, November 2007
The Seville-born composer Joaquín Turina was a versatile musician and a contemporary of Ravel, of Manuel de Falla, and of Isaac Albeniz whose influence sometimes appears to be quite noticeable. Like de Falla he spent much of his life in Andalusia.
Naxos has been doing a splendid job on behalf of many Spanish composers especially Turina, with four discs of his piano music all in the very capable hands of Jordi Maso. There are other discs including his chamber music and his colourful orchestral works. I have bought a few and have really been enjoying the opportunity to get to know his music. I could recommend any of them but let us consider this one.
There are two aspects to this CD which are crucial: one is that all of the music is in some form or other concerned with aspects of childhood. The second is that Turina, who has been called the ‘Spanish Debussy’, shows his indebtedness to the French master in many of these miniatures. Let’s take the first point: childhood and nostalgia.
The word ‘Ninerias’ actually translates as childishness or childish diversions or games. With titles like ‘Parade of the Toy Soldiers’ and ‘Dance of the Dolls’ the picture is painted for you. These are miniatures, eight in each of the four sets, all neatly contrasted and very inventive. Some pieces were actually dedicated to his own children; ‘Ninerias Series 1’ is ‘To my beloved children Joaquín, Maria and Conchita’ and one assumes was, written for children to enjoy. In the movement ‘Jeux’ he even uses a children’s song. The second series includes titles like ‘Conchita at school’ and ‘Conchita Dreams’ as well as ‘Children’s Carnival’. Other pieces are clearly inspired by his own Andalusian childhood, such as ‘View from La Giralda’ and in the Miniatures ‘The Village Sleeps’ whilst the child lies awake listening.
Turina was also influenced by Vincent D’Indy and a certain sternness in expression may sometimes be traced to that influence as in the opening Prelude and Fugue to the First set of ‘Ninerias’. You can also hear it in the quite strict counterpoint of ‘Market’ in the Miniatures. The Debussian influence is found firstly in the collection called ‘Jardin de Niños’ with all eight movements being given a French title like ‘Boite à musique’ and ‘Petite Danse’, surely Debussy’s ‘Children’s Corner’ (1908) or the ‘Petite Suite’(1888) are close at hand. Also Turina is able to establish a very particular atmosphere, as in the rising of ‘Dawn’ in the ‘Miniatures’. Turina uses the whole-tone scale as in ‘Sentimental Duet’ found in ‘Miniatures’ and sometimes a touch of the pentatonic scale. When we add this to various Spanish rhythms and minor key melodies the mix is quite ‘sexy’.
In Jordi Maso we have a pianist who has over a period of several years come to know and understand this composer and who is in total sympathy with him. Despite the fact that he knows that he is playing miniatures Maso offers us a broad view of the music, grasping the overall structure. He has an especially successful and sensitive rubato and use of the pedal. He can make a melody sing, especially a distinctively Spanish one, heard for example in ‘View from La Giralda’ from Book 1.
The recording is fine, and mellow and aids the music’s subtle communication.