Friday, September 16, 2011

Manuel N. Luna- 19th Century Filipino Violin Virtuoso

One of the Talented Luna Brothers. 




Manuel Luna as painted by his brother Juan Luna

A Matter of Introduction

Perhaps we can say that Manuel Andres Luna y Novicio was a man of incredible talents. Belonging to the illustrious Luna brothers,  he was first a mariner then studied music and the violin to become one of the famous Filipino violinist of the 19nth century.

Manuel Andres Luna y Novicio was born in Badoc , Ilocos Norte on June 30 1856. The eldest son of Joaquin Luna and Laureana Novicio in a brood of seven.  Manuel studied at the Ateneo Municipal then later to the prestigious "Escuela Nautica" where he and also his brother painter Juan Luna finished their seaman's course. Manuel graduated in his class with  honors and earned the certificate:"Piloto de Altos Mares".

Brothers Manuel and Juan Luna worked  in ships that sailed the South Seas. While his brother Juan was interested in art, Manuel spent his free time learning to play the violin . Once back in Manila, he decided to take the instrument seriously studying under Spanish violin pedagogue Prof. Remifio Calahorra. It was Prof. Calahorra who advised Manuel Luna to travel and continue his music studies in Europe, In 1897 the young Manuel Luna then sailed to Spain.



Spain and her Music in the late 19th century

Nationalism in music was prevalent in Europe in the middle up to the latter part of the 19nth century. In Spain composers like Manuel de Falla,  Enrique Granados, Isaac Albeniz etc. created works that echoes Spanish themes and folk music. It is also a fact, that many of the greatest Spanish zarsuelas were written in the period (1880 to the 1890's ) and its was due to the group of patriotic composers and librettist  that revived the zarsuela form in the 1860's. In the field of instrumental music names like Francisco Tárrega (considered the father of the modern art of guitar playing) charmed the concert goers of Madrid and other cities of Europe playing his compositions with this instrument that is truly defined for Spain. Meanwhile two names were to be considered important in the field of spanish violin music. They would later be known as the two representatives of the "escuela española  violinistica" (spanish violin school). That two names are Pablo de Sarasate and Jesus de Monasterio. The former was to become probably the greatest violinist of the 19th century. The latter overshadowed by the brilliant career of  Sarasate, would then play an important role in the musical career of many of his students including Manuel N. Luna.

Jesus de Monasterio




Violinist and Conductor

Manuel Luna studied the violin at the Conservatorio de Madrid  under this renowned Spanish violin professor Jesus Monasterio y Agüero.  He was said to be admitted in an advance class due to his previous training. He also studied conducting at the same time. In 1879 Manuel Luna  received his diploma as "Professor de Violin" signed by the conservatory's director Emilio Arrieta



A Jean Baptiste Vuillaume  Violin
Jean Baptiste Vuillaume was a leading luthier in Paris in the late 1800. Manuel Luna's violin was a Vuillaume. After his death, his violin was entrusted to his brothers Jose Luna and to Gen. Antonio Luna. A recent auction of a Vuillaume (the picture above) fetched the prize of the instrument at  18,500 US dollar


The signature mark of the violin maker inside the instrument





Manila Awed

Manuel Luna then traveled to France and Italy, to see some of the famous violin soloist of those countries, observing perhaps to further hone his knowledge in violin performance. At the end of 1879, he returned to the Philippines and did a series of concerts. In December he was presented at the Variadades Theater playing accompanied with the piano,  the piece "Scena Di Balleto by Belgian violinist/composer Charles Aguste de Beriot (it is interesting to note that Monasterio studied under de Beriot). One Manila newspaper at that time said to have written:" Señor Luna played with brilliancy, delicacy, sentiment and purity of intonation, thus giving honor to Monasterio, his former professor"

His skills as a conductor earned him positive revues from leading journals of the time.  Having led ensembles and orchestras in outstanding performances in Manila . One such notable event was a January 8, 1881 concert,  when he conducted a big choral group and an orchestra in interpreting  Louis Niedermeyer's "Mass".

Manuel Luna was also often  mentioned side by side with his leading Filipino contemporaries like foremost violinist Gil Lopez y Villanueva, they were often called " the representative of a truly local talent."



Unfortunate End

Planning to return to Europe, Manuel Luna went to Agoo La Union to bid farewell to his parents, He caught a dreaded disease on his way and on July 15 1883 Manuel Luna died and was immediately buried. His price possession, a Jean Baptiste Vuillaume Violin was left to his brothers Joaquin Luna and Antonio Luna.





The Luna Brothers


Manuel Luna with brother Jose N Luna


Juan Luna -self portrait


General Antonio N Luna








SOURCES

The article of the National Historic Institute about Manuel Luna http://www.nhi.gov.ph/downloads/ca0033.pdf

The Filipino Heritage by Alfredo Roces- The volumes about Filipino music at end of the 19th century and the American period.

Rise and Fall of Antonio Luna by Vivencio Jose- My reference for the family background of the Lunas

History of Western Music by Donald J.Grout and Claude V. Palisca- For insight on 19th century Nationalism in Music in Europe and Spain.

Thanks to Doctor Jiggs Gilera  for that wonderful photo of Manuel Luna with Jose Luna. Please check his collection of historical photos.

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