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ClassicsOnline Home » Viva Espana: The Music of Spain
Sunday Morning Post
"Anyone wanting this music, at budget price should be well pleased by these performances, which are lively and effective"
Music of Spain
Manuel de Falla (1876 - 1946)
The Three-Cornered Hat (El sombrero de
Isaac Albeniz (1860 - 1909)
(Excepts from the orchestral arrangement
of Iberia by Enrique Fernandez Arbos)
El Corpus en Sevilla
Manuel de Falla y Matheu was the leading
Spanish composer of his generation, writing music that was both acceptable
internationally, and yet captured the essence of all that is Spanish. He was
born in Cádiz in 1876 and had his first music lessons from his mother, Catalan
by birth. His early education was in Cádiz, a city that allowed him to develop
his musical talents and interests and introduced him to the music of the
Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg, whose nationalist example he resolved to
follow. By the age of seventeen he had already decided to be a composer and to
write music that expressed in worthy terms the spirit of his own country, something
in which his immediate predecessors had had no very significant success.
Foreign composers had turned their hand to the composition of Spanish music,
but the nineteenth century had produced little of significance, until the
advent of the Catalan composers Isaac Albeniz and Enrique Granados, whose
achievement Manuel de Falla was to excel.
From Cádiz de Falla moved to the
Conservatory in Madrid, where he was joined by the rest of his family, whom he
helped to support by writing popular music. The principal musical influence on
him in Madrid was Felipe Pedrell, who had also guided Albeniz and Granados
towards a new kind of musical nationalism. After some success with other
compositions, de Falla wrote music of more lasting worth in his opera La
vida breve, completed in 1905 and first performed in Nice in 1913. In the
same year it was staged at the Opera-Comique in Paris, at the suggestion of
Paul Dukas. By then de Falla had already been in the French capital for six
years, in contact with Ravel and Debussy, and broadening his technique in a way
that would have been difficult in the relative isolation of Madrid.
In 1914 de Falla returned to the Spanish
capital, where his ballet El amor brujo was staged successfully in 1915.
The choreographer and principal dancer was Pastora Imperio, wife of the
toreador El Galio and daughter of the famous gypsy dancer La Mejorana, from
whom the composer derived a more intimate knowledge of this aspect of Spanish
tradition. At the same time he began his long study of Cante jondo, the folk
music of Andalusia. Meanwhile for the Russian impresario Dyagilev, who had
toyed with the idea of making use of Noches en los jardines de España (Nights
in the Gardens of Spain), for piano and orchestra, for a Spanish ballet, he
wrote the ballet score El sombrero de tres picos (The Three-Cornered
Hat), first staged in London by the Ballets Russes in 1919. In the same year he
moved to Granada, where he remained until the end of the Spanish Civil War. In
1939 he accepted an appointment in Buenos Aires and died in Argentina in 1946,
his final massive choral work, Atlántida, unfinished, although it had
occupied him intermittently for some twenty years.
Manuel de Falla's ballet The
Three-Cornered Hat, originally a pantomime under the title El corregidor
y la molinera, is based on a story by Pedro Antonio de Alarcón. The plot
concerns the jealousy of a miller, whose attractive wife has been subjected to
the attentions of the senile Corregidor. The ballet was mounted in 1919 with
decor by Picasso and choreography by Leonid Massin and includes examples of
traditional Spanish dances.
El amor brujo,
with its famous Ritual Fire Dance, tells the story of the gypsy girl Candelas,
haunted by the spirit of her dead lover, exorcised finally by the ritual dance,
which allows her to marry her new lover, Carmelo. The two-act opera La vida
breve, written ten years earlier, deals with the jealousy of Salud, whose
beloved Paco marries another, to be cursed by Salud, who falls dead of a broken
heart at the feet of the one she had loved.
Isaac Albéniz, an older contemporary of
Manuel de Falla, was born in the province of Lérida in 1860, and made his debut
as a pianist in Barcelona at the age of four, moving with his mother to Paris
three years later. Before long he was back in Spain once more, but escaped from
his family to give concerts in various parts of Spain and then in South America
and the United States. Returning to Europe, he studied for a time on a Spanish
scholarship in Brussels, and then attached himself to Liszt, who became his
teacher. Other important influences were Felipe Pedrell in Madrid, and Paul
Dukas and Vincent d'lndy in Paris, where he was to meet Manuel de Falla in
later years. He died in 1909.
The best known work by Albéniz is his
piano suite Iberia, the composition of which occupied him during the last three
years of his life. Eight of the pieces were arranged by his contemporary, the
Spanish composer and conductor Enrique Fernandez Arbós for orchestra. Triana
was performed under his direction at the ISCM meeting in Barcelona in 1939, and
his arrangements of seven more of the fourteen pieces of the collection won
Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra
The Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra
(Bratislava), the oldest symphonic ensemble in Slovakia, was founded in 1929 at
the instance of Milos Ruppeldt and Oskar Nedbal, prominent personalities in the
sphere of music. Ondrej Lenard was appointed its conductor in 1970 and in 1977
its conductor-in-chief. The orchestra has given successful concerts both at
home and abroad, in West and East Germany, Russia, Bulgaria, Denmark, France,
Spain, Italy, and Great Britain.
Kenneth Jean Associate Conductor of the
Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Music Director of the Rorida Symphony Orchestra,
Kenneth Jean is a young conductor making his presence known both nationally and
internationally. Born in New York City, he grew up in Hong Kong and returned to
the United States in 1967 to live in San Francisco. After violin studies at San
Franciso State University, he entered the Juilliard School at the age of 19 and
was accepted into the conducting class of Jean Morel. The following year, he
made his Carnegie Hall debut with the Youth Symphony Orchestra of New York and
was immediately engaged as the orchestra's Music Director.
Kenneth Jean made his European debut in
1980 at the International Festival of Youth Orchestras in Aberdeen, Scotland
and has since returned regularly. Other orchestras he has conducted include the
St. Louis Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony, Scottish Chamber Orchestra,
Orchestra of the Swiss Radio, Park Theatre Orchestra of Stockholm, the Belgrade
Strings and the South West German Radio Orchestra of Baden-Baden at the
Donaueschingen Festival of Contemporary Music. He was awarded the 1983-84
Leopold Stokowski Conducting Award by the American Symphony Orchestra. He has
conducted that orchestra on various occasions, including a subscription concert
in Carnegie Hall.
From 1979 until 1985 Kenneth Jean served
as Resident Conductor of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Previously, he was the
Conducting Assistant of the Cleveland Orchestra for two seasons.
He has recorded works by Mendelssohn,
Tchaikovsky, Beethoven and Ravel for Naxos.
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Viva Espana: The Music of Spain