They spoke about it
Few national music styles are as connected with one instrument as is Spain with the guitar. The instrument seems to contain the colours, the very spirit of the various and diverse regions of the country within its wooden casing. This album, entitled Canciones, also demonstrates most eloquently that many Spanish composers seem to have had an innate way with the profoundly intriguing possibilities of the instrument.
The present program features works by Spanish composers of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. If many (such as Joaquín Rodrigo and Joaquín Turina) wrote frequently and eloquently for the instrument, others heard on this recording (such as Isaac Albéniz and Manuel de Falla) wrote works originally conceived for other instruments (such as the piano and the voice) that were transcribed for guitar – which in retrospect was a natural development. Yet despite apparent differences, it is what binds and unites the composers to be found on this recording that is most important and rewarding. All the featured composers, from Albéniz to Federico Moreno Torroba and Rodrigo (the latter born in Valencia), were inspired by Spain’s historically rich musical history and equally important folk music. Many, such as Albéniz and de Falla, were directly influenced by the father of Spanish musical nationalism, Felipe Pedrell, and all used folk music, folksong and Spanish dance as a direct and major source of inspiration for their guitar compositions. For his part, the celebrated author Federico Garcia Lorca not only sang folksongs, but accompanied them on the piano in arrangements of his creation.
All the composers present on this album not only evoked the popular and folk origins of much Spanish music, but each in his own very personal way etched out the contours of their nation in musical lines. Albéniz’s Suite española (1887) and de Falla’s Siete canciones populares españolas (1913) evoke various regions of Spain as though part of a musical as well as geographical voyage of discovery. The former’s graceful “Granada” (serenata) describes the region of Andalusia as effectively as “Sevilla” (Sevillanas) does Seville. The courtly corranda epitomizes Albéniz’s native Catalonia as touchingly as de Falla’s “El paño moruno” recalls the rhythmically emphatic music of Murcia or his “Nana”, the Andalusian lullaby the composer’s mother sang to him. If Garcia Lorca’s assimilation and reinterpretation of his native Andalusian folksongs was characterized by piquant harmonic inflections and twisting melodic arabesques, Joaquin Rodrigo preferred in his stately “Tonadilla” (a kind of dance-like musical intermezzo originally written for two guitars) to underline Spain’s glorious musical history of a bygone age.
Two twentieth century masters of guitar composition, Moreno Torroba (born in Madrid) and the Sevilla born Turina were both inspired by the defining presence and inspiration of Andrés Segovia, the guitarist who gave the guitar an international credibility and notoriety. Moreno Torroba (who could not play the instrument) composed a youthful three-movement Sonatina for Segovia that blended classical form with a quintessentially Spanish romanticism that displayed the instrument’s lyrical but also more overtly expressive possibilities. Turina’s 1931 Sonata (also written for Segovia) fused a hint of French impressionism with the flamenco idiom in the way that the other so-called Spanish Nationalist composers such as Pedrell, de Falla, and Moreno Torroba did. These works also displayed a rhythmic vitality, tonal variety and range of sonority, matched only by the considerable technical fluency and proficiency demanded and required.
This album remains more than a series of musical snapshots of Spain. It is more a tapestry in music of the regions and contrasts of Spain, its sources of inspiration and its multiple influences. And to evoke Spain’s beating heart and perhaps even its “soul,” it is only natural that one turns to the guitar.
© Richard Turp, 2017