TURINA: Sinfonia sevilliana / Danzas fantasticas / Ritmos
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Joaquín Turina (1882-1949)
Sinfonía sevillana Danzas fantásticas Ritmos La procesión del Rocío
The second generation of Spanish nationalist composers, following the example of Albéniz and Granados, had two principal figures, Falla and Turina, often seen as opposites, when it would be much better to understand them as complementary. Actually their interpretation of nationalism was very different; they both spent time in Paris, the cultural melting-pot of the period, but Turina was to accomplish a body of work that was much more rooted in formal traditions, with full attention, for example, to chamber music, while Falla explored freer paths.
Joaquín Turina was born in Seville on 9th December 1882. His first musical studies were in the Andalusian capital with García Torres (harmony and counterpoint) and Enrique Rodríguez (piano), and in Madrid with José Tragó. His long stay in Paris, from 1905 to 1914, was decisive in his education. There he continued his piano apprenticeship with Moszkowski and studied composition with dIndy. This was a time for the absorption of influences and for human contacts, since Turina then began his friendship with Debussy, Ravel and Florent Schmitt. His first works had a certain modernist tendency, but the advice of Albéniz encouraged him to have recourse to Andalusian popular sources. This tendency can already be seen in his Suite Sevilla of 1908, for piano, and particularly in his String Quartet of 1910, in which he made use of the sonorities of the guitar. Already before he had ended his period in Paris, Turina was known in Madrid with the performance of La procesión del Rocío, conducted by Enrique Fernández Arbós, the success of which, followed immediately by performance in Paris, brought recognition throughout Europe. On his return to Spain he introduced to the public many of his works, as a conductor, and in 1921 won a prize in San Sebastián for his Sinfonía sevillana. This was not to be his only award, since in 1926 he was awarded the important National Music Prize for his Piano Trio No.1. No less significant was the prestige he acquired with the première of his opera Jardín de Oriente at the Teatro Real in Madrid in 1923 and only staged again more than fifty years later. From 1926 he served as music critic for the periodical El Debate, and, in the field of education, he carried out a thorough reform as professor of composition at the Madrid Conservatory. All these activities did not take him away from composition, and he continually added to his piano compositions, himself a very gifted pianist, with works such as the 1930 Danzas gitanas (Gypsy Dances), in 1935 Mujeres de Sevilla (Women of Seville), and Poema fantástico in 1944, and to chamber music in 1933 with his second Trio and in 1942 with Las musas de Andalucía. Turina died in Madrid on 14th January 1949.
The Sinfonía sevillana is Turinas orchestral masterpiece and the first important work of this kind to be produced in Spain in the twentieth century. Written in 1920, the influence of the Paris Schola Cantorum predominates through an idealised Andalusian nationalism, although the rhythms used really come from popular tradition. Given that, the work is very flexible in form and skilful in its orchestration. The titles of the movements are indicative of the poetic inspiration that characterizes the music. The first movement, Panorama, offers a general picture; the second, Por el río Guadalquivir (By the River Guadalquivir), is possibly the most accomplished, with its poetic climate and subtle orchestration, while Fiesta en San Juan de Aznalfarache offers an authentic explosion of colour and rhythm. The Sinfonía won Turina the Gran Casino de San Sebastián prize. It was first performed in Madrid by the Madrid Symphony Orchestra under Enrique Fernández Arbós on 11th September 1920.
Turina quickly wrote two versions of his Danzas fantásticas, the more intimate piano version and the orchestral, first performed on 30th December 1919. This latter is the most widely known, with the colour and the symphonic dimension it stamps on the dance music. The three movements are given in the score with quotations from the novel La orgía by José Más, the author of stories set in Seville. The first, Exaltación, is based on an Aragonese jota, although transformed into something of greater profundity. Ensueño (Dream) brings to life the emotional heart of the work; it is a poetic romance that mingles Andalusian melodic elements with the Basque rhythm of the zorcico. Orgía is a brilliant Andalusian farruca, the melodic turns of which evoke flamenco. The Danzas were first performed by the Madrid Philharmonic under Bartolomé Pérez Casas on 13th February 1920.
Turina wrote his ballet Ritmos with Antonia Mercé La Argentina in mind, a ballerina who had created a sensation in Spain in the 1920s and whom the composer greatly admired. The work, however, was never staged as a ballet. It was first performed on 25th October 1928 in Barcelona by the Orquesta Pau Casals under Turina himself. Ritmos has music of a strongly nationalist stamp, skilfully orchestrated; in the last movement the earlier motifs are recalled, giving the work a cyclic character. At the time of the first performance it was said that the different movements ran through a gamut of colours, from the darkest to the brightest, but this interpretation now seems somewhat trite.
La Procesión del Rocío, completed in 1912, was Turinas first orchestral work and the one that brought him to the attention of the wider public. It is a symphonic poem that describes the procession celebrated once a year in the village of El Rocío, in the marshes between Seville and Huelva, adjacent to the present Doñana nature reserve, a very picturesque scene with its gathering of carts and horsemen. Turina reflects the occasion in narrative form, using an orchestra that takes on many of the elements of the French impressionist masters. The entrance of the procession into the village church is depicted literally, with the pealing of the bells and a band that plays the Spanish national anthem. The first performance was given in March 1913 by the Madrid Symphony Orchestra under Fernández Arbós.
Enrique Martínez Miura
English version by Keith Anderson