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ClassicsOnline Home » TURINA, J.: Piano Music, Vol. 6 (Maso) - Ritmos / Fantasia italiana / Fantasia sobre 5 notas / Fantasia cinematografica
Fantasy, that marvellous ability the mind has to recapture past events or distant memories, or to idealise reality, is the thread that runs through this album. It was certainly central to the work of Joaquín Turina, who created a world that conjured up a childhood full of fantastical possibilities. This sixth volume of the complete Turina piano works as performed by Catalan pianist Jordi Masó features pieces in which fantasy not only forms part of the title but also lies at the heart of the music itself.
Joaquín Turina (1882–1949)
Ritmos • Fantasía sobre cinco notas • Fantasía italiana
Fantasía cinematográfica • Fantasía del reloj • Poema fantástico
Fantasy, that marvellous ability the mind has to recapture past events or distant memories, to represent an ideal in some palpable way, or to idealise reality—fantasy is the thread that runs through this album. Though not essential, it is often a key element of music, and was certainly central to the work of Joaquín Turina, who created a world that conjured up a childhood full of fantastical possibilities.
The Seville in which he was born and grew up was a city steeped in memories. The Arab world, the Orient and Spain’s American colonies, along with a host of myths and legends, were all part of its romance in the nineteenth century. This melting-pot of recollections and realities would nourish his idealised creativity and colour his music with a definite sense of the picturesque. This sixth volume of the complete Turina piano works as performed by Catalan pianist Jordi Masó features pieces in which “fantasy” not only forms part of the title but also lies at the heart of the music itself.
The six short piano pieces that make up the “choreographic fantasy” Ritmos (Rhythms) were composed between October 1927 and March 1928, predating the ballet of the same name that Turina wrote (in March–October 1928) for the famous flamenco dancer Antonia Mercé, “La Argentina”. In its orchestral version, this is an abstract, highly coloured allegory of dance, and is one of the best and most interesting works ever written by this prolific composer.
Turina himself wrote that with Ritmos he wanted to create a purely choreographic piece, “which could be staged but could also be performed in concert”
. This is the initial inspiration, yet “once we go beyond this idea, a new dynamic pattern emerges, one we might think of as ‘ascending’, leading Ritmos on a gradual journey from darkness into light”. The composer also wrote about the characteristics of each number within the fantasy. “A very brief, dark-hued Prelude introduces the Danza lenta (Slow dance) in farruca rhythm but with three beats to the bar [instead of the usual four]. There then follows a Vals trágico (Tragic waltz), marked by prominent reliefs, at times violent, bitter and, later, beseeching. Out of these shadows comes the Garrotín [a popular Andalusian folkdance], far lighter and more optimistic in tone. An Intermedio (Interlude), like a lovers’ idyll, becomes the prologue to the Danza exótica (Exotic dance), lively and happy, with Latin American rhythms that give rise to genuinely Spanish formulas, among which everyone will make out the supplicatory accents of the waltz.” Not to mention the unmistakable rhythms of the Charleston.
In 1934 the great violinist and conductor Enrique Fernández Arbós celebrated his seventieth birthday. To mark the occasion, a number of Spanish composers—Falla, Bacarisse, Esplá, Ernesto Halffter and Rodolfo Halffter, among others—dedicated works to him. Turina composed the Fantasía sobre cinco notas, or Fantasy on five notes, taking the letters of the dedicatee’s last name and interpreting them in a slightly arbitrary manner: A=La, R=Re, B=Si bemol, O=Do, S=Sol (in English notation, A, D, B flat, C, G). The result was a little suite in neo-classical style, very popular at the time, whose three movements take great delight in the different themes Turina derived from his five notes.
Another renowned Spanish conductor, Arturo Saco del Valle, is the dedicatee of the Fantasía italiana, Op.75, composed between 19 September and 5 November 1932. The Fantasía cinematográfica, Op.103, on the other hand, was written some years later, in the spring of 1945. This was the last piano work by Turina to be inspired by the cinema, an art form of which he was particularly fond. It is a brilliant rondo, in which the theme is interrupted by a number of different episodes characterised by their variety of colours and by the different dance rhythms they display, including the Basque zortziko and the farruca. Clocks and the unfathomable nature of time have inspired many musical works, from Ponchielli’s famous Dance of the Hours to the Straussian profundities of Der Rosenkavalier, from the classical lightness of Haydn’s “Clock” Symphony to the finesse of Ravel’s L’heure espagnole. Turina wrote the “three moments for piano” that make up his Fantasía del reloj, Op. 94 (Clock fantasy) between October 1942 and January 1943. These three miniatures are a showcase of the then sixty-year-old composer’s prodigious pianistic skills: the use of glissandi in Las horas del rincón mágico (The hours in the magic corner), the harmonic variety and the care with which he employs different sonorities. Dedicated to Jesús Rubio, the Fantasía del reloj was only published in 1989 (in Madrid, by Unión Musical Española).
“The music of the Poema fantástico is neither impressionistic nor descriptive. The subtitles of the different pieces do no more than evoke the places and ambience through which moves the central figure, symbolizing a Madrid woman, both modern and romantic, one moment elusive, the next expressive. A dual theme develops throughout the work like a variation, bringing an intimacy to Viejas calles madrileñas (Old streets of Madrid), moments of excitement to Encrucijada (Crossroads) and building, little by little, in Tarde de cine (Afternoon at the cinema) while softly, in the background, we hear the music from the film.” These are Turina’s own words about the unusual Poema fantástico, written between 4 January and 14 March 1944, and which the Spanish musicologist and critic Federico Sopeña called “one of the most important of Turina’s piano works”. A powerful and authentic passion, in Sopeña’s words, emanates from this work, so imbued with a peculiarly Spanish romanticism, where “sighs and swagger linked by a magical flight around the home key, lead us to the most difficult place in Spanish music, to the corner where dance is forgotten and song is not enough, because one wants to say and sing something so specific and personal”.
The first movement, En el hall del hotel (In the hotel lobby), begins and ends with a waltz marked “not very fast”, calling to mind the sumptuous interiors of grand nineteenth-century hotels. Viejas calles madrileñas is a gentle musical stroll in which some of the motifs from the previous movement make a reappearance. Turina asks for the third movement, Encrucijada, whose principal characteristic is a descending chromatic figure, to be performed with “a sense of drama”. The poem ends with Tarde de cine, an animated piece in which there are several changes of tempo and no lack of the Sevillian accents that are such a distinguishing feature of Joaquín Turina’s music.
Translation by Susannah Howe
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