BOLERO AND OTHER SPANISH FAVOURITES
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Bolero and OtherSpanish Favourites
The music of Spain retains its exotic attraction, with its individualblend of regional and national elements, influenced by the colourful traditionsof the country and of its former colonies. It was in the nineteenth century,with the growth of nationalism, politically and culturally, that Spanishmusical identity became established internationally as something apart from themain European cultural traditions of which Spain had for centuries formedapart.
It was natural that something of this fascination with things Spanishshould make an early appearance in neighbouring France. The French composerEmmanuel Chabrier had spent the early part of his career as a civil servant,resigning his position only in 1880 in order to devote himself to music.
Chabrier lacked the thorough training of the Conservatoire, but had been ableto study music with some assiduity as a private pupil of a number of teachersof distinction, while mixing socially with a circle of well known musicians,painters and writers. In 1881 Charles Lamoureux made him chorus director andorganizing secretary for the new concerts that he was promoting in Paris, hisfirst professional musical employment. It was a journey to Spain in 1882 thataroused Chabrier's interest in the music of that country. Returning to Paris,he composed a fantasia for piano, based on the melodies he had collected, andplayed it through to Lamoureux, who encouraged him to orchestrate it. Theresult was the orchestral rhapsody Espana, first performed underLamoureux on 6th November 1883. Chabrier won immediate fame, although hiscontinuing operatic ambitions never brought him the success that he wanted. Espana,a vivid evocation of Spain, uses the contrasting elements of the jota andthe malaguena in a colourfully orchestrated work.
Manuel de Falla, born in Cadiz in 1876, was the leading Spanish composerof his generation, writing music that captured the essence of all that wasSpanish, while proving acceptable internationally. His ballet TheThree-Cornered Hat, originally a pantomime under the title El corregidory la molinera (The Magistrate and the Miller's Wife), is based on a storyby Pedro Antonio de Alarcon. The plot concerns the jealousy of the miller,whose attractive wife has been subjected to the attentions of the elderlyCorregidor. The ballet was first staged in London in 1919 by Dyagilev's Balletsrusses, with decor by Picasso and choreography by Leonid Massin. The excerptsincluded here start with the Fandango for the miller's wife, followed bya Segnidillas for the neighbours, a Farruca for the miller and afinal Jota.
Manuel de Falla's opera La vida breve ('Short Life') wascompleted in 1905, before the composer left Spain for Paris, and was firststaged in Nice in 1913, a year before de Falla's return to Spain. Its plotconcerns the betrayal of the gypsy girl Salud by her lover Paco, who marries agirl of richer background. Salud, appearing with a companion to dance for Pacoand Carmela's wedding?¡-guests, falls down dead, as she moves forward to accusePaco. An Interlude marks night-fall, leading to the well known SpanishDance of the wedding-?¡guests, familiar from arrangement after arrangement.
El amor brujo ('Love the Magician'), staged in Madrid in 1915, madefull use of the traditions Spanish gypsy music. It tells the story of a gypsygirl Candelas, haunted by the spirit of her dead lover, which she summons up inher ritual fire dance, in the original version the Dance of the End of theDay.
A dominant figure in French opera towards the end of the nineteenthcentury, Jules Massenet based his opera Le Cid on the play on thesubject of the Spanish hero by Corneille. The opera was first staged at theParis Opera in 1885. The Spanish dances on which much of the present reputationof Massenet's opera depends come in the first scene of the second act, acontrast to the tragic events that have taken place. At the heart of the dramais the conflict in the heart of Chimene, whose lover Don Rodrigue, El Cid, haskilled her father. Massenet offers, in his ballet scene, a series ofcharacteristic dances.
Composers in the newly developed Russian nationalist tradition also hadrecourse, as Glinka had done, to the exotic, whether to bordering countries, tothe ethnic minorities of the Russian Empire or to remoter Spain. Rimsky?¡-Korsakov'sfamous Capriccio espagnol began as a Fantasia on Spanish Themes, forviolin and orchestra, and was eventually completed in its present form in 1887.
The work won immediate acclaim, above all for the brilliance of itsorchestration, an achievement from which the composer drew great satisfaction.
The French composer Maurice Ravel was the son of a Swiss father and of amother from the Basque country. He was familiar from childhood with Spanishculture and language and had occasion to make use of this element in hisbackground in a number of compositions. Bolero, which he himselfdescribed as an orchestrated crescendo, was written for Ida Rubinstein, whoseballet troupe staged it in 1928, with choreography by Nijinska. Its twothematic elements are linked by the continuing percussion rhythm that gives thework its hypnotic fascination.