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2.110308 - MUSICAL JOURNEY (A) - SPAIN: A Musical Visit to Madrid, La Mancha and Cordoba (NTSC)
A Musical Tour of Spain: Madrid, La Mancha and Córdoba
Madrid by Day
Madrid is introduced here by a statue of Don Quixote on his horse, Rocinante, accompanied by his faithful squire Sancho Panza, on a donkey, part of the monument to Cervantes, their creator, in the Plaza de España. The busy streets of the capital are seen, and the quieter squares, leading to the Buen Retiro, a park, developed under Philip II and now with an artificial lake, bordered by a colonnade and statue of Alfonso XII.
Music Chabrier: España
The French might be forgiven for a certain preoccupation with the very different traditional music of their geographical neighbours. The 19th and 20th centuries offer various examples of this interest, from Saint-Saëns, Lalo and Bizet to Ravel and Debussy. Emmanuel Chabrier was intended by his family for a securer career than any that music could offer. He showed exceptional ability as a pianist as a child, but studied law and took employment in the Ministry of the Interior in Paris. It was not until 1880, eleven years after the death of his parents, that he became a full-time musician. His colourful orchestral piece España was written in the following year, its inspiration a visit to Spain. It has always enjoyed popularity, a success not shared by the dramatic works by which the composer set considerable store.
Madrid by Night
Madrid remains busy at night, its buildings taking on a magical appearance. Inevitably we visit the home of flamenco, the famous Villa Rosa, with its tiled outer walls, showing the historic city, a night-spot once frequented by Hemingway and his contemporaries.
Music Glinka: Summer Night in Madrid
Spain exercised a curious fascination over the nationalist composers of the 19th century, with a particular appeal in Russia, a country that was finding again its own identity in literature and music, after the Westernisation initiated by Peter the Great. Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka was a pioneer of Russian musical nationalism, but it was with some idea of composing a Spanish opera that in 1845 he went to Spain. The result was not an opera but the first of his so-called Spanish Overtures. A second Spanish Overture was to follow in 1848, when his application for a passport to Paris had been refused and he found himself obliged to spend the winter in Warsaw. Making use of material he had gathered in Spain, he wrote the Recuerdos de Castilla, later revising it as Souvenir d’une nuit d’été à Madrid. The piece is based on four Spanish folktunes, varied and expanded.
Madrid: El Retiro
Among the statues in the Buen Retiro is a monument to the Fallen Angel, Satan, an unusual subject. The formal Paseo de la Argentina is bordered by statuary, and among the notable buildings is the Palacio de Cristal, modelled on the London Crystal Palace. Further glimpses are given of the main lake and the grandiose monument to Alfonso XII.
Music Massenet: Le Cid – I. Castillane
Jules Massenet was primarily a composer of opera, a field in which he dominated the French theatre in the later years of the 19th century. From a relatively humble background, he took piano lessons as a child from his mother and entered the Paris Conservatoire at the age of eleven. He was to become a composition pupil of Ambroise Thomas and won the important Prix de Rome, his stay in Rome bringing him the acquaintance of Liszt. Massenet’s opera Le Cid is based on the great play on the subject of the Spanish hero by Corneille. The work met little success, but the ballet music from the opera preserves the spirit of Spain. The ballet suite opens with a Castilian dance.
Spanish cities remain as busy as ever as night falls, and Madrid is no exception.
Music Massenet: Le Cid – II. Andalouse
The Andalouse (Andalusian Dance) forms part of celebrations in Burgos in the second of the four acts of the opera.
Among the fountains of Madrid the best known must be the fountain in the Plaza de Cibeles, with its statue of the goddess Cybele, dating from 1780, the work of Francisco Gutiérrez and Robert Michel.
Music Massenet: Le Cid – III. Aragonaise
The ballet suite continues with a dance from Aragon, the Aragonaise.
La Mancha: Belmonte Castle
Work on the castle at Belmonte in La Mancha started in 1456 under Don Juan Pacheco, with the architect Hanequin of Brussels, continued by Juan Guas.
Music Massenet: Le Cid – IV. Aubade
The Aubade also forms part of the celebration of the second act of the opera.
La Mancha: Belmonte Castle and Landscape
The formidable castle, with its round towers and extended walls, dominates, from the hill where it stands, the surrounding countryside. The building was completed in the early 1470s, and was held during the civil war from 1475 to 1480 by the Marquis Diego López Pacheco, who took refuge there from rebellion in Alarcón. The Pacheco family had won importance in the service of Henry IV of Castile and enjoyed considerable power in the region.
Music Massenet: Le Cid – V. Catalane
The ballet suite continues with a dance from Catalonia, a Catalane.
La Mancha: Belmonte
In the town below life continues, as ever. The castle itself underwent various changes when it became the property of Countess Eugenia de Montijo, who married Napoleon III, to become Empress Eugénie of France, until the fall of the Empire.
Music Massenet: Le Cid – VI. Madrilène
The Madrilène is a dance from Madrid.
La Mancha: Windmills
The windmills of La Mancha bring obvious echoes of Don Quixote, who, in his first expedition as a knight errant, mistook the windmills for giants and attacked them, with predictable results.
Music Massenet: Le Cid – VII. Navarraise
The ballet suite ends with a lively dance from Navarre, the Navarraise.
Córdoba: Landscape • Alcázar Gardens
The city of Córdoba has a long history. Built by the Guadalquivir, relatively shallow at this point in its course, Córdoba was once held by the Carthaginians and subsequently as a colony and regional centre by the Romans. For a time part of the Byzantine Empire, in the 8th century it became the capital of a Moorish Caliphate and was recaptured in 1236 by Fernando III of Castile. The surrounding countryside provides land for olive groves, the fruit harvested by beating the trees with sticks and catching the olives in nets below. The gardens of the Alcázar of the Christian Kings were built under Alfonso XI of Castile in 1328, on the site of the old Moorish fortress.
Music Rimsky-Korsakov: Capriccio espagnol, Op. 34 – Alborada – Variations – Alborada – Scena e canto gitano – Fandango asturiano
The Russian composer Rimsky-Korsakov’s famous Capriccio espagnol began as a Fantasia on Spanish Themes for violin and orchestra, but was eventually completed in 1887 in its present form. Rimsky-Korsakov belonged to the musical generation after Glinka and once he had relinquished his original career as a naval officer devoted himself to the cause of Russian music with a professionalism that some of his contemporaries lacked. He was one of the five nationalist composers, Stasov’s Mighty Handful, under the influence of Balakirev, and possessed particular ability in orchestration. He stressed that the brilliant Capriccio espagnol was intended as a display of orchestral colour, an aim which it achieves admirably. In one continuous movement, its sectional titles explain something of its nature.
‘Spanish Festival’: Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Keith Clark [Naxos 8.550086]
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