GURIDI: Piano Works (Victoria Aja) (Naxos: 8.557633)
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Jes??s Guridi (1886-1961)
Although Jes??s Guridi achieved his greatest successes inthe orchestral and operatic fields, he also wrote asignificant quantity of piano works. While his activity inthis area was intermittent, his piano compositions arenonetheless a true reflection of his personal style, beingcharacterized by everything from grand operaticgestures to the most subtle effects, as well as beingstrongly influenced by folk-music.
Guridi was born in Vitoria in 1886. Having madesome early appearances in the musical circles of Bilbao,he left Spain in 1904 to continue his studies in Paris,Li?¿ge and Cologne. On his return he was appointeddirector of the Bilbao Choral Society, for whom hewrote a number of works, most notably the collectionsof Basque folk-songs and one of his masterpieces, Asicantan los chicos (1915), for chorus and orchestra. Thenext year or so saw the first performances in Madrid ofhis \Basque operatic idyll" Mirentxu (1915) and thesymphonic poem Una aventura de Don Quijote (1916).
He worked on his epic Basque opera Amaya over thedecade from 1910 to 1920, and another of his stageworks, the zarzuela El caserio (1926), proved to be oneof his greatest triumphs. This was followed by otherworks in the same genre, including La meiga and Lacautiva.
Guridi achieved particular international renownwith the Diez melodias vascas (1941), a fine example ofa nationalist orchestral work, the Sinfonia pirenaica(1946), the Homenaje a Walt Disney (1956) for pianoand orchestra, the String Quartet in A (1950), and theSeis canciones castellanas (1943), among others. Aswell as composing many highly regarded pieces fororgan, including the Triptico del Buen Pastor, he alsowrote a number of film scores and composed incidentalmusic for the theatre. Organ professor of the MadridConservatory for some years, Guridi was appointed itsdirector in 1956, remaining in the post until his deathfive years later, by which time he had been distinguishedwith many awards and honours.
Guridi's piano works range from brief personalsketches to large-scale fantasies for piano and orchestra.
His usual way of working was to create cycles ofindependent pieces, generally based on Basque folkmusic,limiting himself to a number of very specificstylistic parameters, overall austerity and idiomatic oratmospheric changes according to the character, poetic,festive or dramatic, of the original melody.
There are certain similarities between the way heuses folk-song elements in the Cantos populares vascos(Basque Folk-Songs) and in his choral song collections.
The melodic lines are almost vocal in nature, and Guridirestricts his use of pianistic formulas such as arpeggios,repeated chords and changes in register. The harmoniccolour is determined by a typical, essentially diatoniclanguage, which constricts the sound-world of thispiece. Similar characteristics appear in the Ocho apuntes(Eight Sketches), two-part imitative procedures, andharmonizations inspired by eighteenth-century keyboardmusic, with expressive, impressionistic touches such asthe imitation of the sound of flowing water, startingfrom a single note and developing in intervals and rapidfigurations across various registers. The Tres piezasbreves (Three Short Pieces) are given a melancholy feelby the minor key, and are composed as a single ternaryform with formal and rhythmic similarities between thefirst and third pieces.
Guridi occasionally took his inspiration not fromBasque music but from Spanish folk-songs, as in hisDanzas viejas (Ancient Dances), musical commentarieson poems by Victor Espinos, or in a series of works hecomposed as incidental music, such as the Vals deMirentxu.
Both Vasconia and the Lamento e Imprecacion deAgar (Hagar's Lament and Curse) provide an insightinto the way in which Guridi developed as a composer,representing as they do a more advanced, sophisticatedstage in his work. The timbre and dynamics are morecomplex, and there is greater harmonic density, whilethe accompaniments are more elaborate and the formaldevelopment more imaginative, allowing glimpses ofthe symphonic Guridi. His re-creation of the Biblicalscene of Hagar in the desert shows a sense of drama andthe archaic: a monodic recitative like a hazy vision isfollowed by a central section in which the theme isdeveloped by means of progressive modulation, beforethe final recapitulation.Santiago Gorostiza
English version: Susannah Howe"