About this Recording
8.570707 - TURINA, J.: Songs (Ullrich, Halasz) - Triptico / Homenaje a Lope de Vega / Vocalizaciones / Poema en forma de canciones
English  Spanish 

Joaquín Turina (1882–1949)


The Spanish composer Joaquín Turina was born in Seville in 1882 into a well-to-do, cultured family. His father was a well-known artist, and he received a musical upbringing. At the age of twelve he began studying composition with the local musician Evaristo García Torres, in addition to taking regular piano lessons. Turina quickly started to make a name for himself in Sevillian artistic circles, and the young musician soon decided to relocate to the bigger, more cosmopolitan city of Madrid, where he met the composer Manuel de Falla, with whom he formed a lasting friendship. Here he continued his studies, taking piano lessons from José Tragó at the Real Conservatorio Superior de Música between 1902 and 1905.

In the summer of that year Turina moved once more, this time to Paris. He began studying the piano with the renowned teacher Moritz Moszkowsky, and a few months later enrolled at the Schola Cantorum, first working with Auguste Serieyx, then later with Vincent d’Indy. It was also in Paris that Turina met his older compatriot and fellow composer Isaac Albéniz, who influenced him (as did Falla) to find musical inspiration in his Spanish heritage. Turina recounted his experience: ‘I suffered the most complete metamorphosis in my life.…We were three Spaniards and in that cenacle, in a corner of Paris, we had to make great efforts for national music and for Spain.’ Albéniz was a great proponent of Turina’s music, and helped to establish his name.

Turina graduated from the Schola in 1913, the same year that he experienced a compositional breakthrough with the highly successful première of La procesión del Rocío in Madrid. A year later, with the outbreak of World War I, he moved back to the Spanish capital, where his career continued to flourish. He was a frequent concert performer, both in chamber and solo settings, a well-known journalist for such publications as the Revista Musical de Bilbao and El Debate, and was also active as a conductor. Initially he gave composition lessons privately; then in 1930 he found settled employment at the Music Conservatory of Madrid. By this time Turina was firmly established as one of Spain’s foremost composers, and in 1941 he was appointed Comisario General de la Música. He died in Madrid on 14 January 1949 after a protracted illness.

The works on this disc span a period of more than ten years and set texts by seven different poets. Tres arias, Op. 26, and Poema en forma de canciones, Op. 19, both appeared in 1923, while Turina was living in Madrid (although the latter was written several years earlier). The Poema contains four poems by the Spanish poet and political philosopher Ramón de Campoamor (1817–1901), preceded by an introductory piano Dedicatoria, which sets the eloquent, expressive tone of the whole. The following songs are full of contrast, from the wistful vocal melody floating above soft piano chords in Nunca olvida (Never forget) and the lilting sweetness of Los dos miedos (Doubly afraid) to the agitated piano figuration of Cantares (Songs) and the joyful exuberance of Las locas por amor (Women passionate for love).

Tres arias sets texts by three different Spanish authors, including Ángel de Saavedra, Duque de Rivas (1791–1865), the poet and playwright who eventually became Prime Minister of Spain, José de Espronceda (1808–1842), a poet of the Romantic school, also well-known for his radical politics, and Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer (1836–1870), the influential poet and writer, born (like Turina) in Seville. Rivas’s heroic ballad Romance is painted by the composer with dramatic colours. As with many such settings of narrative poems, he is keenly responsive to the story as it unfolds. Espronceda’s El pescador (The fisherman) is another example of sensitive text-setting, but here Turina depicts the affect of the poem more generally, infusing the whole song with a gentle rocking motion, as if in imitation of the waves. Finally, in Bécquer’s Rima (Rhyme), the passionate intensity of the poem is matched by Turina’s glowing chords and thrilling vocal line.

Dos canciones, Op. 38, published in 1927, sets two poems by Cristina de Arteaga (1902–1984), a female Spanish poet who published her first book of poetry in 1925 before eventually becoming a nun. Preceded by a Preámbulo for solo piano, Lo mejor del amor (The best of love) opens with a virtuosic flourish before opening out into a soaring vocal melody, while Cunas (Cradles) is a tranquil lullaby. Tríptico, Op. 45, was published in 1929. It sets love poems by Campoamor and Rivas. Campoamor’s fervent Farruca, with its extravagant melismas, is followed by an effervescent setting of Rivas’s Cantilena, then the bitterly impassioned Madrigal.

Written and published the following year, the Tres sonetos, Op. 54, contains three settings of poems by Francisco Rodríguez Marín (1855–1943), a Spanish poet and scholar who was devoted to Spanish literature, and who published several editions of Cervantes’ classic Don Quixote. In this unusual group, the ardent love poems Anhelos (Wishes) and A unos ojos (To a pair of eyes) flank the playfully humorous ¡Vade retro! (Get thee behind me!), drawing a witty, if cynical, contrast.

Dating from 1932, the Vocalizaciones, Op. 74, are a set of seven tiny, gem-like vocalisations, flowing seamlessly from one to another, and expressing a kaleidoscopic number of moods. Composed the next year, the Tres poemas, Op. 81, returns to Bécquer’s poetry. Turina’s setting of Olas gigantes (Towering waves) is unabashedly wild and tragic, while Tu pupila es azul (Your eyes are blue), with its lyrical phrases and guitar-like accompaniment, evokes a wistful, dream-like atmosphere. Besa el aura (The gentle breeze), all delicate figuration and vocal agility, completes the group. The Ave María, Op. 95, is similarly ethereal, with an exquisite piano accompaniment and a transcendent vocal line.

Composed in 1935, Homenaje a Lope de Vega, Op. 90, sets the best-known author of the group included here. Félix Lope de Vega (1562–1635), the famous and influential poet and playwright of the Spanish Baroque, is represented by three works: Cuando tan hermosa os miro (When I gaze on you, so lovely), Si con mis deseos (If the seasons) and Al val de Fuente Ovejuna (The Valley of Fuente Ovejuna). The mournful piano introduction to the opening song gives the music a Spanish tinge, and the bittersweet vocal line eloquently expresses the longing of the text. Si con mis deseos sustains this fragile mood, before the final song brings the group to a spirited conclusion.

Joaquín Turina is little-known today, overshadowed by his more famous compatriots Albéniz, Falla and Granados, but not only was he part of an important and influential group of early twentieth-century Spanish composers, he also possessed a beautiful and individual voice, one that can be heard clearly in these songs.

Caroline Waight

Close the window