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8.557110 - GURIDI: Ten Basque Melodies / An Adventure of Don Quixote
Jesús Guridi (1886-1961)
Diez melodías vascas (Ten Basque melodies)
Así cantan los chicos (So the boys sing)
Una aventura de Don Quijote (An Adventure of Don Quixote)
En un barco fenicio (In a Phoenician Vessel)
Canta el gallo tempranero (The early cock is crowing)
Jesús Guridi is regarded not only as one of the twentieth century’s foremost exponents of Basque nationalism but also as one of Spain’s greatest operatic and orchestral composers. He lived and worked in an age of many different and contrasting aesthetic trends, and absorbed elements of them all while declining to attach himself wholly to the Viennese school or any other European musical current. His music combined rich Romanticism with touches of modernity, thereby creating a very personal idiom which brought him success and international renown.
Guridi, who was born in Vitoria in 1886, came from a family of musicians, and his own gifts became apparent at an early age, when several short pieces of his became known to Bilbao’s musical circles. He studied the organ and composition in Paris, then continued his studies in Cologne with Otto Neitzel and in Liège with Joseph Jongen. On his return to Spain he devoted himself principally to teaching the organ.
In 1910 he became choirmaster of the Bilbao Choral Society, for whom he would write a number of works, the most significant being his three collections of Basque folk-songs and an early masterpiece: Así cantan los chicos (1915). Two of his most important stage works also date from this period: Mirentxu (1915) and Amaya (1920) (Marco Polo 8.225084-85). His principal works include the Diez melodías vascas, the symphonic poem Una aventura de Don Quijote and the zarzuelas El caserío (The Homestead), La meiga (The Witch) and La cautiva (The Captive), among others. As an organist he was famed for his skills at improvisation and he also made a significant contribution to the instrument’s repertoire with works such as El tríptico del Buen Pastor (The Good Shepherd Triptych). He was appointed organ professor at the Madrid Conservatory, and later became its director. He also wrote film scores and in his later years was garlanded with many honours and awards. He died in Madrid in 1961.
Guridi’s fascination with classical themes lay behind En un barco fenicio, his third symphonic poem, which was first performed to great acclaim in Madrid on 30th December 1927. Taking as his inspiration Greek myth, specifically the story of Telemachus, son of Odysseus, rather than Basque folk-lore in this instance, he constructed a work which, though it may lack a little in terms of formal freedom and smoothness of contrast, is nevertheless rich in orchestral colour, melodic inventiveness and rhythmical precision.
Así cantan los chicos is based on Spanish children’s folk-lore and borrows a number of motifs from well-known popular songs. Setting poems by Juan Carlos Gortázar, this was Guridi’s first major work. In the first of its three scenes, three groups of carefree children play while the orchestra brilliantly depicts the light of a summer’s afternoon. The second scene is dominated by the restrained emotion of the children now mourning the loss of one of their friends, who is carried in a little white coffin, and in the third a sense of joy returns, prevailing over their sad memories.
In Madrid in late 1916 Guridi presented Una aventura de Don Quijote, the only orchestral work from the period in which his creative energy was focused on the opera Amaya. Full of both energy and poetry, this is one of his most fascinating works, with an obvious programmatic content. The thematic material representing Don Quixote is largely drawn from Basque and Castilian folk-music and is skilfully woven into the orchestral fabric alongside Guridi’s own original and clearly defined musical ideas.
The Diez melodías vascas (Madrid, 1941) were another of Guridi’s masterpieces, indeed one of the greatest orchestral works by any Spanish composer of the time, and made his name on the international stage. The material is remarkable for its variety, intelligent instrumentation and brilliant orchestration into which Guridi is not afraid to introduce touches of modernistic acerbity, while always remaining true to the essence of the original melodies, their simplicity, emotion and light-hearted nature. The solemn Asiko naz, the characteristic rhythm of the zortziko (a Basque dance), the warm Amorosa for strings, the grandeur of the instrumentation in De ronda as well as the impressionistic effects in Narrativa combine to form an exceptional work, classical and elegant, yet modern too.
Following the success of the Diez melodías, Canta el gallo tempranero (Madrid, 8th March 1942) marked the mature Guridi’s return to a typical form of Castilian folk-song: the albada. This was traditionally used for scenes portraying young lovers caught unawares by the cock crowing at daybreak. Guridi’s original composition, for soprano and small orchestra, including celesta, sets a text by Juan de Arozamena, and in both its bipartite structure and its orchestral colour faithfully reflects the characteristic simplicity of the traditional form.
Translated by Susannah Howe
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