It was only about the encore, the only one that Albert Guinovart did in his magnificent debut on Thursday at Carnegie Hall. But the “catalan community and friends”, whom he thanked for having attended the recital, moved with emotion in their seats.

The sails will swell / The wind will carry us / Like a horse run wild by the waves…

The composer and pianist from Barcelona played this hymn on the piano, which belongs to what is the quintessential Catalan musical, and the lyrics of the famous refrain resounded in the heads of those present. As if the pirate ship by Mar i Cel – based on Guimerà’s work of the same name – was going to sail the gray lead of the Atlantic until it took over Manhattan.

Anything is possible in New York.

A couple of hours before, the evening bustle at the doors of Carnegie Hall was divided into two lines: the one for the recital that Guinovart was going to dedicate to Alicia de Larrocha, with the support of the Institut Ramon Llull, and the one for the summer concert of the Orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera House directed by Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

“We act in the same place and at the same time, but I in the small room,” Guinovart had told the Canadian director. “There are no small concerts”, he assures that he answered him.

And there are none when it is honest art that transcends the hundred occupied seats, as was the case in that beautiful little chamber hall that a few months ago also housed the Casals Quartet. Because Guinovart does not intend to hide the ease with which he swims between the waters of the musical –be careful, Dagoll Dagom will replace Mar i Cel next year– and those of the classical genre. On the contrary, he vindicates the facility that he has to make “beautiful and lyrical” melodies.

“The nocturnes is where I feel comfortable composing,” he admits. And on this special New York night he premiered the one he dedicates to De Larrocha, a referential figure of whom he never became a student, although he equally venerated her. In her honor and in that of the unforgettable evenings that the pianist gave around the world, Guinovart started with the spectacular Allegro de Concierto de Granados.

The brilliant acoustics of the hall would be all too evident in the poetic Waltzes that followed. Guinovart did not dare to take his foot off the pedal seeking to be faithful to the color of Granados. However, that point of stridency was shown in Turina’s Three Fantastic Dances, another emblematic Spaniard in De Larrocha’s Spanish repertoire, with which Guinovart ended – bravísimo! – the first part of the concert.

In the second, the musician avoided limiting himself to presenting his new album, Poems without words (Sony Classical), as it is an intimate pearl. An album that his record company loves, because it fits into the massive lists of Spotify type music to read. “But a concert needs contrasts,” warns Guinovart. And so it was that he introduced his own Poetic Waltzes, before showing his fondness for Alicia in the delicate nocturne composed on the occasion of the centenary of her birth.

Amused, Guinovart told the public how the pandemic gave rise to 24 one-minute preludes, written in the 24 tones and intended to be posted on Instagram, of which he offered eight at Carnegi Hall. But it was in Emily Dickinson’s Three Poems (of the five that the figure of the American poet has inspired him) when her music led to those states of the soul that lead to a full understanding with oneself.

And he finished with a virtuoso twist – “my agency always tells me that I have to claim myself as a pianist”, he says –, playing the piece titled Arlecchino from his celebrated album Nocturne. In fact, the initial idea was to present that album in New York in 2020, the year in which the pandemic cut short projects…

Since then, Guinovart has also had time to make a symphonic record with the OBC (El lament de la terra, about caring for the planet) and to edit Alba Eterna, his opera about the fascination a young dancer awakens in four characters; an example of organic composition for voices and the ability to integrate styles: from twelve-tone to neoclassicism, from romanticism to Broadway.

“Yes, what is hard for me to write is the epic, the virtuous,” he stated hours before the recital, giving an account of the soup of the day at the Penn Club in midtown New York. “The ballad Per què he plorat? , by Mar i Cel , came out very quickly, but the pirates’ hymn resisted me, it came out of the most bombastic”.

It was years later that Xavier Bru de Sala, the librettist, explained to him why: since he had no musical talent and was afraid that the accents would not add up, for example, he would hum a ballad from The Phantom of the Opera and write. And for the Himne dels pirates he used La Internacional and La Marseillaise. “How could I not get a pacham-pacham, if the metric is a military anthem!”, he laughs.

New York suits us so well…