El Greco - Spain
Because of his unconventional artistic beliefs (such as his dismissal of Michelangelo's technique) and personality, El Greco soon acquired enemies in Rome. In 1577, El Greco migrated to Madrid, then to Toledo, where he produced his mature works. At the time, Toledo was the religious capital of Spain and a populous city with "an illustrious past, a prosperous present and an uncertain future". El Greco regarded colour as the most important and the most ungovernable element of painting, and declared that colour had primacy over form. In his mature works El Greco demonstrated a characteristic tendency to dramatise rather than to describe. The strong spiritual emotion transfers from painting directly to the audience.
If Crete gave El Greco his descent and the heart of his art, if Italy gave him the style and the fundamental artistic preparation, Spain and Toledo allowed him to immerse himself in a religious environment full of Spanish mysticism. According to Hortensio Félix Paravicino, a 17th-century Spanish preacher and poet, "Crete gave him life and the painter's craft, Toledo a better homeland, where through Death he began to achieve eternal life." This mysticism inspired Jon Leifs to compose his 'El Greco' quartet that saw in1965 during a visit to Madrid in El Greco's works, the expression of the strict forms of Nordic culture. Albéniz's Asturias takes us to southern Spain with a "pure Andalusian flamenco" piece, Turina's "La oración del Torero" blends the two Spanish themes of religion and bullfighting in a single movement, Ravel with Alborada del Gracioso from Miroirs gives us a piece in which "the dry and biting virtuosity is contrasted, Spanish-wise, with the swooning flow of the lovelorn melodic line which interrupts the angry buzzing of guitars" and for the end of our program we kept Bizet's Sarasate "Carmen Fantasy", a Gypsy dance full of virtuosic fireworks and on of the most challenging and technically demanding pieces for the violin.
Jón Leifs - Quartet No.3 'El Greco' op.64
Isaac Albéniz - Asturias op.47
Joaquín Turina - La Oracion del Torero op.34
Maurice Ravel - Miroirs No.4 - Alborada del Gracioso
Pablo de Sarasate - G. Bizet - Pablo de Sarasate Carmen Fantasy op.25
Quartet No.3 'El Greco' op.64
In 1921 Jon Leifs (1899-1968) graduated from the Leipzig Conservatory with excellent grades. All of Europe lay open to the young Icelander but he did not want to follow the music traditions of Central Europe. He saw his task as that of giving Iceland its own musical identity. The country's bare landscape and brutal conditions, people, sagas and poetry - all of this required a musical language that was not imported from the Continent. Jon Leifs found his sources in the parallel fifths of medieval liturgical song and the assymetric and heavily accented metrics of the rimur folk-songs. He constructed new sound sources from stones and wood, metal and leather and later added the bronze horn to his ever-growing instrumentalism.
Quarteto III, Op.64, was composed in Iceland at the end of August and the beginning of September 1965. The work is dedicated to the Graeco-Spanish painter El Greco, whose work Jon Leifs seems to have got to know in connection with the ISCM festival in Madrid the same spring. He considered that El Greco's paintings expressed the strict forms the Nordic culture.
The work has five movements. The first, and longest, is entitled Toledo though it is probably the famous painting "Toledo in a Thunderstorm" which is portrayed with rumbling tremoli and flaming flashes of lightning in a portrayal of nature whose mixture of realism and metaphysics reminds one greatly of the tone poem Geysir.
The second movement is a vision of El Greco's self-portrait as it can be perceived in the great painting in Santo Tome in Toledo. Jon Leifs thought he could distinguish several aspects: the introvert visionary, the sanguine extrovert, the strict form-maker.
Jesus drives the money-changers from the temple and his holy wrath is portrayed in the third movement with powerful accents, glissandi and tremoli whilst the crucifixion of the fourth movement conveys the pressing quiet of Golgatha, interrupted by the hammering of the cellist's pizzicati. The last movement describes the resurrection with bold cries of surprise.
II. Vision of El Greco's seld-portrait
III. Jesus drives the money-changers from the Temple
IV. The Crucifixion
V. The Resurrection
Asturias (Leyenda) op.47
The piece was originally written for the piano and set in the key of G minor. It was first published in Barcelona, by Juan Bta. Pujol & Co., in 1892 as the prelude of a three-movement set entitled Chants d'Espagne.
The name Asturias (Leyenda) was given to it posthumously by the German publisher Hofmeister, who included it in the 1911 "complete version" of the Suite española, although Albéniz never intended the piece for this suite. Despite the new name, this music is not considered suggestive of the folk music of the northern Spanish region of Asturias, but rather of Andalusian flamenco traditions. Leyenda, Hofmeister's subtitle, means legend. The piece is noted for the delicate, intricate melody of its middle section and abrupt dynamic changes.
Albéniz's biographer, Walter Aaron Clark, describes the piece as "pure Andalusian flamenco". In the main theme the piano mimics the guitar technique of alternating the thumb and fingers of the right hand, playing a pedal-note open string with the index finger and a melody with the thumb. The theme itself suggests the rhythm of the bulería—a fast flamenco form. The "marcato"/"staccato" markings suggest both guitar sounds and the footwork of a flamenco dancer. The piece sounds as though it is written in the Phrygian mode which is typical of bulerías. The second section is a reminiscent of a copla—a sung verse following a specific form. Clark states that it is written in typical Albéniz form as it is "presented monophonically but doubled at the fifteenth for more fullness of sound. The music alters between a solo and accompaniment that is typical of flamenco. The short middle section of the piece is written in the style of a malagueña—another flamenco style piece. The malagueña borrows two motives from the previous copla and builds on them. The piece returns to its first theme until a slow "hymn-like" passage ends the piece.
III. Adantino Grazioso
La Oracion del Torero op.34
La oración del torero, Op 34 (‘The bullfighter’s prayer’), is an example of the influence of folk music in Turina’s compositions. Originally this was composed for ‘laúd’ quartet. Translated strictly, ‘laúd’ means ‘lute’, but Turina was not referring to the lutes of the Renaissance or Baroque eras; these are Spanish folkloric instruments, more similar to mandolins with their pear-shaped bodies and doubled strings. As an ensemble they cover a wide range of pitches, with the bandurria and laudete playing the highest parts and the laúd tenor and laudón covering the tenor and bass ranges.
Turina described the inspiration for this: ‘During an afternoon of bullfighting in the Madrid arena … I saw my work. I was in the court of horses. Behind a small door, there was a chapel, filled with incense, where toreadors went right before facing death. It was then that there appeared, in front of my eyes, in all its plenitude, this subjectively musical and expressive contrast between the tumult of the arena, the public that awaited the fiesta, and the devotion of those who, in front of this poor altar, filled with touching poetry, prayed to God to protect their lives.’
In a single movement Turina blends the two Spanish themes of religion and bullfighting, the musical sounds of the nationalistic fiesta alternating with the meditations of its protagonist. Shimmering atmospheres peppered with pizzicato and guitar-derived idiomatic ornaments set an exotic scene for adventure, bravado and passion. The cello seems to represent the voice of the hero, heard alternating between a ‘paso doble’ theme (reminiscent of the bull ring) and freeform recitatives (in the style of flamenco verses, or ‘coplas’). Impressionistic sections grow increasingly passionate as the toreador approaches the potentially fatal spectacle, a test of both his courage and his honour. Then in a dreamy reflection full of longing and hope he makes his prayer that he will be protected and with this reverie the music calms to finish in a quiet glow.
Allegro Moderato - Andante -
Andante - Allegretto mosso -
Andante - Lento -
Allegro Moderato - Allegretto mosso -
Lentamente - Andante - Lento
Miroirs No.4 - Alborada del Gracioso
Miroirs (French for "Mirrors") is a five-movement suite for solo piano written by French composer Maurice Ravel between 1904 and 1905. First performed by Ricardo Viñes in 1906, Miroirs contains five movements, each dedicated to a fellow member of the French avant-garde artist group Les Apaches.
Around 1900, Maurice Ravel joined a group of innovative young artists, poets, critics, and musicians referred to as Les Apaches or "hooligans", a term coined by Ricardo Viñes to refer to his band of "artistic outcasts". To pay tribute to his fellow artists, Ravel began composing Miroirs in 1904 and finished it the following year. It was first published by Eugène Demets in 1906. The third and fourth movements were subsequently orchestrated by Ravel, while the fifth was orchestrated by Percy Grainger, among others.
The title Alborada del gracioso is usually translated as "Morning Song of a Jester," the gracioso having been the household jester in the classic Spanish comedies of Calderón and Lope de Vega. The piece has remained enormously popular on its own, in both the original keyboard version and the subsequent one for orchestra. Ravel's pupil, confidant and biographer Alexis Roland-Manuel characterized the piece as one "in which the dry and biting virtuosity is contrasted, Spanish-wise, with the swooning flow of the lovelorn melodic line which interrupts the angry buzzing of guitars."
Until 1905, the year in which he completed both the Miroirs and the Sonatine, Ravel's output for piano solo had consisted entirely of brief individual pieces. Roland-Manuel observed that the five pieces that constitute the Miroirs announced a "completely new style" for Ravel, and that they seemed for a long time as difficult to understand as they are to play. Ravel did not orchestrate the entire suite, but as early as 1906, just after the suite's premiere, he orchestrated its third section, Une Barque sur l'océan, and Gabriel Pierné conducted it in a concert of the Colonne Orchestra on February 3, 1907. Since Ravel's time, the remaining parts of the Miroirs have been orchestrated by such musicians as Percy Grainger, Ernesto Halffter, Felix Guenter and Michael Round.
In the piano suite, each of the five movements bears a dedication to one of Ravel's friends and/or colleagues. The Alborada was dedicated to M.D. Calvocoressi, the critic and musical scholar who was among Ravel's earliest supporters, encouraged his very productive interest in the music of Mussorgsky, and supplied him with the texts for the Cinq Mélodies populaires grecques.
Pablo de Sarasate
G. Bizet - Pablo de Sarasate Carmen Fantasy op.25
The Carmen Fantasy, Op. 25, by Pablo de Sarasate is a violin fantasy on themes from the opera Carmen by Georges Bizet. A version with piano accompaniment was published in 1882.
The Carmen Fantasy is one of Sarasate's most well known works and is often performed in violin competitions. Because of its delicate techniques and sanguineous passion inspired by the opera, it is considered to be one of the most challenging and technically demanding pieces for the violin.
The piece contains an adaptation of the Aragonaise, Habanera, an interlude, Seguidilla, and the Gypsy Dance. The work consists of five movements. I. Allegro moderato . After a short introduction by the orchestra, the violin plays material from the Aragonaise, the entr'acte to act 4. Techniques include glissando, flageolet and pizzicato. II. Moderato. This movement uses material, extensively ornamented, from the Habanera from act 1 ("L'amour est un oiseau rebelle"). III. Lento assai. Carmen's mocking treatment of Zuniga in act 1 ("Tra la la ... Coupe-moi, brûle-moi") is the theme for this movement; it ends in a flageolet. IV. Allegro moderato. The Seguidilla from act 1 ("Près des remparts de Séville") is here with ornaments including pizzicato, trill, glissando. V. Moderato. This movement is based on the scene at the beginning of act 2 where Carmen and her friends Frasquita and Mercédès are entertaining Zuniga and other officers ("Les tringles des sistres tintaient"). The most technically difficult movement of the five, it employs rapid, moving thirds; fast arpeggios which span the range of the instrument; and a final virtuoso tempo acceleration.
I. Allegro moderato
III. Lento assai
IV. Allegro moderato