Manuel Quiroga

Manuel Quiroga Losada, who was to become one of Europe’s most outstanding violinists, was born in the Galician town of Pontevedra on April 15th, 1892. Both his father’s interest and the first lessons of violin his brother got as a young boy would wake up Manuel’s talent.

He moved first to Madrid to study violin with Professor José del Hierro and in 1909 to Paris where he attended lessons with Edouard Nadaud and also Jaques Thibaud. At the Paris Consevatoire (the main musical academic institution of the time) he meets Georges Enesco, Eugène Ysaÿe and discovers his admiration for Fritz Kreisler. Two years later Kreisler himself would be -alongside with Lucien Capet, Martin Marsick, Jules Boucherit and Jaques Thibaud, among others- one of the members of the jury which, under the chairmanship of Gabriel Fauré, would award a 19-year-old Quiroga with the 1st prize of the Paris Conservatoire, following the unwalked path of Pablo de Sarasate. “Le Monde Musical” stated then: “Sarasate is not dead, Quiroga is his heir”. Other important newspapers and magazines of the time would also echo the great achievement of the young galician violinist: Le Matin, Le Figaro, Le Journal… Other prizes and awards followed, such as the Sarasate Prize, the “Jules Garcin” or the “Monnot”.

During those Paris years Quiroga meets his partner and pianist, Marta Leman (1st prize in Piano same year as Quiroga) as well as many artists and key figures of the musical world of the time: Falla, Turina, Casals, Nin, Ruiz Casaux, Cortot, Paul Paray or Darius Milhaud (who would obtain the “accésit” at the same concours won by Quiroga).

The applause becomes international, and concerts and tours consolidate his fame as violinist virtuoso until the start of the 1st World War. In his hometown of Pontevedra he is received as a local hero and performs with Granados at the Piano. He tours all over Spain and France programming not only the classical repertoire but also Sarasate’s and Kreisler’s compositions and transcriptions.

By the end of 1913 he signs his first contract with the international manager J. J. Schürmann, who represented also leading musicians worlwide such as Kubelik, Paderewski, Isadora Duncan, etc. After a big and succesful Europe Tour together with José Iturbi (in Austria he was released, helped by Spain’s King Alfonso XIII, after a short detention, under the accusation of espionage) he returns to France and does his first American Tour, starting in New York Ciity.

Installed in Paris since 1917 with his couple Marta Leman, when the end of the Great War allows concert seasons to function normally again, Quiroga visits Portugal, his natal Galicia, and all the main Spanish Cities, with a great triumph at Barcelona’s Palau de la Música Catalana.

1919 and 1920 will be the years of his british debut, with recitals, among other great halls, at the prestigious Wigmore Hall of London. Critics and colleagues, such as cellist Guilhermina Suggia, write about his “marvellous and flawless” interpretation of Tartini’s “Devills’s Trill” Sonata. England, Scotland, France, Germany, Portugal, Switzerland, Belgium (where he would perform together with Ysaÿe) and Spain stage the success of Quiroga, always accompanied by great pianists such as Paul Paray, J. José Castro or Marta Leman herself. Igor Stravisnky listens to him and confesses publicly his admiration for Quiroga. Composers such as E. Naudet, R. Penau, J. Arnay and S. Rousseau write music for him.

In 1924 he returns to the USA, with a debut at New York’s Carnegie Hall which would put the great Mischa Elman in a state of shock, as he would declare publicly himself. He returns to Britain and plays with the London Symphony Orchestra under Sir Thomas Beecham, touring as well Belgium and Spain.

In 1926 he makes his first southamerican tour (Argentina, Uruguay) playing with a Stradivarius lent to him by J. J. Wallen. His return to New York in 1928 would bring him the chance to play on a Guarneri del Gesu, courtesy of the rich benefactor J. Wanamaker. Concerts all over America, includig Cuba and Mexico would follow.

Still settled in Paris, he starts his phonographic activity, recording with labels RCA Victor and Pathé. In 1931, he is awarded with the highest distinction granted by the French Government: “La Légion D’Honneur”. The spanish equivalent would be only granted to him years later: “La Encomienda de Alfonso X El Sabio”.

1933 and 1937 see his last tours to America, with concerts with the New York Philharmonic under the baton of the great Georges Enesco, or recitals with Mischa Levitzki and José Iturbe. It was precisely after greeting farewell to Iturbi, in New York, where they had performed together, when he was fatally run down by a lorry. As a tragic result he lost mobility in his arm and soon developed a paralysis.

With 45 years old, he tries to keep on playing for a short while after the accident, but after the tragic Civil War in Spain, he will only continue with his musical work as a composer, being forced to leave the violin behind. His talent as painter will be his only artistic shelter with time as well as the brilliant caricatures that ornamented his letters. With big suffering, also due to Parkinson’s disease, and the economical problems due to the complicated treatment of his delicate health, Manuel Quiroga Losada died on april 19th, 1961, close to his new partner Maria Galvani. His artistic legacy (paintings, drawings, original scores, and his two violins, an Amati and a Lambert) is today custody of the Museum of Pontevedra.

Quiroga’s Violins

1.    A Nicola Amati dated 1684, granted to him when he counted 14  years (1906) by the Mugártegui family of Pontevedra, who owned it as a present offered to the rich galician family in the 18th century by the Spanish Queen, Isabel II.

2.    A Guadagnini, purchased by him.

3.    A Stradivarius which he borrowed for a time from Joachin Reifenberg’s widow.

4.    A 1713 Stradivarius, lent to him by J. Jeannette Wallen, valued in 11.000 $ (1926). Quiroga hastened to contract an insurance worth 44.000 French Francs.

5.   A 1737 Guarneri del Gesú, lent by John Wanamaker.