About this Recording
8.573183 - TURINA, J.: Piano Music, Vol. 10 (Masó) - El castillo de Almodóvar / Rincones de Sanlúcar / Tocata y fuga / Partita / Preludios / Pieza romántica
English  Spanish 

Joaquín Turina (1882–1949)
Tocata y fuga • Partita • Pieza romántica • El castillo de Almodóvar • Rincones de Sanlúcar • Preludios


This is the tenth release in Jordi Masó and Naxos’s ongoing project to record the complete piano works of Joaquín Turina, and features a series of works from the composer’s mature years. Here, while his natural leaning towards the picturesque is still evident, his principal focus is the innermost workings of the piano itself, seen from his dual perspective as both composer and performer. With the exceptions of El castillo de Almodóvar and Rincones de Sanlúcar, the compositions on this album are abstract considerations of such classic forms as the toccata and fugue, partita, and prelude, and are therefore devoid of allusions to specific places, situations or circumstances.

They all date from the years 1929 (Tocata y fuga) to 1933 (Preludios), and all form part of what Turina himself dubbed his “Ciclo pianístico”. By the time he turned fifty in 1932, he had achieved a position of eminence in what was then a dynamic music scene in Spain. The previous year he had been appointed professor of composition at the Madrid Conservatory, and in 1935 he was also elected to the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando. A successful and productive period, therefore, but also one marked by tragedy, with the death in 1932 of his nineteen-year-old daughter María del Valle. Such is the backdrop to the varied creative universe inhabited by the six works on this recording.

Tocata y fuga dates from 1929, a busy and fruitful year for Turina: during its course he travelled to Cuba to give a seven-part series of lectures, worked with various publications—including the Diccionario de la música ilustrado, published in Barcelona—and continued his uninterrupted work as a composer. The only reference to Bach in this toccata and fugue is to be found in the title itself. Both sections are full of the kind of clear melodic lines, chordal writing and harmonies that characterize Turina’s music. The three-part fugue also features the flamenco rhythms of the zambra, and the overall atmosphere evoked by the work’s rhythms, melodies and accents is unmistakably a Turina creation. Tocata y fuga was dedicated to his friend Juan José Mantecón (1895–1964), critic, composer and distinguished member of the Generation of 27.

A year later, Turina wrote the four-movement Partita in C, dedicating it to the composer, conductor and pianist José María Franco (1894–1971). There is an eighteenth-century air to this piece, in which the composer’s in-depth knowledge of his instrument is fully revealed. From the first bars of the Preludio, with its masterly and at times vertiginous writing—the rapid demisemiquaver episodes, for example—to the remote and Debussy-like tranquillity of the attractive Zarabanda or the gossamer touch of the Capricho (very different from the dense texture of a Brahms capriccio!), Turina conjures an array of contrasts. These culminate in the opposing duality of the Introducción y Giga, in which the slow opening section soon opens up into a 6/8 Allegro rítmico section brimming with rapid scales and arpeggios that cover the full span of the keyboard, but also including a short episode that revisits the gentle atmosphere of the introduction. Partita was given its première by Turina’s pupil Elisa Bullé Urtasun on 10 January 1933 at the Círculo Militar (Officers’ Club) in Madrid.

Elisa Bullé Urtasun also gave the première of the Pieza romántica, on 9 March 1933, at another Madrid recital. The critics were unstinting in their praise of the “charming young Argentine pianist”, highlighting her “expressive, elegant and at times fiery performance”. The work was written between 18 February and 17 April 1931, and was dedicated to music writer Miguel Salvador (1881–1962). After a rhythmic introduction based on rapid figures and an Allegro molto passage reminiscent of Ravel, a slow and very expressive episode forms the high point of the work—it is barely thirty bars long, but of central significance. More Ravelian echoes, this time tinged with Turina’s own characteristic hues, appear in the lively final section.

The rugged and imposing Almódovar Castle, built in the year 760 on a hill above the town of Almodóvar del Río, not far from Córdoba, inspired Turina to write El castillo de Almodóvar. Composed in 1931 and arranged two years later for harp and orchestra, its three movements depict, as the composer himself explained, “two different points in time—night and the bright light of day—as well as a medieval fantasy … with its parades of knights and the sound of lutes”. There are impressionistic touches in its opening movement, Silueta nocturna (Nocturnal silhouette), in which airy, Moorish-nuanced melodies are heard above a background of delicate arabesques in the high register of the keyboard. The middle movement, Evocación medieval (Medieval evocation) features martial rhythms beneath the clear binary pulse, while the writing in the expansive finale, A plena luz (Broad daylight), is lighter and more relaxed, although characteristically enough, Turina brings it to an end with bright, fortissimo chords.

The unique and picturesque neighbourhood of Sanlúcar de Barrameda in Cádiz always held an important place in Turina’s life and work. It inspired his evocative Sonata Sanlúcar de Barrameda (1921) and, a couple of years later, the fantasy for violin and piano El poema de una sanluqueña. A decade later came the piano cycle Rincones de Sanlúcar (Corners of Sanlúcar, 1933), a work made up of four descriptive scenes. The first alludes to “la señorita María”, a girl the young Turina had got to know during summer holidays spent in Sanlúcar with his family. The other three scenes refer to actual locations, La fuente de las piletas (The Las Piletas spring), El pórtico de Santo Domingo (The entrance to the Church of Santo Domingo) and Subida al Barrio Alto (The climb to the Barrio Alto)—“much-loved places, favourite corners revisited time and time again”, to quote the Sanlúcar-born musicologist Enrique Sánchez Pedrote. The final pair of movements were first performed at the Teatro Rosalía de Castro in La Coruña on 28 March 1935, with the composer himself at the keyboard.

Also dating from 1933 is Preludios, one of the most abstract pieces in Turina’s catalogue. This may be why it has been so rarely performed, even though its five short movements fully deserve to be more frequently programmed. It was written in August of that year, while Turina was holidaying in the Cantabrian town of Suances, and was dedicated to Nemesio Otaño (1880–1956), then one of the most influential figures in the Spanish music world.

Justo Romero
English translation by Susannah Howe

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