Spanish and Portuguese Orchestral Music
Juan Crisostomo Arriaga (1806-1826) Carlos Seixas(1704-1742) Jo?úo de Sousa Carvalho (1745-1798) Antonio Leal Moreira(1758-1819) Marcos Portugal (1762-1830)
Juan Cristostomo Arriaga (1806-1826) was deserving of someof the most enthusiastic accolades (\The Spanish Mozart") after his prematuredeath, inasmuch as he has been neglected by a musical culture which onlystarted to look after its history and musical heritage at the end of thenineteenth century.
The Symphony in D, composed during the last years of hislife, appears to have been performed for the first time in 1888, and its scorewas first published in 1933 with cuts and dubious changes. Such delay, for awork which is undoubtedly the most interesting of the very few orchestral worksof any significance by a Spanish composer of the first half of the nineteenthcentury, is astonishing, especially if we remember that Arriaga was unanimouslyacclaimed as a precocious genius during his lifetime. His premature deathcertainly gave rise to a myth which transformed him, as well as many others,into a cult figure, more as a result of the expectations which he took to hisgrave than by the works he created during his lifetime. Indeed, important worksby Arriaga are scant: three String Quartets (a rarity in the IberianPeninsula), the opera Los esclavos felices and the Symphony in D. Indeed, wecan apply to the Spanish musician the epitaph written for Schubert: "Here areburied great treasures and even larger expectations".
Arriaga appears to us, today, as a talent of great promise,an excellent and intuitive musician who mastered his art even before he startedto study harmony and counterpoint with great teachers. His more importantworks, the Symphony in D and the Quartets, appear to be hesitating betweenMozart and the early Romanticism of Beethoven or Schubert, or even of Rossini.Arriaga studied in Paris (where he also died), showing an unusual talent for instrumentalmusic and for the serious learning of his trade (Arriaga was an excellentviolinist as well as an assistant to Fetis in counterpoint at the ParisConservatoire). The first works of the Spanish composer, such as his opera Losesclavos felices written when he was 13 years old, still show the influence ofthe Italian operatic style of his time. Los esclavos felices is a mixture ofthe Italian style, Mozart and Haydn, the late Baroque, the pure Classical styleand Rossini, notable in the staccato theme that opens the fast section of theoverture and its irresistible coda.
The Symphony in D is a work of different dimensions andscope. If previous models still prevail (although less of Rossini and more ofBeethoven and Schubert), and if the orchestra is kept within the boundaries ofthe classical models (double winds and brass, timpani and strings),notwithstanding the title of Symphony for large orchestra, the form is stilltraditional. There is no doubt, however, that the emotional pathos, use of major/minorkeys and some details in orchestration clearly indicate a future Romanticgenius.
This does not mean that some of those traits of Romanticismcannot be found in works of the much earlier Sturm und Drang period of Haydnand Mozart (of which Arriaga's Symphony in D could be an echo apr?¿s la lettre).The dark atmosphere, however, the modulations and the most unexpected chromaticdevelopments, the alternation between D major and D minor (which turns it intoa work which is simply in D, neither major nor minor, with some modaltransitions), the audacious writing for the winds and the power of thedevelopment sections (mainly in the first and last movements), are traits whichadd up to a work which is a clear anticipation of the musical romanticism whichhad already pervaded Europe at that time but had not yet reached the IberianPeninsula. It is also a precocious sister of the famous Symphony in C whichBizet composed at the same age as Arriaga composed his Symphony in D.
Carlos Seixas (1704-1742) is believed to have written morethan seven hundred sonatas by the time he died at 38. Of these, only about onehundred have survived. A friend of Scarlatti who held him in high esteem, thePortuguese composer differs from the Italian by dividing his works into varioussections and by a less brilliant and less technically demanding compositionaltechnique, adding however, an unequivocal Portuguese flavour and melancholy.His orchestral legacy is limited to the Symphony in B flat, the Concerto forHarpsichord in A major, and his Overture in D major. All of these works arewritten in the Italian style, with three movements, except for the Overturewhich follows the formally richer French model.
The same happens with the other works included in thisrecording, illustrating a rare continuity in Portuguese music: Jo?úo de SousaCarvalho (1745-1798) would become the teacher of Antonio Leal Moreira(1758-1819), of Marcos Antonio da Fonseca Portugal (1762-1830), as well as ofJo?úo Domingos Bomtempo (1775-1830). The period during which these musicianslived, encompassed a golden one, which started with King Dom Jo?úo V (1706-1750)and continued through King Dom Jose I (1750-1777). Gold from Brazil certainlyinfluenced the brilliance and spending frenzy which prevailed in Portugalthroughout the 18th century. This wealth determined that most Portuguesecomposers were sent to Italy to learn their trade while Italian musicians andchoreographers were imported, at a time when the craving for Italian Opera wasshared by everyone, including the King.
The Sinfonia in B flat by Leal Moreira is in reality anoverture in the Italian style (composed in or about 1803). It probably precededone of the many operas by the composer, although we do not know which one. Asin the other known Sinfonia in D by Leal Moreira, the Italian style is sharedwith the Lisbon tradition of the modinha and of the popular song. The soloflute featured in the slow introduction, reappears as a reminiscence inpreparation for the exhilarating coda.
The overtures L'amore industrioso (1769) and Il Duca di Foix(1805), are examples of the orchestral writing of the two most importantPortuguese operatic composers, Jo?úo de Sousa Carvalho and Marcos Portugal,rightly famous in their lifetime. Sousa Carvalho was the most importantcomposer of operas of the eighteenth century in Portugal and Marcos Portugalwas the best known and the most acclaimed Portuguese composer of his time inforeign countries.
The Neapolitan style and the influence of Cimarosa areespecially important in Marcos Portugal (who composed more than fifty operas)while in Carvalho it is the influence of Jomelli which prevails.
(translated by ?ülvaro Cassuto)