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ClassicsOnline Home » TURINA, J.: Piano Music, Vol. 9 (Maso) - Rincones sevillanos / Por las calles de Sevilla / Contemplacion
Jordi Masó’s critically acclaimed survey of Turina’s complete piano music continues to unearth exciting discoveries. Turina’s gift for evocative writing is explored in the early and little-known Coins de Séville which fuses Andalusían folk music with French impressionism to remarkable effect. The virtuosic La leyenda de la Giralda evokes Seville Cathedral’s bell-tower and symbol of the city in four vivid episodes. The streets, sounds, and rhythms of Turina’s native city infuse much of his music and in Por las calles de Sevilla and his final work, Desde mi terraza, their lure is felt with a fierce intensity.
Joaquín Turina (1882–1949)
Coins de Séville • La leyenda de la Giralda • Por las calles de Sevilla • Contemplación • Desde mi terraza
In the first three works on this album, the ninth volume in Jordi Masó’s survey of the complete piano works of Joaquín Turina, we see the composer’s gaze fall once more on his native city of Seville, Andalusia’s picturesque and evocative capital. The last work here, Desde mi terraza, also revisits and recreates memories of his native land, while by contrast the pieces that make up Contemplación were inspired by three well-known works of art: Fra Angelico’s The Annunciation, Velázquez’s The Surrender of Breda and the sculpture known as The Lady of Elche, a limestone bust which was carved at some point between the fifth and fourth centuries BC and is one of the most significant and best-preserved examples of Iberian art.
Coins de Séville (Corners of Seville) is, to quote Jordi Masó, “one of [Turina’s] extraordinary but rarely performed early works”. A suite of four short but well-developed movements, it draws on local folk-music, quoting tunes whose origins are deeply rooted in Andalusian culture. These folk motifs, however, are wrapped in the new harmonies of French modernism, a style which was to prove a major influence on the composer after he moved to Paris in late 1905 to study with D’Indy at the Schola Cantorum. The work is dated February 1911 and was first performed by Turina himself on 6 April that year, as part of a recital he gave at the Salle Gaveau in Paris.
This sense that Turina was open to Debussyan innovation, despite always remaining faithful to D’Indy’s conservativism, can be heard in the first of the Coins movements, Soir d’été sur la terrasse (Summer evening on the terrace), whose Impressionist hues conjure the hazy atmosphere of an evening in southern Spain. A subtle succession of ascending and descending arpeggios suggests the serenity and perfumed air of a moonlit night. Above this calm a melancholy melody and distant guitar strummings emerge. In the central section a sevillanas dance rhythm conveys the sounds of a fiesta, while the movement ends with a return of the calm opening bars.
Rondes d’enfants (Children’s Songs) is a brief and lighthearted scherzo which draws on well-known Spanish children’s songs, such as Quisiera ser tan alta como la luna (I wish I were as tall as the moon) and Me casó mi madre, chiquita y bonita (I was just a young girl when my mother married me off). For Danse de “seises” dans la cathédrale (Dance of the Choirboys in the Cathedral) Turina borrows a melody written by his first composition teacher in Seville, Evaristo García Torres. This melody, to which the choirboys still perform the dance today on certain dates of the church calendar, appears as originally written, but is freely harmonised in line with Turina’s own aesthetic thinking. The last piece in the suite, A los toros (To the Bulls), uses a pasodoble rhythm to evoke the high spirits and general uproar of a hot afternoon in the bullring.
The Giralda, Seville Cathedral’s famous bell-tower and symbol of the city as a whole (originally the minaret of the mosque that stood on the same site, the tower was built during the rule of the Almohad dynasty in the late twelfth century), appears in several of Turina’s works, including the eponymous sixth number of the song cycle Canto a Sevilla, Op 37 and the second part of Niñerías, Op 21, which is entitled Lo que se ve desde la Giralda (The view from the Giralda). In La leyenda de la Giralda (The Legend of the Giralda), however, it plays the starring rôle. This work was inspired by a novel by Andalusian writer José Más, La estrella de la Giralda (The Star of the Giralda, 1918), and comprises four episodes to be played without a break: Noche sevillana, Fiesta lejana, Tempestad y temblor de tierra, and Aparición del ángel gigantesco (Night in Seville, Distant Fiesta, Storm and Earthquake, Appearance of the Giant Angel). Requiring considerable virtuosity from the pianist at times, the work dates from 1926 and was dedicated to Turina’s piano tutor at the Madrid Conservatory, the eminent José Tragó.
Por las calles de Sevilla, Op 96 (Through the Streets of Seville) is a late work: a musical stroll in three stages, full of evocative writing and composed in 1943 when Turina, then 61, was entering the last few years of his life. He himself wrote the following about this piece: “Writers say that Seville’s streets have their own souls and can speak. This is the only aim the composer set himself: to listen and translate into music what those streets are saying. The musical process is therefore very simple, with no formal or idiomatic complexities. And at every turn of these magical streets you can hear the sounds and rhythms of dances, gypsy laments, mysterious footsteps against the backdrop of images of that perfect tower: the Giralda.” The first of its three movements, Reflejos en la torre (Reflected in the Tower), recreates all the charms of the city’s atmosphere, to which he was so closely attuned. The second, Ante la Virgen de la Merced (In the Presence of Our Lady of Mercy), takes us to one of the chapels of the Iglesia del Salvador, for a song-like, delicately harmonised piece of writing. The triptych concludes with La calle de Las Sierpes, a brief and dazzling piece, again based on a characteristic pasodoble rhythm to reflect the hustle and bustle of Seville’s busiest and most famous street.
Also dating from the latter part of Turina’s career is Contemplación, Op 99, three pianistic “impressions” inspired by works of art, composed in 1944 and dedicated to the Marqués de Lozoya. The first, Ante “La Anunciación” de Fra Angelico (Contemplating Fra Angelico’s “The Annunciation”), creates a fine-spun sound-world of sincere mysticism. In the second piece, sparked by the Lady of Elche carving, Turina uses an unusual intervallic structure based on series of fifths and eighths and dispensing with the third step of the musical scale. He also employs forceful and solemn sonorities to convey his ideas about the culture of the pre-Roman Hispanic people of eastern Spain. The final “impression” is a musical translation of Velázquez’s The Surrender of Breda (housed in Madrid’s Prado Museum) and as such features some suitably epic touches.
In 1947, three years after completing Contemplación and just two before his death, Turina wrote what proved to be his final work, Desde mi terraza, Op 104 (From My Terrace). This is a cycle of three estampas, prints or engravings, clearly reminiscent of Debussy and his Estampes. They take the form of a suite which is given a cyclical feel by the recurring use, in different keys, of a lively fandango-inspired theme. A la sombra del mucharabieh (In the Shade of the Moucharabieh—a patterned Moorish screen) begins with a dreamy introduction, a prelude to a brighter section that leads into the fandango which acts as the common thread throughout. The first section of Armonías de la ciudad (Harmonies of the City) includes a quotation from the popular song Yo que soy contrabandista (A smuggler am I), by fellow Seville-born tenor and composer Manuel García (1775–1832), a man who achieved world-wide fame, and fathered two equally talented and celebrated daughters, mezzo-sopranos / composers Maria Malibran and Pauline Viardot. The subtle influence of Debussy, creator of La soirée dans Grenade, is most palpable in the final estampa, Sinfonía de flores (Symphony of Flowers), for the finale of which Turina returns to the García quotation, clothing it in tones of solemn splendour.
© Justo Romero
English translation by Susannah Howe
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