From the First Note to Competition Winner
Jose Gonzalez Granero
I first heard about the Villiers Quartet New Works Competition through the internet. I was just finishing my first string quartet around March 2014. The timing couldn’t have been better.
I had started to write my string quartet around January 2014, but it took me several months to decide if I was going to write the first note, or even write the piece at all. The initial thought of composing for string quartet is rather intimidating and scary. One cannot avoid looking back in time at the amount and quality of the quartet literature already written. In addition to this, I felt that as a wind player, the pressure upon me to write skillfully for string quartet was multiplied.
My first project was to study other compositions by great composers (Beethoven, Ravel, Bartok…). I spent hours listening and following the scores. The more I listened, the more scared I became about starting my own composition...but I kept learning about strings. I am fortunate to play daily in an orchestra that gives me the advantage to be surrounded by great string players. I asked questions of my colleagues, and I read about string technique. After a few months of debating whether or not ‘bother’ composing yet ‘another’ string quartet, I finally had the determination to start the first notes.
When I approached the piece, I visualized it as a whole picture before starting. I based the quartet on a motive that would repeat during the whole composition. This motive, based in ten notes, would pass through every instrument, and I used it to explore different colors and characters. I took inspiration from a short poem by Garcia Lorca.
When my piece was finished, I had the chance to have it played by some of my colleagues and friends, and I liked what I heard. After this long process, I was determined to submit my composition to the VQ New Works Competition. The composition was advertised around the internet, and by coincidence I came across the call for new works on Facebook.
After sending my piece by the deadline, I learned that the amount of applicants was near 150. A few months passed and I forgot about the competition. Around July, the Villiers Quartet announced the 6 semifinalists. I woke up to an email informing me that I had been chosen to be a semifinalist.
The Villiers Quartet competition is a different competition. They encourage the audience to be active in the process of deciding, and the audience actually decides! Anyone could vote for any of the 6 semifinalists. I had a few weeks to promote my piece around the internet and encourage people to vote for my work to be a finalist. The few weeks of the online voting round went by, and I couldn’t believe I was in the final.
The live final round took place in London at Kings Place, and my piece was going to be performed by the Villiers Quartet along with the other 2 finalists. It was a compelling occasion to attend, so I decided to travel all the way from San Francisco to London. I had never been to the UK, so this was the perfect excuse to take a trip.
The night of the final I was as nervous as if I was performing. Beautiful hall, great musicians and very talented finalists. I enjoyed the night, sitting in the audience, listening to my music and listening to the other great new compositions. The competition was organized in an innovative and excellent way, giving a new perspective to classical music, and I was involved with it. Nothing could have gone better, and I won the competition thanks to the audience members who voted for me. I enjoyed the process from beginning to end, and now I am more motivated than ever to keep composing. Thank you to the Villiers Quartet!
Guest Blog written by Jose Gonzalez Granero, Winner of the 2014 VQ New Works Competition