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ClassicsOnline Home » NIN-CULMELL: Tonadas
Joaquín Nin-Culmell (b. 1908)
Tonadas Volumes I - IV
Joaquín Marfa Nin-Culmell was born in Berlin in 1908. He was a son of the
distinguished Cuban composer, pianist and musicologist Joaquín Nin y
Castellanos, and his wife Rosa Culmell, who had settled in Berlin in the same year. The family,
including a brother Thorvald and a sister, the writer and subsequent mistress
of Henry Miller Anaïs Nin, were later deserted by their father, who left his
wife and married a rich heiress, an action that he later sought to excuse.
Recently published diaries of Anaïs Nin give an account of an incestuous
relationship between father and daughter and the bitterness of Joaquín
Nin-Culmell towards his father.
Nin-Culmell was educated in New York and in
Paris and had his first music lessons from his father, following whose example
he became a student of the Schola Cantorum, where his teachers included the
pianist Paul Braud and, for composition, Paul Dukas, and at the Paris
Conservatoire. He later studied composition with Manuel de Falla in Granada,
and continued his development as a pianist under the guidance of Alfred Cortot
and of Ravel's friend Ricardo Viñes. He has enjoyed a distinguished career as a
composer and pianist, with academic positions at Williams College, Williamstown,
and subsequently at the University of California, Berkeley.
The four volumes of Tonadas were written
between 1956 and 1961 and consist of versions of traditional Spanish dances and
songs, treated in a manner that continues the work of Manuel de Falla and
Spanish nationalist composers. Arrangements and occasional variations are
subtly harmonized to reveal their nature and musical possibilities and
generally treated with unobtrusive ingenuity.
Modern Spain includes very diverse regional
cultural traditions, musical and linguistic. The first volume of Nin-Culmell's
Tonadas opens with the Basque love--song Saratarra naizela orok badakite. Vol.
II, No. 19, of the Tonadas is a Basque autumn-song, and Vol. IV, Nos. 46 and 47
return to the Basque country for a song and a dance, the zortzico (zortziko), a
Basque dance-melody of varied rhythm that is most characteristic of the region.
The adjacent region of Castile and León is the source of the rhythmically
unusual charrada of the ancient city of Salamanca and, in León, of songs and
dances of relative sobriety. To the North of León is Asturias, with its high
mountains isolating its coastal region and separating it from the provinces to
the south. Like the adjoining Galicia, to the extreme North-West of the Iberian
peninsula, it has its vaqueiros, cow-herds, whose song, a vaqueirada, appears
in Vol. I, No. 8, the counterpart of the song of the arrieros, muleteers, of
Galicia, represented in the Galician Canto de arriero, Vol. II, No. 23. Vol.
III, Nos. 26-28 are characteristic Asturian dances and songs, No. 27
introducing the principal folk instrument of the region, the bagpipe, found
more frequently in Galicia. The instrument is used to accompany the most
popular of Galician dances, the mill-dance or muiñeira, heard in Vol. II, No.
24 and in Vol. I, No. 10 of the Tonadas, where it is followed in No. 11 by the
tambourine dance-song, the pandeirada, a dance that re-appears in Vol. III, No.
29, and the best known of all Galician song-forms, the alalá, its name derived
from the text of the song's refrain.
Towards the South, Extremadura, the native
district of Cortes and Pizarro, conquerors of Mexico and of Peru, lies between
the historically Spanish and Moorish regions of Spain. The best known
dance-song in Extremadura is the jota, found in other regions of Spain and
originating in Aragon. The Tonadas include a number of regional varieties of
jota, with examples from Extremadura in Vol. II, No. 18, and Vol. IV, No. 45.
The second of these follows a Paleo, a stick dance. Valencia offers a single
formal Folias, Vol. III, No. 25.
The Tonadas include music from Murcia, the
region lying between Andalusia and Valencia on the Mediterranean coast. Vol.
II, No. 21 is a seguidillas, a dance-song that exists in various areas of the
peninsula in divergent forms. Catalonia, the region adjacent to Provence, with
its own related and distinctive language, appears in Vol. IV, Nos. 37-42, and
the Balearic Islands, with their form of the language, in Vol. III, Nos. 31-36.
The Mateixa is similar to the jota, the Copeo a couple-dance and the Cavallets
a hobby-horse dance. The whole varied collection returns finally to the heart
of Spain, to Castile, for a final jota.
Maria Luisa Cantos
The pianist Maria Luisa Cantos was born in
Barcelona, where she studied the piano, the organ and the history of Spanish
music. She has taken a leading part in the performance and propagation of
Spanish music and is the founder of the international courses on the
interpretation of Spanish music that have been taking place annually since 1979
at Baden in Switzerland as well as of the more recently established Música
Española Schweiz foundation. Her extensive repertoire includes the complete
piano works of Joaquín Nin-Culmell and she was a recent participant in the 1992
Munich Festival Rodrigo in honour of the Spanish composer Joaquín Rodrigo. She
has been honoured in Spain with the Lazo de Dama de la Orden de Isabella
Católica for her cultural achievement abroad.
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