About this Recording
8.557064 - ALBENIZ: Iberia (arr. for 3 guitars)
English  German 

Isaac Manuel Francisco Albéniz (1860-1909)

Isaac Manuel Francisco Albéniz (1860-1909)

Iberia (Arranged for three guitars by Christophe Dejour)

 

Isaac Manuel Francisco Albéniz was born on 29th May 1860 in the northern Catalonian town of Camprodón. He was an unusually gifted child and first performed in public at the age of four. When he was six it seems that he had private lessons from Marmontel, a leading professor at the Paris Conservatoire, which it was then planned he should enter. Prevented by his immaturity, in 1868 he entered the Real Conservatorio in Madrid, leaving to take his chance as a pianist, giving concerts in various towns, as the opportunity offered. In 1876 he enrolled at the Conservatorium in Leipzig, but soon withdrew, later obtaining a royal stipend to study at the Brussels Conservatoire, where, in 1879, he tied for the first prize in piano performance.

 

 A major turning-point in the life of Albéniz came in 1883, when he met Felipe Pedrell (1841-1922), a teacher, composer and researcher in Spanish music. Pedrell strongly believed that Spanish composers should write Spanish music, acquiring its idiom from native folk-songs and dances. Pedrell’s ideas made a deep impression on Albéniz, who became one of the most important exponents of Pedrell’s ideas. As a celebrated pianist, Albéniz toured Europe, living in Madrid, London and Paris, where he was to meet distinguished musicians such as d’Indy, Chausson, Fauré, and Dukas. Although still very Spanish, his pieces now took on a French touch, creating a unique synthesis, nowhere more successful than in Iberia, which was composed in Paris in the years before his death in 1909.

 

The Suite Iberia is an outstanding piano work in twelve movements, regarded as the definitive masterpiece of Spanish piano music of the twentieth century. The performance of music by Albéniz on the guitar is not a new idea, and much of it has been arranged for the instrument. Many of these guitar transcriptions are now considered standard elements in the repertoire of the classical guitar. Albéniz often referred to the instrument as the source of inspiration for many of his compositions and it often almost seems that the guitar transcriptions are original pieces written for the instrument. For almost a hundred years the Suite Iberia had never been arranged for guitar in its entirety. In 1995 Christophe Dejour transcribed the entire work for three guitars and the Trio Campanella gave the first performance of the work in 1998 in Copenhagen.

 

Written between 1905 and 1908, the Suite Iberia was and is without any doubt Albéniz’s masterpiece. Iberia is an ambitious and remarkably sophisticated composition with a formidable architectural structure of uniquely impressive dimensions. All the pieces are based on traditional Spanish dance rhythms, arranged in a freely artistic and idealised manner. The rhythmical dances smoothly alternate with the “vocal” part, the copla. In traditional Spanish music the copla is a characteristic part of the structure seen in many forms like the saeta (arrow), or a cante jondo (deep song), the song of deep feelings. Albéniz has included a copla in almost all of the pieces in Iberia.

 

The first piece, Evocación, is an idyllic composition with a gentle rhythm and a lyrical and dreamy melody, Albéniz in his most poetic and calmest mood. The final whisper of the piece takes us directly into the bright and joyous El puerto, depicting lively days at a southern seaport. El Corpus Cristi is a portrayal of a feast day procession through the narrow streets of Seville, beginning with a march-like theme approaching from the distance. The main theme with trumpets and drums culminates in a tremendous climax while the original melody continues insistently in the background.

 

The first two pieces of the second book describe two Andalusian towns. After Rondeña, a dancing and straightforward piece named after the mountain town Ronda, Albéniz takes us to the Mediterranean Almería and its calm, expressive beauty. Triana takes its name from a famous quarter in Seville. This catchy piece is perhaps the most frequently played among the pieces of Iberia.

 

The third book begins in El Albaicín, the old Arabic neighbourhood in Granada that faces the Alhambra castle from the hill below. This is followed by El polo, a melancholy Andalusian song. The polo is one of those songs that always seem to have a burden of sorrow hanging around them. Lavapiés is the name of a working class quarter in Madrid. This is technically and rhythmically the most complex piece of the whole suite. Despite its difficulty Albéniz wrote that it should be played “joyfully, with freedom”.

 

The fourth book Iberia takes us to two other Andalusian towns. The first is Málaga, the old town in the south. Its music stems from the malagueña dance, with an attractive but simple melody. The second town is Jerez, the centre of Spanish sherry production. The suite ends in Eritaña, a tavern on the outskirts of Seville. Claude Debussy wrote enthusiastically of this piece: “Eritaña is the joy of morning, the happy discovery of a tavern where the wine is cool. An ever-changing crowd passes, their bursts of laughter accompanied by the jingling of the tambourines. Never has music achieved such diversified, such colourful impressions: one’s eyes close, as though dazzled by beholding such a wealth of imagery”.

 

Jonathan Irons


Close the window