About this Recording
8.557438 - TURINA, J.: Piano Music, Vol. 2 (Masó) - Romantic Sonata / Fantasy Sonata / Magical Corner
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Joaquín Turina (1882-1949): Piano Music • 2
Sonata romántica • Sonata Fantasía • Rincón mágico • Concierto sin orquesta

Spanish music is renowned for its use of folk-based themes, and Joaquín Turina’s is no exception to this rule. He moved to Paris in 1905, however, and as he completed his musical training at the conservative Schola Cantorum at around the age of 23, he was becoming increasingly fascinated by the new music coming out of France. Two years later, though, came a momentous meeting with Isaac Albéniz in Paris; the latter, on 3rd October 1907, after attending the première of Turina’s Piano Quintet, Op. 1, in the Salon d’Automne, took the young composer by the arm and said to him, “Your Franckian quintet will be published, I promise you that, but you must give me your word not to write any more music like that. You, a Sevillian, must base your work in Spanish or Andalusian folk-music.” Turina took the advice of Albéniz, whom he so admired, although his French surroundings and Romanticism would continue to have a profound influence on his compositions.

The Romantic Sonata on a Spanish theme, Op. 3, is the result of an intermingling of as yet unconsolidated aesthetic principles and styles. It was written in 1909, when Turina was grieving over the recent death of Albéniz. In its first movement he picks up on a process often used by Albéniz, that of quoting a well-known theme, in this case a motif from a familiar Spanish folksong El vito, a theme much used by Spanish composers, including Falla, Joaquín Nin-Culmell, Manuel Infante and Regino Sainz de la Maza. The opening movement takes the form of four variations on the main theme. After three introductory bars in which the left hand establishes, pianissimo, an obsessive rhythm, the theme from El vito quietly appears, played very expressively by the right hand (the fourth bar is marked ‘Très expressif’). The formal skills of the 27-year-old Turina are apparent in each of the carefully constructed variations. These combine his natural sense of the picturesque, encouraged by Albéniz, and the influences of his cosmopolitan Parisian surroundings. The movement’s ending, a dolcissimo pppp, has clear touches of Albéniz. A very different atmosphere is presented by the second movement, marked Vif et gai. This scherzo is unmistakably the work of Turina, and acts as a bridge to the final movement. The Final begins with a mysterious slow passage in which a descending sextolet comes to the fore, conjuring up a hazy landscape, with touches of Debussy. This never fully develops, yielding in bar 35 to the forceful Allegro with which the sonata comes to an close. Here the theme from El vito makes a lively comeback, now delivered in a more sophisticated harmonic idiom. Three long, even but resounding chords, bring the work to an end with further echoes of Albéniz. The sonata, dedicated of course to the memory of Isaac Albéniz, was first performed on 15th October 1909, by Turina himself at the Grand Palais des Champs-Elysées, as part of a concert organized specifically as a tribute to the late composer.

Turina originally called his Sonata Fantasía, Op. 59, ‘Sonata andaluza’ despite there being little of Andalusia in its music, but in the end had the good sense to give it its more appropriate title. Composed in 1930 and dedicated to the musicologist and critic Josep Subirà, the work came out of a particularly fruitful period for Turina, especially in terms of piano music: within a twelve-month period he also wrote the first set of Danzas gitanas, Op. 55, the second collection of Niñerías, Op. 56, the Partita in C, Op. 57, and Tarjetas postales, Op. 58. Although he introduces elements of the zambra and garrotín (Andalusian dances) into the Allegro molto moderato, he here moves away from his traditional colourful writing and the Hispaniscism advocated 23 years earlier by Albéniz and instead gives himself over to a sophisticated and deliberately Impressionistic idiom, especially in the marvellous slow openings to each of the two movements of this atypical sonata. The second of these, the Chorale with variations seeks, and finds, in its calm figurations, the sense of a solo guitar. The chorale, its beauty elusive, includes passages of virtuosity, which momentarily interrupt the general tranquility. Turina opts for a lively, conventional and well-developed passage in a bright D major to close a work whose true essence is to be found in its wonderful slow sections. The Sonata Fantasía was published in Madrid in 1931.

“I wanted to sing of love and sadness, searching out that little corner of the Andalusian spirit that looks out to the wider world; I have lived part of my life dreaming, because I as a musician love melody. There, tragedy loses its heart-rending edge, dance becomes purer and wine is only perfume. I cannot sit at the piano with a farreaching melody. I sing what pleases me and I feel a response.” ‘Rincón’, ‘rincones’, ‘rinconcitos’ (‘corner, ‘corners’ and ‘little corners’) are words that frequently appear in the world of Turina. The corner is an intimate, private space, perhaps at times a space to be shared with someone else. Turina did in fact explain the significance of the corner here, with a note at the top of the score saying it was “The corner of the composer’s office. An intimate and secluded place.” This Rincón mágico (Magical Corner), its original version dated 1941, was dedicated by Turina to his wife and children and bears the epigraph Desfile en forma de sonata (Parade in sonata form). A number of different characters appear as the score progresses, specifically in the three variations that complement the theme in the first movement. This theme makes an expressive and sudden appearance after an ethereal introduction of twelve bars. To clear up any doubts about the source of this characteristic motif, Turina adds in brackets the words “The composer”. After a lengthy exposition of the theme the three variations follow one another, each one referring to a different character. The first is entitled Regino y la guitarra (Regino and the guitar), alluding to the guitarist and critic Regino Sainz de la Maza, a close friend of Turina and the dedicatee and first soloist of Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez. The second variation is built on subtle semiquaver patterns almost always marked dolcissimo, above which the song-like melody is given to the left hand. Turina called this section Las melodías de Paquita (Paquita’s melodies). The third and last leaves no doubt as to its subject, being clearly marked Pepe, el pianista gaditano (Pepe, the pianist from Cadiz), another close friend, José Cubiles, a co-founder and co-director of the National Music Commissariat in 1940 who, along with Turina himself and Nemesio Otaño, gave the first performances of many of Turina’s piano works, as well as of Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain.

The spirit hanging over the solemn, modal opening of the lively second-movement Scherzo is that of the Debussy of Children’s Corner. Turina adds descriptive titles here as well: its three parts are marked respectively El dinamismo de Antoñito (Antoñito’s dynamism), Los farolitos de Carmen (Carmen’s little lanterns) and Antoñito vuelve (Antoñito returns). The third movement, meanwhile, is a gentle “expressive and penetrating” Lied, lilting in nature and marked Andantino. It is headed La canción de Lolita (Lolita’s song), after the soprano Lola Rodríguez de Aragón, a former pupil of the great Elisabeth Schumann and star of the première of the final version of Turina’s Canto a Sevilla in 1934, and of wonderful recordings of that work and of the songs Tu pupila es azul and Los dos miedos, in which she was accompanied on the piano by Turina himself.

“The composer and his family” are the protagonists in the rhythmic Sonata that forms the dazzling finale to this work. In it Turina displays his most virtuosic resources, his writing both lavish and transparent but not concealing its picturesque heart. Movement and work conclude with a solemn four-bar fortissimo coda. By the time he wrote Rincón mágico, Turina was approaching the end of his life, and his inspiration and the energy to develop it were beginning to diminish. He broached the work at least three times, between 1941 and 1946, when it was finally published.

The Concierto sin orquesta (Concerto without orchestra) is one of the many works by Turina that has been neglected, yet fully deserves to be programmed and enjoyed. It dates from 1935, and its manuscript (annotated Ciclo pianístico VIII) carries a dedication to the Navarrese pianist and composer Joaquín Larregla, creator of the famous jota ¡Viva Navarra!. The first movement opens with two bars of resounding chords which give way to a brief measured passage that in turn serves as a preamble to the Allegro moderato section. This features the motif of an obsessively repeated note that becomes the background for the development of a broad theme in fifths and octaves in which Turina amuses himself with his favourite combinations of triplets. After a number of different episodes, the original theme reappears, leading to a new cadenced passage with Debussy-like glissandi, before culminating in a sonorous coda. This appears to prepare the ground for the pianissimo (and completely unconnected) introduction of the introverted Molto adagio that brings this original concerto to an end. Its sonority and rich harmonies evolve towards an animated, extrovert Allegro moderato, the intense lyricism of which leads inexorably to an extended coda. This then picks up on elements from tempo I, giving the whole a cyclical unity.

© Justo Romero
English Version : Susannah Howe

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