Dutch conductor Antony Hermus leads the Dessau Orchestra in a lovely programme of Spanish-themed orchestral music including works by Chabrier, Turina, Ravel, de Falla, Márquez and the wonderful Concierto de Aranjuez by Joaquín Rodrigo. Guitarist Marlon Titre is the soloist in this popular piece which, since its premiere in Barcelona seventy years ago, has remained a favourite in the concerto repertoire due to its passionate and emotional melodies. Everyone can hum the opening guitar melody of the adagio, although not perhaps with the same panache Titre brings!
The remaining works are either composed by Spaniards celebrating their musical roots, or by composers who became fascinated by the exciting rhythms and sensual melodies intrinsic to Spanish culture. Inspired by visits to Spain, Spanish poetry or even childhood memories these tributes create a musical journey through Seville and Andalusia to the Basque country of the North.
Acousence have once again delivered a recording that matches popular and lesser-known repertoire, with talented musicians delivering memorable performances, all wrapped up in beautiful Studio Master sound. A worthy addition to their Living Concert Series.
Emmanuel Chabrier - "España"
French composer Emmanuel Chabrier travelled to Spain with his wife from July to December 1882. He was fascinated by the local culture and especially the music he heard on the street and in cafés. From Cadiz he wrote to conductor Charles Lamoureux of his intention to compose an extraordinary fantasia upon his return to Paris to bring audiences to their feet. The melodies would be so sensual, he wrote, that Lamoureux will want to embrace the orchestra. Chabrier initially wrote out a piano score which he later orchestrated. On November 4, 1883, Charles Lamoureux conducted the premiere of España in the Théâtre du Château d'Eau in Paris. The reception was so overwhelming that the piece had to be played again immediately and it was even programmed the following Sunday.
Chabrier wrote in the programme notes for the premiere that he tried to "connect the powerful rhythms of the jota with the freer, dreamier lyricism of the malagueña. These two characteristic rhythms of Northern and Southern Spain are intertwined and superimposed upon each other, using all the possibilities for polyrhythm available." The España rhapsody with its sparkling orchestration paved the way - eight years after Bizet's Carmen - for a great many orchestral works inspired by Spanish music such as Rimsky-Korsakov's Capriccio Espagnol (1887), Ravel's Rapsodie Espagnole (1908) and Debussy's Ibéria (1910).
Joaquín Turina - "Danzas fantásticas"
Joaquín Turina has always stood in the shadow of fellow composer and countryman Manuel de Falla, six years his senior. In contrast to de Falla, he thought of himself as a defender of the classical-romantic tradition and its strict forms. This is above all expressed in his numerous chamber works. He composed only four orchestral works: La Procession del Rocio, a symphonic poem, Danzas Fantásticas, Sinfonía Sevillana and Rapsodia Sinfónica for Piano and Orchestra.
Danzas Fantásticas was initially composed for piano in 1919 and appeared a short time later in an orchestral version. The three dances are inspired by the novel La Orgía by Basque poet José Más. Each movement bears a short quote from the book as its theme.
1. Exaltación (Exaltation, Doxology)
"It seemed as if the figures of this unparalleled painting were moving back and forth inside a blooming flower."
2. Ensueño (Dream)
"The strings of the guitar, whilst playing, were like the wailing of a soul unable to cope with the burden of its pain."
3. Orgía (Orgy)
"The scent of the flowers mingled with the smell of the chamomile and the slender cups were filled with an unmatched wine - like incense - bliss emerged."
Each of the three movements represents a different region in Spain and its characteristic style of dancing. In the first movement, an Aragonese jota is heard, one also employed by Chabrier and de Falla in comparable works. After a mysterious introduction, the fast jota in 3/4 time appears. The characteristic changing triplets are used as a melodic hallmark. The movement fades away tenderly and gracefully.
The second movement opens with five rousing introductory bars, after which the syncopated 5/8 rhythm of a Basque zorcico appears, alternating with the flowing movement of regular 6/8 time. A farruca from Andalusia is featured in the third movement Orgía. Powerful fiery passages contrast with lighter, more gracious phrases. The dance pauses for an expressive cello solo just before the entire orchestra furiously concludes the piece.
Joaquín Rodrigo - "Concierto de Aranjuez"
The premiere of Concierto de Aranjuez on November 9, 1940 in Barcelona was an overwhelming success. This guitar concerto is Joaquín Rodrigo's most popular work, not only in its original form but also in numerous arrangements such as those of Miles Davis, Jean-Christian Michel and the Modern Jazz Quartet. The concerto was composed in the spring of 1939 in Paris, where Rodrigo had lived since 1927, just before his return to Madrid. He was asked to compose the piece by his friend, the guitarist Regino Sainz de la Maza, who also premiered the work and to whom the work is dedicated. The title of the concerto refers to the famous palace and gardens of Aranjuez south of Madrid, the former summer residence of the Spanish kings. The Concierto de Aranjuez is homage to the Spanish court as well as to the world of Flamenco, the traditional music of Spain, in which the influences of various cultures come together.
At the beginning of the first movement, the guitar sets the rhythm and character of the work, which the orchestra - used extremely sparingly - then takes over. A genial melodic idea from the orchestra joins the basic rhythm of the movement. In spite of its passionate moments, the music returns to the beginning pianissimo at the end of the movement.
The heart of the concerto is without a doubt the Adagio movement. Rodrigo's grief and pain of the miscarriage of his son and prayers for his wife's recovery are expressed here. The movement is a loose saeta, the mourning song of Andalusian processions. Its endlessly sad melody is begun by the cor anglais. The melody is varied as it wanders through the entire movement including an extensive guitar cadenza.
The third movement, an Allegro gentile in rondo form (gentile = graceful, noble) evokes a court dance. Its light and playful character is not least brought about by the appealing combination of bars in 2/4 and 3/4 time. In spite of all its exuberance, the finale also ends pianissimo in a discrete and reserved manner.
Maurice Ravel - "Alborada del gracioso"
The French composer Maurice Ravel had a special relationship with Spain. His mother was Basque; he himself was born in Ciboure, a port town on the Basque coast. However, it was not Basque music that he picked up as a child, but Spanish. "... the factitiousness and the glamour of these hispaniades were to emerge one day as a Spain of dreams and deceit: the Spain of Maurice Ravel" as portrayed by Ravel's biographer Roland Manuel.
The first evidence of a "hispaniade" of his own is a Habanera which the 20 year-old Ravel composed for two pianos in 1895 and subsequently incorporated into his first major orchestral work 12 years later in Rapsodie Espagnole. Alborada del Gracioso ("Morning Song of a Jester") was the fourth of a collection of five pieces for piano Miroirs published in 1904-05. Ravel orchestrated this short piece in 1918, which was first performed in Paris on May 17, 1919 in Paris.
An Alborada (alba = dawn) is an aubade or morning song using medieval court poetry, the theme of which is the woeful separation of lovers after a night secretly spent together. In Ravel's piece, the hero is a gracioso, the jolly companion of the cavaliers in the comedies of Lope de Vegas.
In Ravel's hands Alborada del Gracioso becomes a strangely altered, almost scary score. This impression is enhanced by the fascinating ways in which the orchestra are employed. At the beginning, the orchestra has the effect of a giant guitar which rhythmically drives the piece along. Short Spanish motifs in the winds stand on their own and do not join together to form any continuous melody. The slower middle section of the work features a bassoon solo in the form of a recitative interrupted by shimmering and dreamlike chords of the divisi strings - a haunting scene evolves. The mood becomes more and more distraught and the rhythmic and melodic motifs appear more surreal and grotesquely distorted. The "morning song" develops into a farce and - like many other of Ravel's works - threatens to end in a tumultuous catastrophe. But instead, a bright D major chord finishes the work with a reconciliatory flourish.
Manuel de Falla - "El sombrero de tres picos"
"What Sibelius is to Finland, Kodály and Bartók to Hungary, Janác.ek to Czecholovakia, de Falla became to Spain: the national master whose oeuvre spread across the world beyond the borders of his native country." (H. Wirth). Works considered showcase examples for de Falla's art are the symphonic impressions for piano and orchestra Noches en los Jardines de España ("Nights in the Gardens of Spain", 1909-15) as well as the two ballets El Amor Brujo ("Love the Magician", 1915) and El Sombrero de Tres Picos ("The Three-Cornered Hat", 1919). The latter was created at the suggestion of Sergei Diaghilev, the director of the famous Ballets Russes. De Falla decided to adapt a story by Redro Antonio de Alarcón y Ariza. The work, over thirty minutes long, premiered as a pantomime in Paris in 1917. The staged premiere took place on July 22, 1919 in the Alhambra Theatre in London. De Falla's music, Pablo Picasso's stage design, Ernest Ansermet's conducting and the top cast of dancers under the choreographer Léonide Massine as the miller helped the piece to become a great success. In his memoirs, Massine writes, "The Three-cornered Hat started as an attempt to combine Spanish folk dance with classical technique, but in the course of its development it became a choreographic interpretation of the Spanish spirit and the Spanish way of life." De Falla uses original Spanish folk melodies in all of their regional diversity here far more than in his other works.
The three dances, which de Falla later compiled into a suite, stem from the second part of the ballet. The Neighbour's Dance is based on the celebration of St. John's Day when villagers gather for an Andalusian feast. De Falla uses a seguidilla here, a dance which had become the epitome of Spanish culture. Its characteristic rhythm, which can also be found in the bolero, is set to a lyrical, flowing melody. The following miller's farucca, on the other hand, is tremendously forceful, opening with horn and cor anglais solos. The concluding climax forms a prolonged jota, which derives its force from the confrontation of rhythmic ostinatos.
Arturo Márquez - Danzón No. 2
Arturo Márquez is a well-known composer both in his native Mexico as well as in all of Latin America. He originally came from Álemos in the state of Sonora. His interest in music developed at an early age. When his family moved to Southern California, he attended the local high school and learned to play piano, trombone and violin. At the age of 16, he began to study composition in Mexico. Various scholarships enabled him to study in Paris and Valencia, California. His international career as a composer began in the early 1990s with his series of Danzónes. Thes are based on Cuban music and music of the Mexican region of Veracruz. His Danzón No. 2 (1994), commissioned by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), became especially popular.
The dance starts in a moderate tempo increases in tempo to a con fuoco. The clarinet initially presents the cantabile main theme which is then varied over the course of the piece by various instruments or groups of instruments. The tempo increases each time with the reprise of the theme by the horns and strings. The original tempo seamlessly returns in the middle section of the dance with the theme in the solo violin. Then the tempo starts to speed up again, this time gradually, only to lead to an even more breathless con fuoco than the first time around.
Danzón features two rhythmic patterns which are typical for Latin American folk music. The so-called tresillo, an irregular triplet is mainly used as a basic pattern for the accompaniment. In contrast, the cinquillo, an irregular division of 4/4 time into 5 notes is decisive in creating the swing feel of the melody. It is the give and take of these two elements which lends the piece its irresistible charm. Ronald Müller