|About this Recording
8.550086 - Spanish Festival
Spanish Festival Volume 1
Ivanovich Glinka (1804 - 1857)
Andreyevlch Rimsky-Korsakov (1844 - 1908)
Chabrier (1841 - 1894)
Elgar (1857 - 1934)
Massenet (1842 - 1912)
Spain exercised a curious fascination over the nationalist composers of the nineteenth 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. He was born on the family estate near Smolensk in 1804 and spent much of his childhood in the care of his paternal grandmother, a woman whose care for him effectively undermined his health, which might have improved with a breath of fresh air. In 1810, when his grandmother died, he returned to his parents and began to widen his musical experience, which up to that time had been largely of folk-music. Further musical opportunities occurred at school in St. Petersburg, where he had a few lessons from John Field and played to the Bratislava virtuoso Hummel, to his approval. He was later to avoid serious employment and to devote himself to music, improving his abilities as a composer by study in Italy and in Germany.
Glinka's first real achievement was in the creation of a genuinely Russian opera, A Life for the Tsar, which he completed in 1836. Ruslan and Lyudmila, completed six years later, was rather less successful at first, although it was gradually to win acceptance. It was with some idea of composing a Spanish opera that in 1845 Glinka went to Spain. The result was not an opera but the first of his so-called Spanish Overtures, the Capriccio brillante on the Aragonese dance, the iota, a work in the structure of sonata form. 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'ete a Madrid. The piece is based on four Spanish folk-tunes, varied and expanded.
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, a gift he was later to exercise in removing apparent crudities from the music of Musorgsky and in completing what Borodin had left undone. He stressed that the brilliant Capriccio espagnol was intended as a display of orchestral colour, an aim which it achieves admirably.
The French might be forgiven for a certain preoccupation with the very different traditional music of their geographical neighbours. The nineteenth and twentieth centuries offer various examples of this interest, from Saint-Saëns, Lalo and Bizet to Ravel and Debussy. Emmanuel Chabrier, like his Russian contemporaries, 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 to his parents, that he became a full-time musician. His colourful orchestral piece Españawas 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.
Jules Massenet was primarily a composer of opera, a field in which he dominated the French theatre in the later years of the nineteenth 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, having none of the pathos of Manon or the stormy romanticism of Werther. The ballet music, however, preserves the spirit of Spain, a feature apparent in the Sevillana taken from the earlier opera Don Cesarde Bazan, which had won success at the Opéra-Comique in 1872. The work is based on Victor Hugo's Ruy Bias, which had had earlier musical offspring.
The English composer Edward Elgar, whether pictured at Ascot, or, more appropriately, in his beloved West Country, might seem particularly remote from anything Spanish. He was born in Broadheath, near Worcester, in 1857, the son of a piano-tuner with a music-shop in Worcester, where he was active in local musical life. Elgar rose from these relatively humble origins to a position that was to identify him, in the popular mind at least, with the confident Establishment of Edwardian England. The impression is misleading. While Elgar did provide music for royal and imperial occasions and did celebrate patriotic views that may no longer be fashionable, he was at the same time a composer of significance among the late Romantic symphonists of European music, a musician of sensitivity and imagination.
Sevillana, completed in 1884, was the first orchestral work by Elgar to be played in London. The composer's contact with Spain was purely literary, but it was an interest that was to reappear from time to time in later works.
Radio Symphony Orchestra (Bratislava)
Close the window