Musical conquistador

Dallas' Grover Wilkins uncovers the lost music of old Spain

The Spanish music community and government have been very supportive. Last year, the J.P. Morgan Bank invited Wilkins to Madrid to conduct the 20th-century premieres of several of the rediscovered works in a concert that was broadcast internationally on radio and television. Spanish royalty attended, and several people from Dallas flew there. The Fulbright Commission in Madrid has invited the Orchestra of New Spain there in 1998 to celebrate the commission's 40th anniversary, and there are negotiations under way for a 1998 tour to include London, Exeter, Vienna, and Versailles. The Orchestra is also in negotiations with two major record labels.

Wilkins' research is gaining the notice of both local universities and musicologists throughout the world. "We're doing very first-class research, and the payoff is going to be that, when this stuff goes public, there's not going to be any question about it," Wilkins says. "It's going to be done right the first time, and it will get lots of attention--the attention that this music deserves."

Wilkins acknowledges that he misses 20th-century music, his original calling, and he keeps a hand in it via his American Orchestra of Paris. He did the French premiere of Marvin Hamlisch's "Anatomy of Peace" (premiered here by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra), and he has also done concerts of Copland, Bernstein, and Britten. Wilkins says that it's healthy to keep one foot in the 20th century and one foot in the past, and that it's exciting to be, in essence, an explorer.

"This is what musicology is all about," Wilkins says. "Here you've got me, an American conductor whose career was specializing in 20th-century music and who was commissioning composers of his time, who's now doing the groundbreaking work on Spanish baroque music in Spain!"

The Orchestra of New Spain performs Thursday, November 21, at the East and Orient Gallery, 2901 N. Henderson.

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