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Nicanor Abelardo – Cavatina, op.

Nicanor Abelardo (b. San Miguel, Bulacan, 07 February 1893; d. Manila, 21
March 1934), a Filipino composer, conductor, and teacher, is known as the “Father of
Sonata form in the Philippines.” He is the first among the eight children of Valentin
Abelardo and Placida Santa Ana. As a child, his father taught him solfeggio, banduria
and violin. At 1901, at age eight, he composed “Ang Unang Buko,” a waltz which he
dedicated to his grandmother, Macaria Libunao.
In 1916, he entered the Conservatory of the University of the Philippines, and in
the next year, he composed “UP Beloved” and won first prize in an open competition for
the purpose of selecting a university song. On the first of July of that same year, he
“officially” married Sixta Naguiat at the Sta. Cruz Church in Manila. They had six
children and two became musicians. The faculty of the conservatory noticed his
musical talent and in 1918, he was appointed as assistant instructor in solfeggio and
harmony. He received his teacher’s certificate in science and composition in 1921. In
1922, he took up a postgraduate course at the Conservatory, which he finished in the
following year. On Nov. 20, 1924, he became the head of the composition department
of the Conservatory. In May 1931, he was sent to the Chicago Musical College, where
he took courses towards a master’s degree. Although he won the coveted La Violette
scholarship with his “Cinderella Overture,” he came back on August 1932 without the
master’s degree on account of insufficiency in academic credits; but he later finished his
degree by enrolling at the National University.
Cavatina op. 7 is one of Abelardo’s most performed works and is a favourite
concert and recital piece among Filipino instrumentalists. Composed in 1921 to fulfil the
requirements for his teacher’s certificate, the first manuscript bore his dedication to his
friend and colleague, the violinist Alejandro V. Orellano, who performed it in public for
the first time during the composer’s recital. It is composed originally for violin and piano
but nowadays, the flute and the other stringed instruments may substitute the violin part.
The piece was also transcribed for orchestra by conductor-violinist Redentor Romero,
who conducted and recorded it with Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
Though the term cavatina is used to define short arias without da capo, the term
has also been used to describe a songlike piece of instrumental music. Abelardo’s
“Cavatina” is not a virtuoso piece, but certainly in its simplicity, it has enough depth to
contain all the emotions any true artists could ask for the piece.
-“The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians,” 2nd edition, by Stanley Sadie
-“Nicanor Abelardo: The Man and the Artist, a Biography” by Ernesto V. Espina
- “CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art, vol. 6 (part 2),” 1st edition, 1994, by Nicanor Tiongson
- “Dictionary of Philippine Biography” by E. Arsenio Manuel