TURINA: Danzas Fantasticas / Danzas Gitanas / Danzas Andaluzas
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Joaquin Turina (1882-1949): Piano Music 1
Danzas fantasticas Danzas gitanas Danzas andaluzas
Joaquin Turina was one of a group of twentieth-centurycomposers, the others being de Falla, Albeniz, Granadosand Mompou, who made an outstanding contribution toSpanish piano repertoire. Unlike his four compatriots,however, committed to the development of Spanishmusical nationalism, Turina created his own personalmusical world. Like the painter Joaquin Sorolla, whoselight-filled works took their inspiration from local scenes,Turina borrowed and reworked traditional elements inorchestral works such as Sinfonia sevillana and Laprocesion del Rocio, armed with the rigorous technicalcommand acquired at the conservative Paris ScholaCantorum, under Moritz Moszkowski and Vincentd'Indy, while making use of his own notable talents as apianist.
'A musician from head to toe, he was so ordinary inthe way he lived and thought, never straying from thestrict working methods and timetable he imposed onhimself, that he seemed to belie all theories that artists aresupposed to be irresponsible, even slightly unbalanced',wrote his friend Maria Lejarraga. Yet Turina was morethan a conservative composer and supporter of Franco (hereceived various honours from the regime, which heopenly supported from 1939 to his death); he was an artistof fertile inspiration, the creator of a large number ofskilfully constructed works, the best of which are for hispreferred instrument, the piano.
Almost all Turina's piano works, of which there areover a hundred, are short, almost miniature pieces, few ofthem more than five minutes long. Turina himselfexplained this as follows: 'Despite having studied withVincent d'Indy at the Schola Cantorum, I knew, or ratherI learned from Albeniz, that no pure form, even post-Romanticism, was attainable for Spanish composers.
Falla thought the same and, not being weighed down byany foreign criteria, we have been able to take differentpaths'.
As a proud Andalusian, Turina openly admitted thelocal inspiration behind his work: 'The enduringparameters I felt to be guiding my work actuallycorrespond to something very informal: the Andalusianlandscape ... I have been able to move freely within thembecause of my in-depth Schola training'. His descriptivemusic, however, renounces specific programmes andformal discipline. He himself stated, 'I want to sing oflove and sadness, searching out that little corner of theAndalusian spirit that looks out to the wider world; I havelived part of my life dreaming, because I as a musicianlove melody. There, tragedy loses its heart-rending edge,dance becomes purer and wine is only perfume. I cannotsit at the piano with a transcendental melody. I sing whatpleases me and I feel a response.'All the dances included here clearly reflect theaesthetic qualities of a frequently misunderstoodcomposer, whose works have struggled for decades to bevalued for more than their most superficial picturesqueelements. Closer listening reveals these to be some of thebest, most representative and certainly most inspiredpiano works to come out of Spain in the twentiethcentury. Turina's legitimate conservatism should nolonger detract from our enjoyment of works whose aimwas to sing to us from Andalusia of 'love and sadness'.
The Danzas fantasticas, Op. 22, composed in 1919,are better known in their orchestral version. They wereoriginally conceived for piano, although it has often beenasserted that this is one of the rare cases in which theorchestral version predates the piano work. The errorstems from the fact that the piano version's premi?¿re, atthe Malaga Sociedad Filarmonica, on 15th June 1920,given by the composer, came after that of the orchestraltranscription, heard on 13th February, 1920, in Madrid'sTeatro Price, with the Orquesta Filarmonica de Madridconducted by Bartolome Perez Casas. Turina himself setthe record straight: 'The Danzas fantasticas were writtenoriginally for piano. It later occurred to me to orchestratethem ... having created them with a sufficiently broadrange of colour to use the full instrumental palette'.
Turina's words were part of a speech given in Havanaon 31st March, 1929, entitled How a work is created, thepenultimate of seven different talks he gave on variousmusical subjects at the Hispanic-Cuban Institute ofCulture. There he discussed the intricacies of thecompositional process, taking the Danzas fantasticas asan example; he explained that 'their epigraphs come froma novel: La orgia, by Jose Mas; this does not mean thatthe literary theme has anything to do with the music. Thethree epigraphs simply relate in some way to the musicaland, in a way, the choreographic essence of the threedances. They are states of mind expressed in rhythm, inaccordance with the eternal law of contrast'.
At this conference in Havana Turina went intoconsiderable detail about the gestation of the Danzas andtheir literary and descriptive connotations. 'The firstdance, Exaltacion, is distantly related to the Aragonesejota, and has the following epigraph: 'It was as if thefigures in that incomparable scene were moving withinthe calyx of a flower'. The second dance, Ensueno, isbased on the rhythm of the Basque zorcico [a compositionor dance in 5/8], although its middle section is clearlyAndalusian, and its epigraph is as follows: 'the sound ofthe guitar was like the lamenting of a soul which can nolonger bear the weight of bitterness'. But we have to lookat the third dance, which shares its name with the novel,Orgia, and is a kind of hymn to manzanilla, the perfumedwine of Sanl??car de Barrameda, that city of silver thatstands at the mouth of the Guadalquivir, a wonderfulmixture of sea and vineyards, beach and bars, little whitehouses and ribbon-like streets.' The score was dedicatedto Turina's wife, Obdulia Garzon, whom he had marriedon 10th December 1908 in Seville.
The Tres danzas andaluzas, Op. 8 were composed inParis in 1912, and first performed in a recital given byTurina on 13th October that year at the Santa CeciliaAcademy in Cadiz. These three miniatures are based onthe traditional rhythms of the petenera, tango andzapateado, and are dedicated respectively to ManuelHerrera, Eduardo Torres and 'Senorita Laura Albeniz',Isaac Albeniz's oldest daughter, who had died three yearsearlier. The liveliness of the initial petenera gives way toan expressive tango, whose opening bar is marked ritmicoy tr?¿s expressivo and which in turn contrasts with theextravert and carefree atmosphere of the zapateadowhich, with its unmistakable 6/8 tempo, brings thetriptych to an end.
It was the pianist Jose Cubiles (1894-1971) who gavethe first performances of all Turina's major piano works.
He gave the premi?¿re of the Danzas gitanas, Op. 55, on15th January, 1932, at the Teatro de la Comedia inMadrid. Turina commented: 'Received by Cubiles, theirdedicatee, with the greatest affection, it only remains forme to say that he gave a masterful performance, puttingone in mind of a genuine Albaicin gypsy'. Thesecolourful works take their inspiration from the gypsyworld of Granada, an inspiration to many other composersof the time. The music aims to express a particular way ofbeing and feeling rather than to evoke specific places andlandscapes, despite the fact that some of the titles do referto actual places in Granada. In the five short and closelyrelated pieces (the subtle quotation of the first piece,Zambra, in the last, Sacromonte, is by no meanscoincidental) we hear an abundance of augmented'oriental' intervals and a clear depiction of gypsy songsand dances. There are also allusions to the Andalusianpolo and flamenco farruca in Generalife and Sacromonterespectively. This collection from Turina's later years,composed in 1929 and 1930, met with immediate andenormous success, boosted by an orchestral version, firstper