Sierra Chamber Society Program Notes (Last Update 08/05/2006)

Joaquin Turina (1882–1949)

[Bullet6] Trio No. 1 for Piano, Violin, and Cello, Op.35 (1926)

[Bullet6] La Oración del Torero for String Quartet (1925)


Trio No. 1 for Piano, Violin, and Cello, Op.35 (1926)

Unless something really big happens this year, Spain’s nationalist musical renaissance was over by the end of the first half of the Twentieth Century. Inspired by the musical scholar Filipe Pedrell (1841–1922) and his researches into the folk music of the various regions of Spain, a school of nationalist Spanish composers arose at the beginning of this century. Isaac Albeniz (1860–1909), Enrique Granados (1867–1916), Manuel De Falla (1876-1946), and Joaquin Turina (1882–1949) are the foremost representatives of this renaissance. All have retained their positions as prominent and oft performed composers; as a matter of fact Turina’s music seems to be enjoying a bit of a revival of late. (When I first inquired about the availability of the score to this Trio, it was out of print. Some eight months elapsed before the score finally arrived). Of the four composers, Albeniz and Granados were primarily composers of piano music. De Falla’s small output is mostly for the stage. (The Sierra Chamber Society did perform his Seven Popular Spanish Songs in 1994 and the chamber music Harpsichord Concerto in 1995. Our esteemed Director will never let me live the latter suggestion down, as it cost us a small fortune to rent the eleven minute long score, and the harpsichord which for all its 7.5 feet could barely be heard above the strings).

Turina was the only composer of the four who wrote a considerable amount of chamber music. Among his chamber compositions are string quartets ("La Oracion del Torero" for string quartet is scheduled for performance in our 1999-2000 season), violin sonatas, piano trios, a piano quartet, quintet and sextet, as well as a work for Soprano and Piano Quintet.

All of the above-mentioned composers spent time studying in Paris. Turina, who wrote many autobiographical articles in addition to his ‘Enciclopedia abreviada de la musica’ (Madrid 1917), described in one published in the ‘Vangardia’ of Barcelona (26 Sept. 1911) his first meeting with Albeniz. It was on the occasion of the performance of his first published work, the G minor pianoforte Quintet (1907), and after the concert Albeniz took Turina and his contemporary Falla off to a café in the Rue Royale and there, to quote the composer, the greatest metamorphosis in his life took place: "There I realized that music should be an art, and not a diversion for the frivolity of women and the dissipation of men. We were three Spaniards gathered together in that corner of Paris and it was our duty to fight bravely for the national music of our country."(Fifth Edition of Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians, reprinted 1970). In Paris, Turina studied composition with Cesar Franck disciple Vincent D’Indy at the Schola Cantorum, where he was initiated into the mysteries of the "Cyclical Form" (which means, in short, what you hear at the beginning, you’re sure to hear again at the end). Debussy and Ravel, both of whose influences can be heard in his music, also encouraged him, and both Frenchmen wrote pieces influenced, in turn, by Spanish music.

This lovely and sensuous Piano Trio is anything but rhapsodic in nature. A glance at the titles of the three movements reveals a novel structural plan. The first movement the composer himself described as "unbelievably difficult technically. It is a prelude and fugue, the latter in reversed sequence, beginning with the striate ". The second movement is a theme followed by five variations each representing a dance from a different part of Spain: 1. the muniera from Galicia, 2.the schotis from Castile, 3. the zortzico from the Basque Provinces (here, a piano solo that sounds as if it were written by George Gershwin), 4. The jota from Aragon, and finally, 5. a soleares from Andalucia. The third movement is itself a Sonata, where true to "Cyclical Form" the fugue subject and a theme from the first movement reappear.

The Trio was premiered in London on July 5, 1927, with the composer as pianist. and is dedicated to Her Royal Highness L’Infante Dona Isabel de Borbon.

1998-1999 Season, Program III, Sunday February 7, 1999

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Joaquin Turina (1882 – 1949)

La Oración del Torero for String Quartet (1925)

In the pantheon of 20th century Spanish composers: I. Albeniz, M. De Falla, E. Granados, and the Catalan, F. Mompou, Joaquin Turina was the only one to devote a considerable part of his compositional talents to chamber music. Like each of the aforementioned composers, he lived, and studied music in Paris, where he was encouraged by the likes of D’Indy, Ravel, and Debussy. In this brief tone poem for string quartet, La Oración del Torero "The Bullfighter’s Prayer", the influence of Debussy can be heard, especially in the use of lush descending parallel ninth chords. The influence of music of the Andalusian Gypsies is also quite evident. This piece became one of the composer’s most popular works, often performed in an arrangement for string orchestra.

I defer to David Ewen for the following: "The Bullfighter’s Prayer is marked by a striking contrast of moods and colors. It opens quietly: after progressing with impulsive rhythms to moods of impetuous character, an expansive melody which dominates the composition is unfolded. A forceful climax then arrives. After this has been fully realized, the ideas stated at the beginning of the piece are repeated. The principal, melody brings the work to a gentle conclusion."1

Does that tell you all you need to know?

What is the Bullfighter praying for?

Perhaps, rain.

1 Ewen, David. The Complete Book of 20th Century Music © 1952,1959 Prentice Hall Inc., Englewood Cliffs, NJ

2000-2001 Season, Program II, Sunday, December 10, 2000

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All original text on this page copyright 2000 by Joseph Way