TURINA: Romantic Sonata on a Spanish theme / Fantasy Sonata / Magical Corner (Jordi Maso/ Miquel Roger) (Naxos: 8.557438)
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Joaquin Turina (1882-1949): Piano Music 2
Sonata romantica Sonata Fantasia Rincon magico Concierto sin orquesta
Spanish music is renowned for its use of folk-basedthemes, and Joaquin Turina's is no exception to thisrule. He moved to Paris in 1905, however, and as hecompleted his musical training at the conservativeSchola Cantorum at around the age of 23, he wasbecoming increasingly fascinated by the new musiccoming out of France. Two years later, though, came amomentous meeting with Isaac Albeniz in Paris; thelatter, on 3rd October 1907, after attending the premi?¿reof Turina's Piano Quintet, Op. 1, in the Salond'Automne, took the young composer by the arm andsaid to him, \Your Franckian quintet will be published,I promise you that, but you must give me your word notto write any more music like that. You, a Sevillian, mustbase your work in Spanish or Andalusian folk-music."Turina took the advice of Albeniz, whom he so admired,although his French surroundings and Romanticismwould continue to have a profound influence on hiscompositions.
The Romantic Sonata on a Spanish theme, Op. 3, isthe result of an intermingling of as yet unconsolidatedaesthetic principles and styles. It was written in 1909,when Turina was grieving over the recent death ofAlbeniz. In its first movement he picks up on a processoften used by Albeniz, that of quoting a well-knowntheme, in this case a motif from a familiar Spanish folksongEl vito, a theme much used by Spanish composers,including Falla, Joaquin Nin-Culmell, Manuel Infanteand Regino Sainz de la Maza. The opening movementtakes the form of four variations on the main theme.
After three introductory bars in which the left handestablishes, pianissimo, an obsessive rhythm, the themefrom El vito quietly appears, played very expressivelyby the right hand (the fourth bar is marked 'Tr?¿sexpressif'). The formal skills of the 27-year-old Turinaare apparent in each of the carefully constructedvariations. These combine his natural sense of thepicturesque, encouraged by Albeniz, and the influencesof his cosmopolitan Parisian surroundings. Themovement's ending, a dolcissimo pppp, has cleartouches of Albeniz. A very different atmosphere ispresented by the second movement, marked Vif et gai.
This scherzo is unmistakably the work of Turina, andacts as a bridge to the final movement. The Final beginswith a mysterious slow passage in which a descendingsextolet comes to the fore, conjuring up a hazylandscape, with touches of Debussy. This never fullydevelops, yielding in bar 35 to the forceful Allegro withwhich the sonata comes to an close. Here the theme fromEl vito makes a lively comeback, now delivered in amore sophisticated harmonic idiom. Three long, evenbut resounding chords, bring the work to an end withfurther echoes of Albeniz. The sonata, dedicated ofcourse to the memory of Isaac Albeniz, was firstperformed on 15th October 1909, by Turina himself atthe Grand Palais des Champs-Elysees, as part of aconcert organized specifically as a tribute to the latecomposer.
Turina originally called his Sonata Fantasia, Op.
59, 'Sonata andaluza' despite there being little ofAndalusia in its music, but in the end had the good senseto give it its more appropriate title. Composed in 1930and dedicated to the musicologist and critic JosepSubir?á, the work came out of a particularly fruitfulperiod for Turina, especially in terms of piano music:within a twelve-month period he also wrote the first setof Danzas gitanas, Op. 55, the second collection ofNinerias, Op. 56, the Partita in C, Op. 57, and Tarjetaspostales, Op. 58. Although he introduces elements of thezambra and garrotin (Andalusian dances) into theAllegro molto moderato, he here moves away from histraditional colourful writing and the Hispaniscismadvocated 23 years earlier by Albeniz and instead giveshimself over to a sophisticated and deliberatelyImpressionistic idiom, especially in the marvellous slowopenings to each of the two movements of this atypicalsonata. The second of these, the Chorale with variationsseeks, and finds, in its calm figurations, the sense of asolo guitar. The chorale, its beauty elusive, includespassages of virtuosity, which momentarily interrupt thegeneral tranquility. Turina opts for a lively, conventionaland well-developed passage in a bright D major to closea work whose true essence is to be found in itswonderful slow sections. The Sonata Fantasia waspublished in Madrid in 1931.
"I wanted to sing of love and sadness, searching outthat little corner of the Andalusian spirit that looks out tothe wider world; I have lived part of my life dreaming,because I as a musician love melody. There, tragedyloses its heart-rending edge, dance becomes purer andwine is only perfume. I cannot sit at the piano with a farreachingmelody. I sing what pleases me and I feel aresponse." 'Rincon', 'rincones', 'rinconcitos' ('corner,'corners' and 'little corners') are words that frequentlyappear in the world of Turina. The corner is an intimate,private space, perhaps at times a space to be shared withsomeone else. Turina did in fact explain the significanceof the corner here, with a note at the top of the scoresaying it was "The corner of the composer's office. Anintimate and secluded place." This Rincon magico(Magical Corner), its original version dated 1941, wasdedicated by Turina to his wife and children and bearsthe epigraph Desfile en forma de sonata (Parade insonata form). A number of different characters appear asthe score progresses, specifically in the three variationsthat complement the theme in the first movement. Thistheme makes an expressive and sudden appearance afteran ethereal introduction of twelve bars. To clear up anydoubts about the source of this characteristic motif,Turina adds in brackets the words "The composer".
After a lengthy exposition of the theme the threevariations follow one another, each one referring to adifferent character. The first is entitled Regino y laguitarra (Regino and the guitar), alluding to the guitaristand critic Regino Sainz de la Maza, a close friend ofTurina and the dedicatee and first soloist of Rodrigo'sConcierto de Aranjuez. The second variation is built onsubtle semiquaver patterns almost always markeddolcissimo, above which the song-like melody is givento the left hand. Turina called this section Las melodiasde Paquita (Paquita's melodies). The third and lastleaves no doubt as to its subject, being clearly markedPepe, el pianista gaditano (Pepe, the pianist fromCadiz), another close friend, Jose Cubiles, a co-founderand co-director of the National Music Commissariat in1940 who, along with Turina himself and NemesioOtano, gave the first performances of many of Turina'spiano works, as well as of Falla's Nights in the Gardensof Spain.
The spirit hanging over the solemn, modal openingof the lively second-movement Scherzo is that of theDebussy of Children's Corner. Turina adds descriptivetitles here as well: its three parts are marked respectivelyEl dinamismo de Antonito (Antonito's dynamism), Losfarolitos de Carmen (Carmen's little lanterns) andAntonito vuelve (Antonito returns). The third movement,meanwhile, is a gentle "expressive and penetrating"Lied, lilting in nature and marked Andantino. It isheaded La cancion de Lolita (Lolita's song), after thesoprano Lola Rodriguez de Aragon, a former pupil ofthe great Elisabeth Schumann and star of the premi?¿re ofthe final version of Turina's Canto a Sevilla in 1934, andof wonderful recordings of that work and of the songs Tupupila es azul and Los dos miedos, in which she wasaccompanied on the piano by Turina himself.
"The composer and his family" are the protagonistsin the rhythmic Sonata that forms the dazzling finale tothis work. In it Turina displays his most virtuosicresources, his writing both lavish and transparent but notconcealing i