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Lecture - Anthony LaLena

The Guitar in Negotiations of Spanish Identity, 1920-30

Anthony LaLena


During the Spanish Silver Age (1898-1936) the very cultural and political foundations of the Spanish nation were challenged by a succession of unstable and contentious governments, regional factionalism, and a loss of empire that prompted philosophical debates over the essence of Spain. As intellectuals and politicians debated about Spain's true essence, composers constructed their visions through historical retrospection, the use of folk music, and the adoption of foreign compositional techniques. During this era the guitar became an even more powerful symbol of Spanish identity as flamenco music and the classical guitar garnered international esteem; yet most musicological research on the Spanish Silver Age prioritizes issues of exoticism in the orchestral works of Manuel de Falla. As a result, there is a surprising lack of critical engagement with the guitar works of this era even though the instrument provides perhaps the most fruitful medium through which to musically analyze the complex negotiations of Spanish identity. This lecture-recital contextualizes musical aesthetics with the sociopolitical negotiations over Spanish national identity through a critical analysis of folkloric and avant-garde musical features in the first guitar works of prominent non-guitarist composers such as Adolfo Salazar, Rodolfo Halffter and others. The guitar functioned as an ideal medium through which to express Spanish identity precisely because of its ubiquity in Spanish culture. I argue that Spanish composers had to directly engage with the negotiations over national identity when writing their first pieces for such a volatile instrument in an equally volatile sociopolitical landscape. 


Anthony LaLena is a guitarist and scholar currently residing in Rochester, New York. He has recently completed a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in classical guitar performance and is currently pursuing a PhD in historical musicology at the Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester. As a teaching assistant for Dr. Nicholas Goluses, he has taught fretboard harmony, guitar pedagogy, and private lessons. He currently teaches a course on twentieth-century western classical music and its interactions with nonwestern musics and cultures. He is also an instructor of guitar at the Eastman Community Music School.

Anthony has performed in the United States and Europe as both a soloist and chamber musician. After a performance by the Fredonia Guitar Quartet at Le Musée de Jouet in Colmar, France, Anthony and his colleagues were hailed as a “remarkable group of young musicians” by the city’s newspaper, L’Alsace. During Anthony’s tenure with the Fredonia Guitar Quartet the ensemble was the inspiration and dedicatee of a work by the late French guitarist and composer, Roland Dyens. Current chamber music projects include: the LaLena-Ellis guitar duo, which was recently featured at the Onondaga Community College’s Day of the Guitar concert series; and the New York Guitar Quartet, which made their debut during the 2019-20 season of the Skaneateles Guitar Concert Series and is currently completing a world premiere recording of composition by John Anthony Lennon. In addition, Anthony occasionally performs on baroque guitar with Collegium Musicum, an early music ensemble directed by the eminent lutenist, Paul O’Dette, and gambist, Christel Thielmann at the Eastman School of Music.

As an avid researcher, Anthony has travelled to Spain where he studied plucked-string repertoire of the sixteenth century and nineteenth century guitar history at the Conservatorio de Musica de Manuel Castillo in Seville. Anthony has also studied Baroque performance practice and arrangement with the celebrated harpsichordist, Dr. Kenneth Cooper, at the Manhattan School of Music, and baroque guitar with Paul O’Dette. In addition to studies in early music, Anthony has a particular interest in the music of the early twentieth century and contemporary works, and as such has been involved in commissioning new works and performing in concerts for the American Composers Alliance in New York City.

His musicological research is often focused on music and politics, and specifically the musical construction and circulation of identity and race in twentieth-century Spain. His most recent work concerning the guitar focuses on the negotiations of national identity through early works for solo guitar by twentieth century Spanish composers. His dissertation work is centered on the music of Manuel de Falla and the intersection of empire, race, and aesthetics in Spain. More broadly, his research is concerned with the neoclassicism, exoticism, and the aesthetics of fascism between Spain and Latin America. He also maintains a scholarly interest in popular music of the later 20th century, consumerism, subcultures, and noise. He has presented papers and lecture-recitals at the Guitar Society of Central New York, Mercy College, and the Northeast Modern Language Association conference. He looks forward to presenting his work at the Guitar Foundation of America Festival 2020.

As a guitarist he has performed in masterclasses for such distinguished artists as Manuel Barrueco, David Russell, and Eduardo Fernandez. He holds a Bachelor of Music from the State University of New York at Fredonia, where he was awarded a Performer’s Certificate for demonstrating exceptional musicianship. He also holds a Master of Music from the Manhattan School of Music, where he studied under the composer and guitarist, Mark Delpriora. Most recently, he has been awarded the prestigious Performer’s Certificate at the Eastman School of Music. As a scholar he has presented his work on music and politics in Spain at the NeMLA conference and the Dublin Guitar Symposium. Additionally, he has won the Jerald C. Graue Fellowship at the Eastman School of Music for his essay, “Elaboration and Meditation in Sixteenth-Century Spain: Josquin’s Missa de Beatea Virgine in the Vihuela Repertoire,” and been awarded the Glenn Watkins Traveling Fellowship to fund a research trip to the Archivo Manuel de Falla in Granada.

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