‘Cervera was a great virtuoso bass player and also wrote a method and many other things. His music is very expressive, so touching and so beautiful; there are so many colours and so many beautiful things. He understands the instrument unbelievably well.’ So says Leon Bosch, editor of this series of Cervera compositions for I Musicanti Publishing.
Cervera may have been an unfamiliar figure, even in double bass circles, for some time now. But his concert music includes over 60 original compositions for double bass that lay for many years forgotten at the family property in Catalonia.
He lived in the region from his birth in 1883 until his death in 1969. Having taken initial lessons from his father in Peralada, the town where he was born, he moved to Barcelona to study with the grandfather of Spanish double bass playing, Pedro Valls. He proved an exceptional student.
Cervera’s professional career focused on his band, Els Peps, a travelling cobla that that performed both classical and Catalan folk music. The group were popular locally and made a name for themselves further afield too, even making a trip to London that Cervera commemorated in his piece Recuerdo de Londres.
It is largely thanks to intensive research by Leon Bosch, one of today’s foremost virtuosos, that Cervera’s work has come back to light. Although Bosch had heard Cervera’s name mentioned in connection with Valls, he knew very little else. ‘So I took the recourse of 21st century technology… and wrote to everybody in the world called Cervera! I had a reply from Josep’s grandson Carles.’ That led to a visit to Catalonia, where Bosch was able to see Cervera’s many manuscripts for himself.
Cervera withdrew from playing professionally in the 1960s to work in the small family shop in the town of Roses. But his musical legacy now lives on in these editions. Many of the works have evocative titles: Cielo Gris, Recuerdo de Londres, Fascination. Others, such as his Carnival of Venice variations, are highly virtuoso.
‘But I love all the pieces he wrote,’ says Leon Bosch, ‘like his Notturno, Elegía, Introduction y Tarantella, and a Romanza which is really beautiful. Each one of them is really quite special.’