Generación del 51

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Josep Maria Mestres Quadreny with Bartomeu Marí, MACBA director, during the presentation of Joan Brossa Archive

Generación del 51 is a designation for one of a series of "generations" of Spanish composers, identifying a group born between 1924 and 1938.

Made up of a group of heterogeneous young artists around their twenties during the early fifties, many of these composers sought to explore music in line with the European avant-garde of the time, and generally began creating works in line with serialism from 1959 onwards. The first movements to spring forward from this generation began in Barcelona and Madrid through groups such as Juventudes Musicales in Madrid in 1952, Nueva Música in 1958, Música Abierta, Tiempo y Música, Alea, and others, and were often intertwined with other artistic currents active in visual arts.

The premiere, at Darmstadt, of Juan Hidalgo's Ukanga in 1957 kicked off the avant-garde period associated with many of the generation's composers. It was soon followed by the activities of the Madrid based Nueva Música group, founded in 1958 by Ramón Barce with Manuel Moreno-Buendía, Antón García Abril, Cristóbal Halffter, Manuel Blancafort, Manuel Carra, Luis de Pablo and Fernando Ember. Their first concert was held that same year with an aesthetic framed in atonalism with works such as the Eleven preludes of Barce or the Sonatina Giocosa by de Pablo, and was harshly received by the press following an anonymous manifesto red before the concert. This group was short lived and later led to the creation of the Aula de Música.

Only a month later, in April 1958, the first concert was held at the Madrid Athenaeum, marking the start of the Aula de Música which welcomed the members of the Nueva Música group and in which the compositional line was firmly rooted in atonality. Under the direction of Fernando Ruiz Coca, the Aula de Música del Ateneo de Madrid was active between 1958 to 1973, with all kinds of artistic trends passing through it, from the most conservative to the contemporary.

On the 7th of June of 1959, what may be considered the first pure avant-garde concert was held. It premiered Barce's Sonata, Sonata for solo violin by Cristóbal Halffter and Five inventions by de Pablo, all as defined by a clear use of serialism. From here on, going back was no longer possible. The group clearly delimited their positions: some retire and others (such as García Abril and Moreno-Buendía) begin to walk in divergent aesthetics from the group's avant-garde postulates. Others still began exploring new musical lines, including aleatory and indeterminist music, and the use of sound objects.

Members of this generation of composers from the Basque and Castilian-speaking regions of Spain include[2]:

Juan Hidalgo Codorniu. Photo sourced from El Cultural Canario (

In their earlier works, members of this generation tended toward the avant-garde, with post-Webernian serialism evident in the work of Halffter and Luis de Pablo in particular. By the end of the 1970s a mellowing of their language becomes apparent, and during the 1980s many of them began to turn to tonality of one sort or another[2].

The Catalan members of this generation are associated with the reforming and renewing tendencies that emerged after the post-Civil War isolation [1][2]:

Soler's compositional palette involves serial techniques, and he is particularly noted for his dramatic music [2].


  1. Gómez, Maricarmen. 2001. "Barcelona". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.
  2. Perez Castillo, Belen. 2001. "Spain, §I: Art music: 6. 20th century". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.

Further reading

  • Charles Soler, Agustín. 2002. Análisis de la música española del siglo XX: En torno a la Generación del 51. Valencia: Rivera.
  • Sagastume, Manu. 1996. "La Generación del 51." Kantuz, no. 32 (July–August): 27.

Text translated and adapted from the Spanish Wikipedia