About this Recording
8.573429 - ITURRALDE, P.: Saxophone and Piano Music (Complete) (Jiménez, Delangle, Ocaña)

Pedro Iturralde (b. 1929)
Complete Music for Saxophone and Piano


This album is intended as a tribute to the work of the Spanish composer Pedro Iturralde. Since there are very few available recordings of his work, few of his pieces are known to the musical public; in addition, his continual revising and arranging of his music has made it difficult even for specialists to get a full sense of his output. For this recording, the composer has made a number of revisions to his music for saxophone and piano, as a means of offering a ‘definitive’ version of the pieces for posterity—including new elaborations and arrangements produced especially for this project. Similarly, the three performers presented here (Juan M. Jiménez, Esteban Ocaña and Claude Delangle) have undertaken a detailed study of Iturralde’s evolving musical style in preparing for this, the first complete recording of Iturralde’s music for saxophone and piano. The album also includes two pieces for piano solo which carry particular significance for the composer.

Iturralde is one of the most highly respected Spanish composer-performers of the last half-century, receiving the Spanish Premio Principe Viana de la Cultura (a lifetime achievement award) in 2007, and the Gold Medal of the Mérito de las Bellas Artes in 2009. As an international touring musician, he has been able to enrich his own compositional approach through the various styles and idioms he has encountered during his travels—from Spain and the Middle East to Germany and the United States of America. In particular, Iturralde was a great innovator in his fusion of jazz and flamenco styles, and many of his pieces also include folk and classical references. In his eclectic approach to musical construction, his compositional attitude is in some ways comparable to that of Heitor Villa-Lobos or Astor Piazzolla.

We begin with the Hungarian Dance for two saxophones, one of Iturralde’s best-loved pieces, conceived when he was just twenty years old. This is styled as a czárdás, with a dramatic slow section at its opening (the lassú), followed by a lively, virtuosic friss. Having two soloists gives Iturralde the opportunity to pass ideas between them, sometimes in conversation, and elsewhere as if they are in competition. The music dips and swells several times, with the energetic friss lapsing into increasingly virtuosic cadenzas and then restarting with renewed vigour until a final mad dash to the end. Iturralde made a second version of this piece, presented here as the final item in the recording, Orchestral Czárdás, for a single soloist and piano (the work was orchestrated as well, by the composer’s brother Javier). This makes for a closer relationship between the two players, with the piano imitating the cimbalom whilst the saxophone bends and slides like a violin, whizzes through its cadenzas, and taps out the melody with the key pads alone.

In the 1970s, Iturralde spent some time in Greece. It was here that he composed the Suite Helénica (Helenismo), a five-movement work which presents a fusion of jazz idioms with the folk music of Kálamata (in southern Greece, west of Sparta) and Crete. The first movement is cast as a Kalamatianós, a Peloponnesian folk dance in 7/8, which uses modal harmonies (common to jazz) rather than tonal scales. This is followed by Funky, in which the piano provides an ostinato over which the solo saxophone can improvise freely. The most substantial movement of the Suite, Valse, sits at its centre—a jazz waltz which ends with a cadenza for the saxophone over rumbling tremolos in the piano—and the music then returns to a folk dance with the Krytis, which moves seamlessly into a restatement of the Kalamatianós to end the piece.

Similarly derived from regional folk music, Aires Rumanos, composed in the late 1990s, requires the saxophonist to impersonate the violin in a series of increasingly rapid and elaborate dances, whilst the pianist offers slow tremolos and bouncing band accompaniments to support them.

The piano solo Balada Galaica (Galicismo) was composed whilst Iturralde was on tour in Spain, at the request of the owner of the well-known Dado-Dadá jazz club in Santiago da Compostela (in Galicia). It is written ‘in the Galician style’—that is, it once again combines folk elements with jazz harmonies and textures to create a wistful, atmospheric piece.

The Memorias (tríptico) dates from Iturralde’s teenage years. At eighteen, he composed this suite following his first tour as an orchestral saxophonist, overseen by the conductor Mario Rossi (1902–1992). Iturralde had been a child prodigy, and this new experience of travelling around Portugal, Algeria and Morocco brought him into contact with local musics, in addition to jazz and classical repertoire. (Rossi, after all, was a celebrated classical conductor.) The work opens with a Intro, describing the slow journey by train to Lisbon (Lisboa), which conjures a Portuguese fado, a sung dance form, in the second movement. In Casablanca, swing and boogie-woogie dominate the scene; whilst Alger conjures classical ideas and a long-breathed, singing melody. The stormy Retour sees the young musician returning to Spain—in his own words, this movement expresses Iturralde’s ‘dilemma and passion for classical, jazz and folk music’.

It was in the 1960s that Iturralde issued one of his most important fusion albums, Flamenco-Jazz (1967), in which he worked closely with the guitarist Paco de Lucía—and this prompted many others to experiment with the same flamenco-jazz combination. Zorongo Gitano is a classic example of this fusion style. The composer uses a classic Andalusian melody which was already well-known in its 1930s’ harmonisation by Federico García Lorca, and gradually allows jazz harmonies and rhythms to infiltrate the texture.

Both the Jazz-Waltz and Tribute to Trane are intended as musical homages to their respective dedicatees. The Jazz-Waltz was written for Tete Montoliú (1933–1997), a hugely well-respected Catalonian jazz pianist with a major international reputation. Iturralde wrote the piece for the two men to perform together at a concert in the grand Zuloaga Palace in Segovia. Tribute to Trane has it roots in a work from the early 1970s, Like Coltrane (which won the Second Prize of the Jazz Competition of Monte Carlo in 1972), for unaccompanied saxophone. The Tribute is performed here in a new arrangement with piano accompaniment, created especially for this recording. This is followed by the Miniatura Impromptu, bursting with references to jazz, bossa nova and Bach.

Finally, Elegía was written for the award-winning 1986 film El viaje a ninguna parte (‘Voyage to nowhere’), written and directed by Fernando Fernán Gómez, for which Iturralde provided the entire soundtrack.

Juan M. Jiménez and Esteban Ocaña
Edited by Katy Hamilton

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