Initially, Josep Cervera helped his father teach music classes and he took this opportunity to learn all the instruments he had at hand, finally choosing the double bass, using the Bottessini method technique, the maximum reference of the instrument at that time. His father then sent him to study in Barcelona for a month, with the best teacher at the time, Pere Valls, professor at the Liceo Conservatory, dedicating between 8 and 10 hours a day to studying the instrument. At the same time he studied harmony and composition by correspondence with a house in Pamplona.



Musical experience


Around 1903 he founded the orchestra "Los Noys de Perelada", with Josep Cervera as its director. But in mid-1905, he was required to replace his cousin-brother Jaime, who had just died at the age of 17, to go as a double bass player in the song "Antigua Pep de Figueres" with his uncles Felipe, and Agustín who was the director. In this couplet it would remain until 1940.


In Figueres he developed his musical career, starting in 1905, as a copla musician with the "Cobla Antigua Pep" of Figueres, very renowned at that time by Catalonia and the Languedoc-Roussillon, in addition to the trips made with the orchestra between 1907 and 1914 to Paris, where they were hired to go to the Olympia Theater currently known as Olympia Bruno Coquatrix, and to the London Colisseum, which is currently the headquarters of the London Opera, to give sardana concerts. This also gave them the possibility of recording stone records with pieces by Catalan authors at the Pathé house and with the offer to also go to New York to continue the tour, an option that the musicians rejected on the grounds of family reasons.


On many occasions, whenever he wanted to offer an outstanding performance, Josep Cervera acted as a soloist with the double bass, a hitherto unpublished performance, and accompanied by the orchestra musicians. The double bass was considered as an instrument exclusively for accompaniment, which allowed it to become known as a solo instrument and as well as a concert instrument. He gave recitals as early as 1904, both in Spain and abroad, activity that he did not stop until 1959.


In 1910 he obtained a prize in Figueres in a contest of the Santa Cruz fairs with the sardana "Somni bruixenc" (Bewitched Dream). In 1951 he wrote the lyrics and music for the "Baile de la Playa de Roses" which premiered during the festival the following year. He also made the music for Olot's "Dragon Dance".


Musical compositions


His facet as a composer focuses mainly on the double bass as a solo and concert instrument, a very novel fact at that time, since the double bass was an instrument little valued and considered only as a simple support and accompaniment of other instruments, a circumstance that made it almost impossible to find pieces composed and thought for this instrument.


Giovanni Bottessini, an Italian double bass player, was the great promoter of this instrument as a soloist, he created a school that did not arrive in Barcelona until the end of the 19th century at the hands of Pere Valls Durán who, as a double bass teacher at the Liceo Conservatory, had Josep Cervera as one of his most gifted disciples.


His musical production spans a period of about 60 years that extends from 1907 to 1960, and the compositions for solo double bass stand out mainly. It is worth noting the high technical quality of the compositions as well as their musicality, which make them very easy and close to the general public.


The musical collection consists of about 100 pieces, and is made up of more than 60 pieces dedicated, designed and created specifically for the display of the double bass as a solo instrument, 18 sardanas for cobla and 12 pieces of varied themes (popular dances, religious works or Christmas carols ) among which stand out the "Dance of the Beach of Roses" or the "Dance of the Dragon" of Olot. There is a sardana entitled "El Sueño Bruixenc", which was awarded at the Fairs and festivals of the Santa Cruz de Figueres in 1910



Patrimonial Interest


Towards the end of the 80s, the family, carrying out cleaning tasks in the attic and the back room of the manor house in Roses, came to light many documents, papers, photographs and books, among which an endless number of musical scores and manuscripts stand out. , from different relatives of the Cervera family, which made us think that what had been transmitted orally could be a reality. A documentary and musical collection that made us reflect and think that we had to preserve it, disseminate it, disseminate it and make it available to the musicians themselves so that they value the quality of the works.


These documents cover the following musicians:


1. Josep Cervera Rocalba born in 1830 (Selva de Mar) and died in 1910 in Peralada, who was already a musician and played the double bass. He had three children Jaime, Felipe and Agustín.


1.1-Jaume Cervera Marquès born in Castelló d'Empúries in 1858 and died in Barcelona in 1950. Musician and double bass player who was entrusted with the direction of the Music School of the Palace of Peralada in the 32 years in which he was active by the Count .


1.1.1-Josep Cervera Bret born in Peralada in 1883 and died in Roses in 1969.


1.2-Felipe Cervera Marquès born in Castelló d'Empúries in 1863 and died in Figueres in 1930.


1.2.1-Jaume Cervera Berta born in Figueres in 1888 and died in Roses in 1905


1.2.2-Josep Maria Cervera y Berta born in Figueres in 1904 and died in Sant Feliu de Guixols in 1998.


1.3-Agustín Cervera Marquès born in Castelló d'Empúries in 1870 and died in Barcelona in 1947. He was the director of the Orquesta Antigua Pep for 10 years (1900-1910).


All of them had an outstanding career as musicians and composers who, in view of the discovery and throughout all these years, we are taking small steps towards the dissemination of this rich heritage. Among them, Josep Cervera Bret stands out in one of its aspects, for a musical production focused on the double bass that makes it especially attractive given the scarcity of music compositions for double bass as a solo instrument.


Since then the family has focused its efforts on the preservation and dissemination of the collections, having reached the objective of their partial digitization in 2009, specifically the musical, to facilitate its consultation by experts, musicologists, musicians, teachers and double bass players.

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