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ClassicsOnline Home » TURINA, J.: Piano Music, Vol. 5 (Maso) - Cuentos de Espana / Recuerdos de la antigua Espana / Siluetas
Jordi Masó’s acclaimed series of Joaquin Turina’s Piano Music continues with the evocative Spanish Tales, Souvenirs of Old Spain and Silhouettes, consolidating the young pianist’s reputation as a leading interpreter of this distinctively Iberian repertoire. “Jordi Masó is one of Spain’s leading pianists.” (MusicWeb on Vol 1, 8.557150), “Masó, as always, is excellent” (Scherzo on Vol 2, 8.557438), “You can't go wrong with Masó…he is very sympathetic” (Fanfare on Vol 3, 8.557684), “He can make a melody sing” (MusicWeb on Vol 4, 8.570026).
By David Denton
Joaquín Turina (1882–1949)
Contes d’Espagne • Souvenirs de l’Ancienne Espagne • Silhouettes
Spain, both the old Spain and the “new”, forms the centre of gravity of this fifth release in the series of Joaquín Turina’s complete works on which Jordi Masó and Naxos embarked a number of years ago now. Here we journey through the landscapes of Turina’s native land, encountering along the way that unmistakable touch, the harmonies, modulations and rhythms that identify the works of a composer defined by Leigh Henry as “a musical impressionist of fine sensibility, both spiritually and musically” (The Musical Times, September 1919).
Turina trained in Madrid and in the Paris of Vincent d’Indy’s Schola Cantorum, and while his Spain is one of picturesque, traditional images, his canvases are peopled by mythical figures too. The four collections included on this album contain not only portraits of recognisable urban scenes, but also the composer’s fantasies about such legendary characters as Don Juan or “the eternal” Carmen, or about the illusion of a past that may only ever have existed in the artist’s imagination.
The first set of Contes d’Espagne (Tales of Spain) was composed between July and September 1918, while Turina was spending the summer in his native Andalusia. Its seven portraits or impressions correspond to places he had recently visited, and the work had its première in November of the same year as part of a recital Turina gave at Málaga’s Philharmonic Society.
Jordi Masó made some interesting comments about the work when he and I spoke about this new recording: “The first set of Contes d’Espagne, for me, is another of Turina’s wonderful works that deserves to be rediscovered. It is a soundly built suite, with themes that recur cyclically in each movement, always varied yet recognisable. This cyclical structure brings great unity to the seven individual pieces.”
Turina himself highlighted this sense of unity in the notes he wrote for the première: “I wrote this work with the idea of creating a blend of impressions of places and landscapes, linked to a particular story or action.” He described each of the seven pieces in detail, seeing them as springing from the perception of a “poet” travelling around Spain. The cities of Salamanca, Logroño, Valencia, Murcia, Málaga, Granada and Barcelona (“Rompeolas”) are the stops on the listener’s itinerary for this wonderfully descriptive musical journey.
Ten years later, in 1928, the composer embarked on a second set of Contes d’Espagne, completing it in 1929 and publishing it as his Opus 47, which places it full-square among his mature works, alongside Evocaciones, Op. 46, and Souvenirs de l’Ancienne Espagne, also included here. Turina dedicated this set to the wife of musician Jacques Lerolle. It was first performed on 18 January 1930 by the Polish pianist Stanisław Niedzielski at Madrid’s Teatro de la Comedia.
While the first set took a broad view of the entire country, from North to South and East to West, the second focuses on Andalusia. Córdoba and its famous mosque, manzanilla (the sherry from Sanlúcar de Barrameda rather than the camomile tea known by the same name in Spanish), and Moorish influences are at the heart of this “story in seven scenes”, as Turina called this collection. The piano writing, expert and limpid, takes delight in traditional Andalusian sentiment, straightforward and unpretentious. These are direct, uncomplicated impressions, allusions inspired by the composer’s immediate, life-filled environment.
Souvenirs de l’Ancienne Espagne, Op. 48, (Memories of Ancient Spain) was written at around the same time as the second set of Contes d’Espagne, in June 1929. Here Turina lets his imagination run free in the world of literary invention. His two protagonists are Carmen—not Bizet’s heroine, although Turina plays with the ambiguity in making the second piece a habanera, which has nothing to do with the famous opera either—and Don Juan, here more reminiscent of the romantic character in José Zorrilla’s play (Don Juan Tenorio) than of Mozart’s depiction. The work was dedicated to the great Catalan pianist Frank Marshall.
Turina’s interest in these memories of bygone Spain can be seen in a letter he wrote on 23 June 1929 to his composer and guitarist friend Ángel Barrios, in which he mentioned the fact that he was working on “an instrumentation for large orchestra”. He never spoke of the matter again, and all that remains are the orchestrations of the Habanera and the Estudiantina made for small cinema orchestras, and a transcription Turina himself made for lute quartet, leaving out the third movement, Don Juan. This version, from 1930, was first performed at the Salle Gaveau in Paris by the renowned Aguilar Lute Quartet on 4 June 1932.
Silhouettes, Op. 70, dates from 1931. Turina labelled it a “suite for piano” and dedicated it to his daughter María. Segovia’s famous Roman aqueduct, Granada’s Torre de la Vela, Toledo’s Puerta del Sol, Seville’s Torre del Oro, and the lighthouse of the millennial city of Cádiz are the landmarks whose silhouettes are reflected in this suite laden with evocative writing and moments of enigmatic beauty, such as the opening movement, L’Aqueduc.
© Justo Romero
Translation by Susannah Howe
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