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In our research on the Spanish composers of our time we find Julio Robles García among many other composers such as Tomás Marco, Antón García Abril, Paco Otero or José María García Laborda. On this occasion we have had the opportunity to interview said composer who reveals the ins and outs of contemporary composition in contemporary music. And it puts us on the track that a good musical training is essential to succeed. The support received by their teachers and by all their fellow professionals make possible a working life full of experiences and successes in the musical field. We will also reflect on the difficulties composers face in the workplace and how they overcome them. In short, it reveals the secrets of this profession.
María Dolores Castellón Pérez
Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Madrid. España. Escuela Internacional de Doctorado.
In our research on the Spanish composers of our time we find Julio Robles García among
many other composers such as Tomás Marco, Antón García Abril, Paco Otero or José
María García Laborda. On this occasion we have had the opportunity to interview said
composer who reveals the ins and outs of contemporary composition in contemporary
music. And it puts us on the track that a good musical training is essential to succeed.
The support received by their teachers and by all their fellow professionals make
possible a working life full of experiences and successes in the musical field. We will also
reflect on the difficulties composers face in the workplace and how they overcome
them. In short, it reveals the secrets of this profession.
Key words: Spanish composers, Julio Robles García, interview, contemporary music, success.
Julio Robles García, born on February 3, 1946, professor, composer and musicologist at
the Royal Conservatory of Music of Madrid (RCSMM). Pianist of the choir of the Teatro
de la Zarzuela, and of the Chair of Singing at the Royal Conservatory of Music of Madrid
(RCSMM). Choral ensemble professor at the Royal Conservatory of Music of Madrid
(RCSMM) and the Conservatory of Móstoles, in Madrid. Accompanying pianist for Don
Miguel Barrosa Arguelles, from the María Dolores Travesedo Company, Musiarte, and
from the Zarzuela Félix San Mateo Company. (
This interview was conducted in the lounges of the Hotel Moderno near Madrid's Puerta
del Sol on the occasion of the publication of the work Evocation in 2016, where Julio
Robles García kindly answered our questions.
Interview with Julio Robles García
[Loli] - Today we have the opportunity to learn more about Julio Robles García who is
a composer, musicologist, teacher and pianist from a very young age. Julio tell us
something about your origins. Where were you born and how was your childhood?
[Julio] Well, I was born in 46, so I am very old. My childhood was with great happiness.
He was very happy in my childhood. Until we were 8 or 9 years old, we lived on
Bustamante street. I remember that a neighbor who still lives took me in her arms and
I owe her a lot of things. They would bring me up to his house, which lived one floor
higher. And they had a gramophone. And I am already 4 years old or maybe even less. I
would sit under the table to listen to the music played on the gramophone. Even the
music playing through the courtyards.
- So, have you always lived in Madrid or changed your city?
I have always lived in Madrid.
- Always in the same place or in different places in the city?
I was until 9 years old on Calle Bustamante. And then already, my father, who was a
military man, ascended to the Brigade and they gave us some military houses on Calle
Agustín Querol, near the Ministry, on Calle Ciudad de Barcelona. Juan de Ávalos lived
nearby. And there I also spent a happy childhood. I went to a school, Colegio Hispanis
was called. But there it was not very good and I changed places and went to the
Gutemberg School. There were some fantastic teachers there, how well they taught. In
that school I examined 4º of Baccalaureate 4º of Reválida and 6º of Reválida. We were
going to the Ramiro de Maeztu Institute, which is completely down the Ríos Rosas street.
And later when I finished my Bachelor, my mother told me to take a career but my father
Before finishing the Bachelor he had even composed works for the piano. When we lived
in Agustín Querol there was a man who was in the Military Band in the Ministry of the
Army, my father spoke to him and twice a week I went up to his house and gave me
solfege classes. He taught me everything so well that I saw it very clearly. Then I was
examined free of 1st and 2nd solfege and 1st piano. I had no teacher at the piano ...
- Did you learn to play the piano by yourself?
Yes, sometimes I analyze myself and ask myself: how could I have composed without
knowing music theory or harmony?
- But then if you went to the Conservatory.
Yes, then finish the race. But my original ideas that I had as a child did not change. In
other words, when you study harmony they tell you not to do 5th fair and they teach
you many rules, but then music doesn't work that way at all.
- So your parents started you in music.
Especially my father. He was in charge of giving me this gentleman classes, he rented
the first piano and that's where I started to compose very basic little piano pieces. But I
already improvised a lot on the piano, a lot. I heard something on the radio and I played
it and the chords came to me alone, which I can't explain either. I did not think about it
at that time, I have already thought about it when I was older. How could I know what
the C chord was and know how to do it on the piano? Or Sol 7ª or faand modular?
My father used to guide me to all that with the guitar.
- So did your father play an instrument?
He played the guitar as a hobby. Besides being a military man, he spent 40 years at the
Teatro de la Zarzuela. He had a great ear.
- But was he working at the Teatro de la Zarzuela?
Yes, he was a tenor in the choir of the Teatro de la Zarzuela. Sometimes he was given
small roles as a soloist. But he was very nervous believing that he was going to forget
the letter and wrote the letter in the palm of his hand. He enjoyed music as much as I
did. I have ever seen my father cry while listening to Wagner.
- Oh yeah!
Lohengrin's prelude couldn't hear him he was crying.
- Look, what things!
And then the same thing happened to me. I cannot listen to some of Tchaikovsky's works
without crying. Or for example, Manon de Puccini there is an intermediate that
transports me to another world, it is something that I cannot, that I begin to feel inside…,
that even gives me tachycardia, my pulse accelerates. Because there are so many great
musicians ... When I listen to music everything disappears, it is as if I were floating in the
air, and there is nothing around me, so I listen to the music that enters so deep inside of
me that I get excited. Sometimes it leaves me very alone. When I heard Parsifal in full,
which I had never done before, I was already older, I was already over 50 years old. I
heard it complete at home, on records. I had the full text translated into Spanish. Well,
I heard Parsifal in full ... and it couldn't be more great. And I felt such a great peace
inside. And it is a work that many find heavy. But it didn't weigh heavily on me. In all the
work there are no fast times. It is in Andante, Moderatto, Adagio, there is not an Allegro
... It is something ...
- It is something very well elaborated to make all the feelings flow.
Exact. Wagner was great. There are really many geniuses. Not only is his genius in how
they counterpoint or link the chords or instrument. It is what they carry inside that
cannot be taught. You are born with it and you transmit it. Maybe with the words I
cannot express myself well but with the music… Now I have returned to compose
because I have been very down for a few years and I have not composed. I have
composed again and when I am composing music the same thing happens to me,
everything disappears. And then what I want to express comes to me, I feel it inside.
And then, it is something that those who have felt these things will understand me.
- How many brothers were you in your house?
I have a sister and two more brothers. My sister was in the National Choir and then went
to the Zarzuela Choir at the end. She is retired as a singer, she was a soprano. One of my
brothers has made some music, but without studies. Just like my father who had no
musical studies, but improvised. My other brother also liked music a lot, but he has not
dedicated himself to it.
- Where have you studied Julio? What studies have you done in music?
Well, everything has been in Madrid. First the gentleman this that played the trombone
in the band of the Ministry of the Army. And in a year I examined myself with this 1st
and 2nd solfege gentleman, and also in 2nd they gave me outstanding and also 1st piano.
I already started official in 3rd and 4th solfege. And from 2nd piano and all official at the
- In the Conservatory?
Yes, at the Conservatory. And from then on I made it all official except a few times that
I applied to more advanced courses because the race was very long. When I studied
there were 4 years of music theory, 4 of harmony, 3 of counterpoint, fugue and 4 of
composition. Apart from the compulsory subjects that had to be done such as chamber
music, music history, folklore, etc. I was officially examining a subject and I was also
taking advantage of September to examine myself free of other subjects of higher
courses. And so I went forward because I started very late at the Conservatory.
- And who were your teachers?
Well I have had many. I have had in 1st piano Teresa Fuste who lived very close to my
house, in addition. Then I met Adelino Barrios. I had a friend who was very friendly with
Adelino Barrios, so this friend came to my house and I played a little piano that I had on
the piano. And another day I played another long play, but I only played the first time,
which I had started composing when I was 15 years old, and then he introduced me to
Adelino Barrios. We went to Adelino Barrios' house and there I played part of that
concert and he offered to give me harmony classes. At that time I did not know how to
instrument and the work was only for piano. And so I was going to his house for almost
half a year. Then he introduced me to Gerardo Gombau and many other people, but I
don't remember their names. I remember their faces, but the names were not very
- And you had also named me Francisco Calés before, could it be?
Francisco Calés was a great teacher. He wrote some counterpoint notes that cannot be
improved. He taught counterpoint and flight. Too bad he did not escape because he was
very sick and Daniel Vega gave it. Daniel Vega was also a great teacher and a great
person. Very good. Then I also studied with Gerardo Gombau through Adelino Barrios.
And harmony I studied at first with Daniel Bravo, then I continued with Father Masó.
- You also named Román Alís on some occasion, could it be?
In composition was Antón García Abril and his assistant was Román Alís. The first thing
Antón García Abril told us was to take a text and put music on it. I took a text from Miguel
Hernández and made a song or a Lied, whatever you want to call it. And he sat at a table
and said, "Well, the introduction is very long and it may be heavy." But I saw that he got
up and went to the piano and played it. Composition students were very few, I think we
were 5 at most. And Antón García Abril said something like this about my composition:
“finally, a composer who is great”. And the other colleagues began to ask me what I had
done to get Antón García Abril to say that about my work. And I told them that I had
written a play with what I felt inside and that's it.
- But it was a success it seems to be. It was a success.
But Román Alís, the assistant, was more human for me, who always told me in exams:
"You have done a fantastic work." "Very good works." Even in 4th composition he also
told me. In 4th of composition it was necessary to make a 1st time of a Symphony and a
dramatic scene. Román Alís was shocked by the dramatic scene and told me: "Look,
what you have done is great." Too bad this man who had many works composed is half
forgotten and disappeared. Many works, many. And he died relatively young.
- And your classmates, who were they? What deal did you have with them?
Well I have always had a good deal with them. I have had many colleagues, look at such
a long career. In music theory I already had several friends, in harmony others, some
were disappearing and others were still in contact. Even others like Mercedes Padilla
Valencia are in 1st harmony and we continue together until the end of the composition.
We always coincided in all the exams. We made harmony, counterpoint and
composition together. I even enrolled in conducting, and she continued. There was
García Polo, who was García Asensio's assistant. But García Asensio appeared very little
by class. García Polo was another fantastic teacher, he also died young. I am very
nervous inside and then when I was running my arms were stiff. And he would tell me
that if my arms were seized like that, I couldn't lead. And I already said I am not worth
directing and I left it in 2nd year.
- And Valentín Ruíz Was he also your partner?
Oh yeah. I had a lot of friendship with Valentín Ruíz, but I have never seen him again.
We have gone different ways and I have never seen him again. He was a professor at
the Conservatory when they transferred him from the Opera to the Glorieta de Carlos
V, which is where the old San Carlos Hospital was, which is where I was born.
- In the San Carlos hospital?
Yes. It was a San Carlos hospital then, and then they moved him near the Plaza de Cristo
Rey. And the Conservatory that was in the opera square moved him to this place. And
the Royal Conservatory of Music of Madrid is still there today.
- And when did you start working? At what age did you start working as a musician
more or less?
Well, the harmony was not over when my girlfriend told me that we needed more
money to buy an apartment. So I put an ad in a newspaper and two or three people
called me, but one if he came home, the others did not appear. And from that person I
started to give him music solfege lessons. And in time he told me that he had other
friends who also wanted music classes. At the beginning I was teaching at my house and
the students gradually increased. The students increased so much that I could not cope.
More and more and more.
- So have you always worked as a musician?
Always. I've always been very introverted, and very shy, and I still am in a way. I have
never been asking acquaintances for a job or help me. For example, I entered the Teatro
de la Zarzuela in 1979 because I had a friend who told me they needed a pianist and
insisted that I go and present myself to do a test. José Pereda was there, and I have to
say that I have been lucky with the people I have been with, not with all, but with 90%.
José Pereda was a great professional. He was the person who set up the Madrid Choir
of Singers where he stayed for many years. And almost all the Zarzuelas are recorded by
them. Then that choir had already broken up and they all entered the Teatro de la
Zarzuela. And he kept directing the choirs. The test I did consisted of reading at first sight
a work. I opened the first page of the score he gave me and started playing. And then
he brought out another work and I also played it at first sight. And he made me a
contract for the whole season that included zarzuelas and since the Teatro Real was not
inaugurated, then the operas were also performed at the Teatro de la Zarzuela. And the
zarzuela season ended and the opera season began. And there the choir was reinforced
many times with more singers. I was there for 3 years.
On another occasion I went to replace a person in the Chair of Singing at the Royal
Conservatory of Music in Madrid, and they gave me a test. There were Mª Luisa
Castellanos, Sofía Pérez Santos, and another person who I do not remember her name.
Well, this man called Pedro Lavirgen and all the teachers at the Conservatory. And I
started to accompany several singers with any work. And everyone was amazed. I have
always been good at reading at first sight. When I read at first sight I am seeing the
harmony how it is going, I am seeing that this is a development, and the different parts
of the work, I can see everything together. And all of that helps a lot. I've been a bad
piano student because I was really bored. I was very bad at doing scales and exercises.
Composition has always been my thing, but I've made a living with the piano.
- You are also a composer. How many works do you have published?
At the time of releasing works have been very few because I am not a determined
person. A String Quartet at the Villa Cultural Center, a Sonata for violin and piano on
Radio Nacional. Now is when I'm putting on because I've written a lot of music and it's
getting lost. I thought that I would always be 40 years old, but now I look older and my
memory falters and everything falters.
- Now you have just edited a work called Evocation.
Yes. At first I had composed it for piano solo. It is a work written on purpose as if it had
been written in the late 19th century. On the centenary of the death of Tchaikovsky, a
composer who has always been my favorite, I composed that work as if Tchaikovsky had
composed it in his time and had not and not in ours. So it's very tonal, there are no big
dissonances or anything like that. He is the only work I have done in that style. Because
almost all of them are atonal ...
- Your compositional style is more of the 20th century, atonal, serialism ...
But I don't think about it when I'm composing. Maybe I see a theme that I can do a series
with. And then have that series have it as a leitmotif within a work that appears from
time to time and mix it with other atonal compositional techniques, etc. The truth is that
they have taken out so many names that one is already lost, like random music. I don't
like making random music. I only wrote a play that included random music with twelve-
tone music and atonal music at the same time. The three planes together, but it was for
a great orchestra. And I presented this work for the Savings Bank award, but they didn't
give it to me.
- Wow! But if you have been given other prizes. He had told me that you had three
composition awards.
Composition yes. I got a composition award in 1st, 2nd and 3rd composition. And in 4th
year of composition I had an Honorable Mention.
- And you also told me that you were named for a scholarship. It is not like this?
Yes, for the Ataulfo Argenta Scholarship. I showed up there to sign up for a music
pedagogy course and they gave me the scholarship. And there I was in Castro Urdiales
where Ataulfo Argenta was born. We spent about 20 days with everything paid except
for trips.
- And have you collaborated or helped other composers in their composition?
If I have been able to do it I always have.
- And have you made musical arrangements for them?
Yes, yes, many. I have made many arrangements.
- So how many published works do you have?
Well unfortunately very few. Let's see if I start publishing because I have the strip
- Yes, do you have many compounds?
Many, many. And some are over an hour and for a great orchestra, and some I have
already lost.
I have published a work that I did in 1993 and I called it Reunion. And then I have two
other works entitled A Little Bit of Tchaicovsky, a Sonata for piano and a Concerto for
two pianos. In this last work, the Concerto for two pianos, is actually a concerto for piano
and orchestra, but the second piano is what the orchestra would do, but reduced for
- And where can you buy your published works? Where?
Before it was very easy to find places where they were sold, but nowadays in very few
bookstores you can find sheet music. They sell them in the El Argonauta bookstore, and
in Respaldiza. But then Respaldiza closed. Even Prudencio Ibáñez had distributed the
work Reencuentro by San Francisco, in the United States and by Japan inclusive and that
work was sold very well.
- What is the instrument for which you like to compose the most?
The orchestra. Because it is so simple. I always say: it is much easier to write works for a
large orchestra than for 5 or 6 instruments. The reason would be long to explain. I
learned to orchestrate in a very simple way that I recommend to anyone who wants to
do it. Many times they tell you to buy the instrumentation books, such as Mortal and
Casela's, that there are many. But in those books they only put you the tessitura of the
flute, what the flute can do: trills, tremolos, etc. What the clarinet, oboe, bassoon, or
violin can do: double strings, triple strings ... But when it comes to combining one
instrument with another it is not taught anywhere. And I learned it by taking works by
Tchaikovsky, symphonies of various composers, even Mahler, and little by Wagner. He
would take the score from the orchestra and transcribe it for two pianos. And then I was
watching the orchestration and I was thinking: "but this is very simple". Tchaikovsky's
way of orchestrating couldn't be easier. Take maybe first violins, second violins in low
octave, violas in low octave, that would sound like nothing in particular, but the genius
is that between that gap that there is of the eighths, put for example in the serious part
two trombones, come on to suppose, in the middle part two bassoons, and in the
highest part two flutes. And that fits everything so well that the orchestra sounds very
full. It can be made to sound even poor, to highlight the instrument you want to sound
the most, it is very simple, and when the great orchestra sounds that is the easiest thing
in the orchestration.
- But you also really like improvisation, right?
Well, I've done that all my life. I have thrown myself for hours. Take anything that I made
up and making variations and I have been able to spend hours and hours ... Daily. And
that also helped me to be happy inside. Or be full. All my life I have been less full these
last years that with the death of my mother it has really affected me a lot. It has affected
me a lot and I have been very frustrated not having taken all these works that I have
composed and not having edited them at the time I composed them. 30 years ago it
would have been very easy and now I see that I can die in a year or two and I say no ...
- All out.
All outside before dying.
- Well, Julio, is there anything else you want to add to this interview?
My character has always been non-introverted, it has been ... My way of being has been
very shy, afraid of hurting people with words or whatever, without wanting to ... And
then that has slowed me down a bit before. doing more important things has slowed me
down. I still have that character, although less than before. Because I think that life, what
is it really? It is very short, it ends very quickly. I don't give importance to anything
anymore. If they hurt me, they have done it to me ... I try not to judge that person
because everything happens very quickly. So…
- What is important to you?
It has been to re-compose that it took more than 10 years without composing a work. I
was very frustrated. And when I compose again I am full inside, it is what fills me, the
music. There is nothing else, I don't know why ... We are like this ...
- Well, Julio, thanks for granting us this interview and we hope to see the presentation
of Evocation soon.
Well Loli, thank you very much. I'm so glad to have met you, you have changed my life a
lot, for good, eh?
- Thanks Julio.
Thank you, Loli.
After the interview with Julio Robles García we can conclude that the composer from a
very young age was gifted for composition, was a fundamental part of it. His great
musical intuition could qualify him as gifted if today he were a child and not an adult. All
his life he has been in contact with music and has been fortunate to be properly trained.
His musical career has gone through various stages without ever leaving his passion for
music composition and teaching. He has passed repertoire to a multitude of singers and
has worked on the best stages of our country. But perhaps the least visible facet has
been that of composer since the publication of works is sometimes not an easy task and
requires special dedication. And it is always interesting to discover new things at any
age. We still have a lot to learn ...
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