Friday, 8 July 2011

Is Spain losing her musicians?

Sánchez,  Ferrández and Bienzobas
SPAIN (El Pais) They are only in their twenties, but they already know what it's like to have an admiring audience at their feet. They are Madrid's young musical talent, trained in public and private schools, who upon graduation choose to emigrate to other European countries to find better opportunities for advancement. The issue of whether Spain has a musical brain drain - as in other fields of knowledge - is compounded by the question of whether Spanish music schools are as good as their European counterparts. Six young graduates of Spain's top music schools - three from the private Escuela Superior de Música Reina Sofía and one from the public Real Conservatorio Superior de Música de Madrid - discuss these issues.>>>For all of them, one of the biggest question marks is whether the centers that train future professional musicians are up to par with European standards. Pablo Ferrández, a cellist who studied at the Reina Sofía school, believes that his center is "the top-level school in Spain."

"It is the best option if a musician hopes for something important," says Ferrández, 20, who has performed at the National Auditorium three times this year.

Marta Femenía, a flute player who has just graduated from the conservatory, defends public education, but notes that students play a key role in the center's quality. "Training is very much up to us. There are great paradoxes at Atocha [where the conservatory is located], such as needing luck to get a good teacher. Some teachers perhaps lack the experience as performers that other instructors in Europe have," she says.

Lucas Bienzobas, a 17-year-old violin player at the private school, feels that "there are things in which it is up to standard and others less so, but it is a step above a regular conservatory." His fellow student Guillermo Sánchez, 20, is a double bass player who feels the Reina Sofía has given him the chance to play outside Spain.

Besides the physical differences between both schools - the Reina Sofía is a state-of-the-art center, while the conservatory is a historical building with spacious rooms - the former only has 104 enrolled students, while the latter has approved more than 800 applications for next year.

On the issue of Spanish versus European musicians, it is true that following Franco's death and the democratic transition, there was a time when Spanish orchestras were largely made up of professionals from Eastern Europe. Georgina Sánchez, a cellist who has studied at both Spanish schools, says this time is now over. "We tend to see ourselves as inferior. The Russians who came to Spain in the 1980s have been glorified, but let's not forget that they came here because they were fleeing the situation in their countries," she says.

Ramón Grau, who just graduated in piano studies from the conservatory, is not afraid of being compared with foreigners, either. "We Spaniards have got it into our heads that we are worse, but it's not true. What is really going on is that there is not so much respect for musicians in Spain."

What all six agree on is that, once your studies are over, you need to set your sights on the great music schools and conservatories of Europe. Ramón Grau is auditioning at the Liszt Academy in Budapest in July, while Marta Femenía is moving to France in September to pursue graduate studies at the Opéra de Paris. Lucas Bienzobas, Guillermo Sánchez and Pablo Ferrández will be leaving for Central Europe. "People are heading to Germany in droves," says Ferrández.

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