About this Recording
8.573401 - TURINA, J.: Piano Music, Vol. 11 (Masó) - Verbena madrileña / En la zapatería / Linterna mágica / El circo / Radio Madrid
English  Spanish 

Joaquín Turina (1882–1949)
Verbena madrileña • En la zapatería • Linterna mágica • El circo • Radio Madrid


This is the eleventh volume in the Catalan pianist Jordi Masó’s complete recordings of Joaquín Turina’s keyboard works, and it features music inspired by various aspects of everyday life. Turina loved to paint pictures of his immediate environment, and here we have a portrait of an unspecified feast-day in Madrid and a vivid evocation of a trip to the circus. He takes us into a wonderful shoemaker’s, too, where a brief appearance by the great cobbler Hans Sachs from The Mastersingers of Nuremberg is followed by music sparked by a bullfighter’s slippers and a noblewoman’s smart laced boots. Also included here are the cinema-inspired cycle Linterna mágica, and Radio Madrid, a suite from 1931 made up of a prologue and three “broadcasts” from different places in Spain. These are all short pieces—quickly dashed-off miniatures, flashes of inspiration from deep within Turina’s fertile creative spirit.

Turina lived in three different cities—Seville, Paris and Madrid—over the years, all of which left a lasting impression on him and his music. The Spanish capital is a recurring presence in his work, and Verbena madrileña (Madrid Fair) is perhaps the most substantial work on this album. Its five movements date from 1926 and 1927, and are dedicated to his friend Antonio Lucas Moreno (1900–73), a pianist and professor from Sanlúcar. Turina’s characteristic inclination for descriptive writing comes to the fore once again in this demanding, brightly coloured work, in which he uses a variety of means, including onomatopoeia, to create a series of portraits of everyday life in the city at that time. As well as touches of local folk-music there are other influences and references: the waltz in Caballitos is clearly inspired by Ravel’s La Valse, composed six years earlier, while the syncopated figures of Baile castizo are reminiscent of Debussy’s Golliwogg’s Cakewalk—the jazzy finale of his Children’s Corner suite.

By contrast, intense Wagnerian drama prevails in the opening bars of En la zapatería (At the Shoemaker’s), the first of whose seven numbers is a very brief and obvious homage to the German composer—framed by a quotation from the prelude to Act Three of The Mastersingers, it also draws on a melody sung by Hans Sachs, the best cobbler in Nuremberg. The second movement is imbued with courtly, almost neo-classical melodies, while the theme of Calzados de campesinos is marked Sentimiento popular (folk-like) in the score—its lively and relentless 6/8 rhythm conjures up an imaginary country dance. In the fourth piece, Sandalias griegas, Turina turns to the harmonies of ancient Greek modes, and in the fifth, Los zapatos de la bailarina, he uses a bright melody that suggests the graceful dancer’s leaps and pirouettes. The suite ends with Las zapatillas del torero, which features the trumpet call traditionally sounded at bullrings in Spain.

Linterna mágica (Magic Lantern), Turina’s Op. 101, dates from 1945, four years before the composer’s death. Dedicated to his pupil Paquita Velerda, it is part of the so-called Ciclo plateresco (Plateresque Cycle), which also includes the Tema y variaciones, Op. 100 (for harp and piano); Homenaje a Navarra, Op. 102 (for violin and piano), and Fantasía cinematográfica, Op. 103 (for solo piano), all of which he composed in that same year. The title’s reference to the precursor of the motion picture projector reflects Turina’s love of the cinema, for which he wrote a number of soundtracks. Here he evokes the brilliant improvisatory music-making of the pianists who accompanied silent movies. Cast in three parts, the work moves from the neutral prelude (with resonances of Debussy) to the beautiful, enigmatic and equally Debussy-inspired El misterio del jardín, before closing with an energetic, agitated Chopinian Vals romántico.

The magic of the travelling circus has inspired many writers, artists, film-makers and composers, Turina among them. In 1931 he completed his children’s suite El circo, in which his imagination runs riot as he paints six pictures in sound that transport listeners into the big top. The first, Trompetería, acts as a prelude, the piano reproducing the bright fanfares that used to herald the start of a show. Equilibristas portrays the death-defying, heart-stopping thrills of the high-wire act. By contrast, we then hear the surefooted cantering of the equestrienne and her horse around the arena. The fourth number portrays the intelligent and well trained dogs whose act was always a source of entertainment and wonder. Its ironic, mocking gavotte rhythm, has a certain melancholic feel to it. The score of Payasos is headed Allegro burlesco and the piece is based on a frantic, almost toccata-like rhythm, brimming with contrasts and surprises. To round off this musical circus performance, Turina brings us the soaring flights of the trapeze artists. Broad arpeggios in the form of arabesques reflect the daring aerial feats of the acrobats as they swing from one side of the big top to the other.

Another essential aspect of daily life in Turina’s age was the radio, to which the last work on this album is dedicated. Radio Madrid (1931) was described by the composer himself as “a suite for piano that describes a radio broadcast”. The prologue begins with mysterious chords and long trills that seem to mirror the uncertainty of the announcer standing before a microphone that isn’t yet live. When the red light goes on, all is transformed into vitality and energy, and we hear a theme representing the conversation between announcers. The first of the three remaining movements, Los estudiantes de Santiago, has a central passacaglia tune that is framed by a fugal section. Carretera castellana progresses slowly and very expressively, as if the composer wanted to run counter to expectations and create a calm, reflective space right in the middle of a road. The spell is broken in Fiesta en Sevilla, in which Turina returns to his homeland and recaptures the clear, characteristic light of the Andalusian capital. These three movements, to quote Turina again, are “somewhat disparate in feel and atmosphere, [but] unified by the mysterious chords and the motif that represents the announcers”.

© Justo Romero
English translation by Susannah Howe

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