The first part of the nineteenth century was a time of turmoil for Spain. By 1808, 100,000 of Napoleon’s soldiers occupied Spanish territory. For a while the throne was in doubt, Charles IV having abdicated in the same year. Fernando VII claimed the throne, but under pressure from Napoleon, renounced the crown to his brother Joseph, king of Naples. The Spaniards refused to accept the imposition of a foreign ruler and declared war on France.
The period was indeed one of economic and political stagnation for Spain. However, two important figures came out of this upheaval—the older a painter, the younger a musician. The first was Francisco Goya (1746-1828), who left us some lasting impressions of the horrors of war in Spain in 1808: a set of drawings called Disasters of War and the famous painting May 3, 1808, which portrays the execution of Spanish loyalists at the hands of the French.. The other was Juan Crisóstomo de Arriaga (1806-1826), one of Spain’s most important composers of chamber music; unfortunately, his untimely death left the nation without a major composer in the first half of the nineteenth century.
Fernando VII returned to Spain in 1814, ignored the Constitution of 1812, and restored absolute rule. However, harsh treatment of the liberals and his capricious administration soon provoked a revolt. Military officers, together with the liberals, forced Fernando to restore the Constitution in 1820. For three years, the country was in yet another state of agitation. The liberals split into moderate and extreme factions, and the royalists continued to plot against them. Meanwhile, the other European powers decided to intervene. A French force invaded Spain in 1823, rescuing Fernando VII from virtual imprisonment. Although the French had hoped that the king would introduce moderate constitutional rule, he returned to his earlier repressive policies against the liberals, policies he carried to the grave.
Isabel II, the three-year-old daughter of Fernando VII, was proclaimed queen in 1833, and her mother, María Cristina, was named regent. Many opposed this succession, in favor of Don Carlos, brother of Fernando VII. The Carlist wars ensued and lasted six years. Isabel’s reign ended in 1868, when the Republic was proclaimed.
The general musical scene was in a deplorable state. As Nin writes:
With [Mateo] Ferrer (1788-1864) we are in the very middle of national degeneration. Phillipe V’s policy of annihilation had borne its fruits [regarding his preference for Italian over native musicians]. Spanish music, which had held on to the end of the eighteenth century behind the rampart of the tonadilla, the last refuge of the nationalist musicians, was completely lethargic. The opera, [that] incurable soreness of Spain, had to be Italian or it could not be. The devotees of chamber music revolved around Luigi Boccherini. The old-timers were talking about Haydn, who had been one of the musical idols of Spain, as an outmoded memory. One forgets ancestors, one disregards the past. One marks time where he is or goes forward without purpose, at random. Bellini, Mercadante, Donizetti, Rossini, Verdi reign as absolute masters, one after the other. Italian becomes the one and only approved and possible language. One speaks of nothing but opera all day and all night. At every street corner one hears someone humming, whistling, singing, “howling” the same old sentimental threadbare lyrics. The high-tenor is adored like the “torero,” and the “diva” is enthroned with as much haughtiness as stupidity.1
In light of the political and musical situation, it is not surprising to find that no Spanish masterworks for piano were written in the first half of the nineteenth century. It was generally a time of light salon music, bombastic fantasias on operatic themes, or meager attempts to continue the style galant. However, during the last decades of the century and the early part of the twentieth century, Isaac Albéniz and Enrique Granados ushered in a keyboard renaissance that resulted in Spain’s golden age of piano music. They instigated a rebirth of nationalism, aided by such important pioneers of Spanish nationalism as Felipe Pedrell and Federico Olmeda, both of whom helped to free Spanish music from the dominance of Italianism.
JUAN CRISÓSTOMO DE ARRIAGA (1806-1826) of Bilbao, one of the brightest stars on the Spanish horizon, died ten days before his twentieth birthday. With his death, as with those of Albero and Blasco de Nebra in the eighteenth century, Spain lost yet another promising composer at a very early age.
Arriaga wrote an opera at the age of thirteen, even before he had had formal lessons in harmony. In 1821 he was sent to study at the Paris Conservatory, where he received instruction on the violin from Baillot and studied harmony with François-Joseph Fétis. Within two years he impressed Cherubini with his contrapuntal facility, and eventually he was named an auxiliary professor at the conservatory.
Arriaga’s compositional style is essentially rooted in the Classical idiom. He has even been called “the Spanish Mozart,” and his three string quartets certainly make him the peer of Haydn. However, his only three works for piano do not approach the excellence of his string music nor do they reflect the language of the high Classic masters. They form a part of the new literature for the piano in the early nineteenth century—the character piece, or Romantic miniature—as is evident from their title, Estudios о Caprichos (Estudios de carácter).2
The three works in the collection, Allegro, Moderato, and Risolutο, reflect the early German Romantic styles of Schubert, Schumann, and Mendelssohn, respectively, though it was probably too early for these composers to have influenced Arriaga directly. In the first of the Estudios the two main themes are similar. They are based on an arpeggiated figure and organized within the sonata principle. Certain harmonic elements remind one of Schubert. The second selection contains an incessant rhythmic figure repeated through various keys with striking modulations (see Ex. 1), and resembles one of Schumann’s Novellettes. The final piece, which is perhaps the most appealing, reflects the “elfin” music of Mendelssohn in 6/8. Its perpetuum mobile activity is organized in sonata form.
Two Spanish composers who, for the most part, lived outside of Spain but made a small contribution to nineteenth-century Spanish pianism were CARLOS ASENCIO (b. 1788) and MANUEL AGUILAR (1824-1904). Asencio, originally of Madrid, moved to Palermo, Sicily, where he published a Scuola per ben suonare il piano forte3 in 1815. Aguilar was born of Spanish parents in Clapham, England. He studied harmony and composition in Frankfurt, Germany, and performed as a concert pianist in the Gewandhaus of Leipzig in 1848. He later returned to England, established a piano studio in London, and was known for his Beethoven concerts. Aguilar wrote sonatas and fantasies for the piano.4
PEDRO ALBÉNIZ (1795-1855), son of Mateo Albéniz, was the founder of the modern Spanish school of piano playing. He was born in Logroño and studied first with his father. Mateo Albéniz became choirmaster and organist of the church of Santa María in Guipúzcoa, where, at age ten, young Pedro was named organist of the parish of San Vicente. At thirteen he placed second as a contender for the post of organist at the basilica of Santiago in Bilbao.
P. Albéniz made notable progress in his study of composition and soon moved to Paris, where he studied with Henri Herz and Friedrich Kalkbrenner.5 The night he arrived in Paris, he was presented to Rossini, who immediately tested him for his musical capabilities. Favorably impressed, Rossini took him under his protection and made him cembalist for his operas.
P. Albéniz returned to Spain in 1829 to become chapelmaster of the church of Santa María in San Sebastián. Early in 1830, he went to Madrid with the distinguished violinist Escudero to give several concerts, all of which were well received. Later in 1830 he was appointed maestro de piano y acompañamiento of the Conservatorio de Música de María Cristina. He had previously been consulted about the creation of this conservatory. In 1834, he became chief organist of the Royal Chapel.
In 1840, P. Albéniz’s Método de Piano was adopted for the training of piano students at the conservatory.6 It was praised by many distinguished artists, among them Sigismund Thalberg.7 By 1841, P. Albéniz had been named maestro de piano for Queen Isabel II and her sister María Luisa Fernanda.
P. Albéniz’s major works for piano include Rondó brillante á la Tirana, Op. 25; Rondó brillante sobre la canción del Trípili, Op. 26; several fantasias on operatic themes, e.g., Fantasia elegante sobre motivos de I Puritani, Op. 29; and Fantasia brillante sobre motivos de Lucia di Lammermoor, Op. 34· In addition, he wrote several works for piano four hands, most of which are fantasias on operatic themes; and for piano with two violins, viola, and cello, again many of them fantasias on operatic themes.8
Being in Paris in the early nineteenth century, P. Albéniz was understandably caught up in the craze for writing piano fantasias on operatic themes.9 His Fantasía brillante sobre motivos de Lucia di Lammermoor is typical of what audiences at that time wanted to hear. It is divided into the following major sections: Introduction, Funeral March from the final scene of Act III, hunting motive near the opening of Act I, and Edgardo’s famous aria “Tu che a Dio spiegasti Fali” from the conclusion of the opera. Ex. 2 shows a passage from the final section of the fantasia. Edgardo’s beautiful melody is adorned with sweeping arpeggios in the left hand. It is noteworthy that Liszt based his Reminiscences de Lucia di Lammermoor entirely on the famous sextet from Act II, scene 2, while P. Albéniz completely by-passed this noted source of thematic material.
Though P. Albéniz’s fantasias on operatic themes are not pathologically difficult, as some might contend Liszt’s are,10 they do tend to tax the ability of the performer at times. They feature many long passages of left-hand tremolos, difficult leaps, fast scalar passages, wide-ranging arpeggios, and awkward interval expansions in the left hand, in addition to containing passages that appear to have been merely transcribed from the orchestral version.
EUGENIO GÓMEZ (b. 1802), of Alcañices, near Zamora, moved to Seville in 1824, where he eventually became one of the organists of the cathedral and director of the theater. He supposedly had great facility at the keyboard and wrote sonatas and a number of other works of great difficulty for the piano. These works probably have remained unpublished.11
SANTIAGO DE MASARNAU (1805-1880), originally of Madrid, composed the music for a Mass at age eight. He later studied in Granada and again in Madrid. He then moved to London and Paris, where he became a part of the intellectual environs of the day. Before his return to Spain in 1829, Masarnáu became friends with Rossini, Bellini, Moscheles, and Chopin. For the piano, he composed sonatas, ballades, songs, La Ricordanza, El canto de las driadas, a nocturne entitled Spleen that supposedly impressed Mendelssohn,12 and nine waltzes entitled Le Parnasse, representing the nine muses.13
FLORENCIO LAHOZ (1815-1868), of Alagón, Zaragoza, studied music first locally with his father, an organist, then later in Madrid. Lahoz composed a symphony, masses, zarzuelas, and numerous works for piano.14 The Gaceta Musical de Madrid, 1856, mentions several salon pieces by Lahoz, among them Fantasía sobre motivos de Macbeth and Fantasía de Luisa Miller; and the Biblioteca Nacional contains a copy of his Gran Jota Aragonesa.
JOSÉ MIRÓ (1815-1879), another of Spain’s great salon pianists, was born in Cádiz.15 Noting that the young José had a gift for music, his family entrusted his first music lessons to one Padre Vargas. Later, Miró studied with Eugenio Gómez, organist of the Cathedral of Seville. His progress in piano and counterpoint went so rapidly that, at age eighteen, he became Gómez’s assistant director of the opera at the theater in Seville.
In 1829, Miró went to Paris, where he studied with Kalkbrenner and came into contact with other famous pianists, such as Hummel, Bertini, Herz, Chopin, and Döhler. Repeatedly, he was proclaimed by the press as one of the most outstanding pianists of the day. He gave recitals in France, Holland, Belgium, and England.
Miró returned to Spain in 1842. Joaquin Espin gives the following information regarding a concert given by Miró in Madrid, May 18, 1842:
The pieces that he played on this delightful night were a Fantasía sobre motivos del Guglielmo Tell; a Nocturne by Döhler, which comprises a study for the left hand; another large study for both hands, the trill capricho; and a large fantasia by Thalberg on the Plegaria del Moisés. To enumerate the beauties that Miró performed on this night is, on all points, impossible in one article—the clarity and brilliance of his execution; the fierceness and energy that he showed in the loud passages; the delicateness in the andantes and cantabiles; the execution being so rapid and flowery in the agile passages; the prolonged trill in an amazing manner for more than one hundred measures, at the same time that the other fingers bring out an expressive, sustained melody; so marvelous those distinct passages blended with all the fire of genius in order to amaze the spectators, who, astonished and surprised on hearing such marvelous sounds, don’t dare even to breathe so as not to miss a single note. What does all this prove to us? [It proves] that, concerning the piano, Miró has made the Madrid public feel what it had not felt before this night; that Miró is a celebrity, an artist of great merit, and that lucky is the country that has sons who stir up their ancient artistic glories, causing admiration wherever one might have the fortune of hearing him.16
After several concerts in Madrid, Miró was decorated by the queen with the cross of the Order of Isabel the Catholic. Very prestigious artists, including Pedro Albéniz, bestowed lavish praise upon him.
After traveling to the principal cities of Spain, he went to Lisbon, where he gave four concerts in the theater of San Carlos. Continuing his tour, he went to the United States and played in New York, Philadelphia, and Boston. From there he went to Havana, Cuba, to be named director of the music section of the Liceo in 1844. In 1854, Miró returned to Madrid, where he was appointed professor of piano at the Royal Conservatory. In 1856, he published a piano method that was adopted as the text for the classes of the conservatory.
Some of his most noted works for piano were Fantasías grandes on themes from II Crociato in Egitto Semiramide, Anna Bolena, and Norma.17 Saldoni noted that Miró composed a large number of works for piano but that many of them were never published.18 The Biblioteca Nacional in Madrid contains only Miró’s piano method and the Cinco valses brillantes, published in La Iberia Musical, 1842.
NICOLÁS LEDESMA (1791-1883), of Grisel, Tarragona, began his musical studies, like so many Spanish composers, with the music directors of the local church. Later, he went to Zaragoza to study organ with Ramón Ferrañac. At age sixteen he became organist and choir director at the Colegiata de Boija and two years later changed to an equal position in Tafalla. By 1830 he had been appointed organist at the Cathedral of Bilbao.
Ledesma was a very celebrated church musician in his day, having written numerous sacred works, the most noted being his Stabat Mater.19 He also composed 12 estudios para piano, which were adopted for use at the Madrid Conservatory, but the bulk of his piano music comes from a collection entitled Repertorio orgánico. The title may seem puzzling at first, but, as with many Spanish keyboard works of the time, the sonatas in the anthology are listed “para piano u órgano”
The large collection of keyboard music contains 24 sonatinas, six grand sonatas, and three Jue gos de versos para salmos.20 Typical of the six grand sonatas is No. 1 in С major, displaying a first movement in sonata-allegro form, a second movement in modified sonata-allegro form (no development), and a third movement of theme and variations. Occasional low bass notes are provided for the pedals of the organ, but generally the style is pianistic, complete with running broken octaves.
The first movement opens in symphonic style with bold octaves, a motive almost identical to the opening of Baguer’s Sonata in G major. The second movement, possibly the strongest of the three, is in the parallel minor, С minor, and resembles some of Beethoven’s slow movements, replete with ornate 64th notes (Ex. 3). The finale is in the key of the subdominant, F major, instead of the usual tonic. The variations, for the most part, are square-cut, but the final variation is unusual—a march superimposed on 3/4 meter.
Ledesma’s sonatas border on what might be called kitsch, artistic material of low quality.21 But they “are pleasing and unassuming, though at times they lack melodic inventiveness and sound structure. Completely un-Spanish, these sonatas are too often colored with the popular salon-music style of their day.”22 Still, they represent one little-known Spanish composer trying to keep the sonata tradition alive in nineteenth-century Spain.
PEDRO TINTORER (1814-1891), born in Palma de Mallorca, began his musical studies with Maestro Vilanova in Barcelona. In 1832, he entered the Madrid Conservatory, where he studied with Ramón Carnicer and Pedro Albéniz. In 1834 he studied with Pierre Zimmerman in Paris;23 and in 1836 he set up residence in Lyon, France, where he studied with Franz Liszt for a year. In Lyon Tintorer supposedly taught piano sixteen hours a day.24 Later, he returned to Barcelona to become professor of piano in the conservatory of the Liceo.
Tintorer composed sacred music, symphonies, chamber music, and much salon music for piano, e.g., Suspiros de un trovador, Conversación y vals, and the grand salon waltz Flor de España.25 He was also noted as a pedagogue, having written such didactic works as Douze Grandes Études de Mécanisme et de Style, Curso Completo de Piano, and Gimnasia Diaria dei Pianista.26
Tintorer’s Flor de España opens with a Spanish folk rhythm and rasgueado chords as if the work were going to be a dazzling nationalistic piece. But once past the opening chords and thunderous octaves, the air of Spain quickly disappears. Here we find a waltz in the “grand manner,” with even a Rossini crescendo thrown in. Ex. 4 illustrates Tintorer’s salon style, with effective right-hand figurations over a familiar descending bass pattern (mm. 120-137) and a syncopated right-hand melody (mm. 142-149), recalling Chopin’s Waltz in Α-Flat major, Op. 42.
MANUEL MARTÍ (1819-1873), of Vigo, in Galicia, was playing works by Kalkbrenner, Moscheles, and Herz by age fifteen. He had begun his studies with his uncle Antonio Martí, organist and choirmaster of the Colegiata of La Coruña, and later studied counterpoint with the noted Italian Mercadante.
In 1838, Martí made his debut as a pianist in Oporto, Portugal. Having been well received, he then toured other cities in Portugal. He lived in Lisbon for a while, becoming a professor of piano there, and in 1840 he received the “diploma de sócio de mérito” from the Academia Filarmónica. In 1848, Martí went to Brazil, hired by the government to inspect the music programs in the province of Paraguay. In 1850, he returned to Europe.
Martí supposedly composed over 200 works by the year 1867,27 but, as with José Miró, most of them were probably never published. The Biblioteca Nacional of Madrid contains only a series of six easy works from Escuela recreativa de los pianistas by Martí—miniature fantasies on operatic themes by Meyerbeer, Gounod, Flotow, and Verdi.
JUAN MARÍA GUELBENZU (1819-1886), of Pamplona, studied with his father, José Guelbenzu, an organist and teacher of harmony and composition. Later, Juan María moved to Paris to continue his studies with the pianist Émile Prudent. He achieved a favorable reputation as a pianist in Paris. In 1841 he returned to Spain and became the queen’s pianist; in 1844 he was appointed organist of the Royal Chapel.
Guelbenzu is said to have contributed much to the musical culture of Spain. He was supposedly noted for his performances of the German classics, and he, along with Jesus de Monasterio, founded the Sociedad de Cuartetos de Música Clásica.28 Guelbenzu composed a large number of sacred works for the service of the Royal Chapel as well as some works for piano. Recuerdo vascongado shows his reflections back to his native region.
JOSÉ ARANGUREN (1821-1903), of Bilbao, first studied solfège and piano under the direction of Nicolás Ledesma. In 1843, Aranguren went to Madrid, where he studied composition at the conservatory with Hilarión Eslava. In 1855, Aranguren issued his Método de piano, which went through several editions,29 and in 1861, his Prontuário para los cantantes é instrumentistas, both of which were adopted by the Real Conservatorio. Also in 1861 he became a professor of harmony at the conservatory in Madrid. Guía práctica de armonía was published in 1872 and Nuevo método completo para piano in 1894. In 1881, Aranguren returned to his native city of Bilbao, where he established a music publishing company.30
MARCIAL DEL ADALID (1826-1881), of La Coruña, Galicia, studied with Moscheles in London and with Chopin in Paris. One critic wrote that “his music shares in the London fogs and the brilliant sun of Spain.”31 Of this little-known Spanish composer, who wrote various works for piano, only a Sonatina for piano is preserved in the Biblioteca Nacional in Madrid.32
ADOLFO DE QUESADA (b. 1830), originally of Madrid, spent his early years in Cuba, where he studied piano with Miró. At age seven he gave his first recital. Later he returned to Europe, where he studied with Kalkbrenner, Thalberg, and Herz. He became a friend of Louis Moreau Gottschalk, the American pianist and visitor to Paris.33 For the piano Quesada wrote Valses artísticos; Escenas de la vida de una artista; Capricho romántico; Sonata in E; Allegro de concierto; Andante y rondó; and Grandes estúdios de piano, which was adopted as a text at the Madrid Conservatory. For two pianos, he wrote Marcha, dedicated to Wagner, and Marcha poética, dedicated to Liszt.34
DÁMASO ZABALZA (1830-1894), one of the most fashionable Spanish salon pianists of the nineteenth century, was born in Irurita, Navarra. He studied piano in Pamplona with Vidaola and later continued in Madrid, where he eventually taught piano at the Madrid Conservatory from 1857 until his death. Zabalza wrote numerous piano pieces, such as fantasias on themes from II Trovatore, Norma, Les Huguenots, Aida, Faust, La Traviata; 24 Sonatinas; 12 Estúdios; and numerous didactic works.35
FERMÍN MARÍA ALVAREZ (1833-1898), of Zaragoza, was a noted pianist and composer in Spanish aristocratic circles, in part because he married a lady of high society. For the piano, he wrote polkas, mazurkas, and salon waltzes, among them a Domicile adoré (Do Mi Si La Do Re).36
EDUARDO COMPTA (1835-1882), of Madrid, was a piano student of Pedro Albéniz at the Conservatorio de María Cristina. In 1856, he went to Paris, and in 1857 to Brussels, where he studied with Antoine Marmontel, Auguste Dupont, and François-Joseph Fétis. After giving a number of concerts in Holland, he returned to Paris in 1861, where he performed for Napoleon III and his court. In the same year, he went back to Spain to give many concerts on tour. In 1865, he was appointed professor at the Real Conservatorio in Madrid. According to Pedrell, he published several works for piano as well as a piano method.37
JUAN BAUTISTA PUJOL (1835-1898), a student of Pedro Tintorer, was born in Barcelona. In 1850, he went to the Paris Conservatory, where so many Spanish pianists of the century received their training. While in Paris, he won two prizes in piano competitions, and upon completing his studies there, he toured in France and Germany. In 1870, he returned to Barcelona and established a piano studio. Among his noted disciples were Isaac Albéniz and Granados.38
Pujol composed numerous salon pieces for piano, typical among them being his Fantasia-Mazurka Rosas y Perlas. He was especially known for his fantasias on themes from L’Africaine (Meyerbeer) and Faust (Gounod).39 His Grand Fantasia on themes from Faust, dedicated to Eduardo Compta, gives evidence that Pujol indeed must have had tremendous facility at the keyboard. This popular “crowd-pleaser” contains roaring chromatic passages sandwiched between principal themes, fast-running octaves, treacherous right-hand embellishments, and long passages of similar figurations without relief for the performer.
Pujol organized his Faust fantasia into the following divisions: (1) themes from the Soldiers’ Chorus, Act IV, scene 3, and the Chorale of the Swords, Act II; (2) music from the Love Duet, Act III; (3) Spinning Wheel music from Act I with the Love Duet theme of Act III, as stated in the Gounod score; (4) music of the fair, opening of Act II; (5) Soldiers’ Chorus, Act IV, scene 3. Ex. 5 shows Pujol’s difficult embellishments surrounding music from the Love Duet of Act III. While Liszt did use the Spinning Wheel music from Act I in his Walzer aus der Oper Faust von Gounod, he concentrated mainly on the waltz material of Act II, a source of thematic material not used by Pujol in his fantasia.
While audiences were still calling for more fantasias on operatic motives, one writer in Spain was pleading for an end to this type of piano music. A certain M. D. de Quijano wrote an article entitled “¡No mas fantasias sobre motivos de operas!” (“No More Fantasies on Motives from Operas!”) in the Abeja Montañesa of Santander.40 The article begins:
If any of the old players of the psaltery were to come to life before a grand piano of Erard, on which was being performed one of the fantasías brillantes that flood the salon concerts today, so great would be his astonishment that he would try to flee, wondering if it [grand piano] were a musical instrument, or if he were in the midst of a storm.
The roars of the wind depicted by chromatic scales, the hurricane by arpeggios, and the thunder by chords of all types, would not allow his hearing, fatigued by the noise of the storm, to perceive the parts of a theme snatched perhaps from some sublime melodic inspiration and confused there in the midst of the whirlwind of an amazing performance that many times has no more artistic merit than that of a notable juggler.
Señor Quijano asks that pianists/composers make better use of their time, instead of borrowing another composer’s inspiration just to add arpeggios, scales, etc. He even makes a satirical comparison to literature when he states, “What would be said if a fantasía sobre motivos del D. Quijote were published and all the merit of the work were reduced to combine some of the many sentences of the sublime work by the immortal Cervantes with a revelry of wordy insult?” Nevertheless, piano fantasies on themes from operas continued to be written in Spain, as we shall see with Antonio Nicolau, a student of Pujol.
FELIPE PEDRELL (1841-1922), born in Tortosa, was one of Spain’s most distinguished and learned musicians. He is mentioned here, not because of his contribution to Spanish piano music, but because of the tremendous influence he had on later Spanish composers. Pedrell became a professor of music history at the Madrid Conservatory, a post he held until 1894.
Pedrell believed, as did his eighteenth-century predecessor Eximeno, that every country should build its music on the foundation of native song. His lifelong dream was to create a great Spanish musical art of truly national character. For Pedrell, as for the Czech Janáček, the Hungarian Bartók, and the English Vaughan Williams, the exploration of the living folklore of the homeland was no end in itself. He considered it to be of the utmost importance for the inspiration of the Spanish “artist of the future,” in his efforts to hasten the rebirth of his country’s music.41
Pedrell composed a few works for piano—Cuatro melodías características (1862), Estudios melodicos (1866, 1867), Esquisses symphoniques (1867), mazurkas, nocturnes, waltzes—but he is chiefly remembered for his stage works, musical scholarship, and influence on such composers as Isaac Albéniz and Enrique Granados.42
TEOBALDO POWER (1848-1884), of Irish descent, was born in Santa Cruz, Tenerife, in the Canary Islands. At age seven he began musical studies with his father, and by age eleven he was already known as a pianist in Madrid and Barcelona. In 1862, the Diputación Provincial of Barcelona sent him to the Paris Conservatory, where he studied piano with Marmontel. Later, he returned to Spain to give concerts in Madrid, other provinces, and Portugal. Before his short life ended, Power became organist of the Royal Chapel in Madrid and a professor of piano at the Madrid Conservatory.
Power’s principal works for piano include Cantos canarios, Gran Galop de Concierto, Scherzo de Concierto, and Grand Sonate in four movements.43 Gran Galop de Concierto is a period piece in the salon style, with facile patterns covering the entire range of the keyboard; but Grand Sonate in С minor is Power’s real tour de force, a major Romantic work from Spain. Except for the sonatas of Ledesma and Isaac Albéniz, the Spanish sonata had all but disappeared in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Power’s sonata has the following design: first movement—sonata-allegro form; second movement—ternary form; third movement— Scherzino (Scherzo and Trio); fourth movement—three-part sectional.
The first movement features a perpetuum mobile figure for the principal theme (Ex. 6), contrasted with a songful second theme placed in the tenor register of the piano. The second movement, Andante, tends to be a bit saccharine and thick in texture, though balanced in form. The third movement is marked Scherzino, a term used by I. Albéniz in his Sonata No. 4. Power’s movement shows the typical elements of the scherzo and trio design, except that the trio section is four times as long as the scherzo section, thus the title. The scherzo features parallel first-inversion chords, while the trio part has an element of Spanish folk music. The finale, the weakest movement with respect to form, is composed of three different sections joined together, all technically difficult. The middle section proves to be the most difficult, with a relentless octave pattern divided between the two hands in order to bring out the theme (Ex. 7).
In view of the numerous studies listed in the Catálogo de la Biblioteca Musical of Madrid, ROBUSTIANO MONTALBÁN (1850-1937) must have been an important piano pedagogue in Spain during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.44 Unfortunately, little biographical information is available on this composer of Torrelaguna. However, the Biblioteca Nacional in Madrid preserves a salon piece by Montalbán entitled Los cantares de mi patria, Fantasia sobre motivos españoles. The work is divided into several sections, each characterizing specific regions of Spain. The introduction is based on the folk song “El Vito”;45 then follow five sections depicting typical melodies and rhythms from Aragon, Galicia, Madrid, Andalucia (based on “El Vito”), and again Aragon.
EMILIO SERRANO (1850-1939), born in Vitoria, studied in the Escuela Española de Bellas Artes in Rome and later became a professor of composition at the Madrid Conservatory.46 He was also court pianist to the Infanta Isabel, Countess of Girgenti, and director of the Royal Opera in Madrid.47 Though noted more for his work in the field of opera, he wrote several salon pieces for piano, which can be found at the Biblioteca Nacional and Biblioteca Musical in Madrid.
JOSÉ TRAGÓ (1857-1934), of Madrid, studied piano with Eduardo Compta and harmony with José Aranguren at the Madrid Conservatory. Afterwards, he went to the Paris Conservatory, where he became known as a concert pianist. He toured in other cities in France as well. Upon returning to Spain, he accompanied various artists, among them the eminent violinist Pablo Sarasate. Eventually Tragó became a professor of piano at the Madrid Conservatory, where he taught such notable students as Manuel de Falla and Joaquin Tbrina. Although Tragó composed works for the piano, he is mostly remembered as a pedagogue.48
ANTONIO NICOLAU (1858-1933), of Barcelona, began his musical studies with the noted pianist Juan Bautista Pujol. Later, he continued his studies in Paris, where he was known for his symphonic poems. In 1886 he returned to Barcelona. There he conducted many symphonic concerts and took charge of the Sociedad Catalana de Conciertos. In 1896 he was named director of the Escuela Municipal de Música, a post he held until his death.
Although Nicolau was noted more for his symphonic music, operas, and choral music, his piano fantasia on Roberto il Diavolo (Meyerbeer) should be mentioned.49 Being dedicated to his teacher Juan B. Pujol, it follows in the tradition of the piano fantasia based on themes from operas. Though it is a flashy work, it is by no means as difficult as the Faust fantasia by Pujol. However, Nicolau’s fantasia does have its moments of technical difficulty, especially the long passage of trills and fioratura writing. Ex. 8 illustrates Nicolau’s idiomatic writing, featuring a sonorous melody in the bass dressed with effective chord patterns that sweep up and down the keyboard. Though not technically difficult, this passage is quite virtuosic and altogether pleasing.50
ANTONIO NOGUERA (1860-1904) was born in Palma, Mallorca. He became a friend of Pedrell and was equally as enthusiastic about reviving the Spanish sacred polyphony of the sixteenthcentury. Noguera had a profound interest in the folk music of Mallorca, as evidenced in his piano work Trois danses sur des airs populaires de l Isle de majorque.51 He also wrote sonatas and smaller works for piano.52
FRANCISCO ALIÓ (1862-1908), of Barcelona, studied piano with Carlos Vidiella and composition with Antonio Nicolau. Alio was very interested in the study of Spanish folk song and wrote many songs and piano pieces that show the “national idiom.” According to John Trend, Alió was a forerunner of the Spanish national school, to be followed by I. Albéniz and Granados.53 His Barcarola for piano is an easy salon piece with only a touch of the folk element, but more of the stereotype harmonies associated with this vintage. Other piano works include Nota de color, Ballet, Ball del ciri,54 and Marxa fantástica.
FEDERICO OLMEDA (1865-1909), a native of Burgo de Osma, was a music historian, organist, and composer. He became organist at Tbdela, Navarra, and Burgos, as well as maestro de capilla at the Convent of the Descalzas in Madrid. He, along with Pedrell, worked in the area of early polyphony and Spanish folk song.
Olmeda wrote the following works for piano: Rimas (32 pieces inspired by the poetry of Bécquer), Scènes nocturnes, zortzicos, waltzes, and Sonate Espagnole.55 This last work deserves more attention because it is one of the few large works of its kind among a host of small salon pieces written by Spanish composers at the turn of the century.
Sonate Espagnole in A major contains three movements, all showing Spanish folk influence, as the title suggests. The first movement, marked Andante-canción, is cast in ternary form. Here Olmeda has provided the attractive folk idea (principal theme) with an accompaniment that is a diminution of the main theme (see Ex. 9). The second movement, Scherzo-zortzico, is a traditional scherzo and trio design, but based entirely on the alluring rhythm (5/8) of the Basque zortzico. The finale, the longest and most difficult movement, displays the rhythm of the Andalusian petenera and features a captivating cadenza.
ENRIQUE MORERA (1865-1942) was born in Barcelona but spent his youth in Buenos Aires, Argentina. On returning to Barcelona, he studied piano with Carlos Vidiella and Isaac Albéniz and composition with Pedrell. Later he studied at the Brussels Conservatory. Though he is chiefly remembered for his larger works— operas, symphonies, and choral works—his piano arrangements of some of his noted sardanas give a colorful introduction to the national dance of Cataluña.56
JOAQUÑN LARREGLA (1865-1945), of Lumbier, Navarra, studied piano with Zabalza and harmony with Aranguren at the Madrid Conservatory. He gave numerous solo piano recitals in Spain and also accompanied Sarasate. He eventually became a professor of piano at the Madrid Conservatory.
Larregla wrote many works for piano, including ¡Viva Navarra!, Tarantela, Recuerdos de Italia, Album de Piezas Sinfónicas, Navarra montanesa, and Rapsodia asturiana.57 The celebrated jota ¡Viva Navarra! was immediately popular when it first came out, and rightly so. It is one of the most delightful Spanish salon pieces available, having all the colorful rhythms and melodies that appeal to the general audience.58 Ex. 10 shows such a passage, which contains an appealing rhythmic figure accompanying a “Spanish” melody that soars in the tenor register of the piano.
JACINTO MANZANARES (1872-1937), or Corera, Logroño, studied with Zabalza at the Madrid Conservatory. Later, he toured as a concert pianist and became director of the Escuela de Música in Valladolid. He also taught composition at the Valencia Conservatory. Manzanares composed numerous works for piano, including Andaluza, Nocturno, Pensamiento, Scherzo, Impromptu, Oriental, and a sonata.59
JOAQUÑN M AL ATS (1872-1912), of Barcelona, studied piano with Juan B. Pujol at the Escuela Municipal de Música in his native city. Later, he went on to the Paris Conservatory, where he won prizes for his superb piano playing. He soon became known all over Europe, and in 1905 he toured in America.
Malats wrote several works for piano, all light salon music, but he was most noted for his interpretation of I. Albéniz’s piano music. He performed the complete Iberia, an amazing feat by any standards, and thus stimulated public interest in the works of his famous compatriot.
ISAAC ALBÉNIZ (1860-1909), one of Spain’s greatest pianist/ composers, was born in Camprodón, Gerona. His musical talents were evident at such an early age that he resembled a Mozartean prodigy. He gave his first piano recital at age four and was composing by age seven. Naturally, his parents took advantage of his talents, and he was constantly exploited. It was not long before young Isaac began running away from home and going on his own concert tours. At first, it was only in Spain, but while in Cádiz, he stowed away on a ship and eventually found himself in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
In Argentina, at age twelve, Albéniz began an international concert tour that took him to Cuba, New York, and even as far away as San Francisco by 1874. In the same year, he made his way back to Europe, where he studied with Carl Reinecke in Leipzig. With some help from the Spanish government, he continued at the Brussels Conservatory, won first prize for piano playing there, and then went to study with Liszt in Weimar and Rome. By age twenty, he was touring as a mature virtuoso.
In 1885, he studied composition with Felipe Pedrell, who imparted to him the inherent values of Spanish folk music. By 1893, Albéniz had settled in Paris, where he became friends with Chausson, Fauré, Dukas, and d’Indy and eventually taught piano at the Schola Can to rum.
It is not known exactly how many works Albéniz composed for the piano, he being such a fluent composer, but it has been estimated that he published about 250.60 It is unusual, however, that Albéniz composed most of them in the facile salon style, until the last three years of his life, when he completed the mammoth four books of Iberia, one of the greatest contributions to Spanish piano literature. Before discussing that most famous work, we should mention some of his earlier works.
Albéniz composed five sonatas for piano solo, but these works have been overshadowed by what Wilfred Mellers calls “postcard music” (trivial Spanish salon music).61 William Newman tells us that they were probably written between 1883 and 1886 in Albéniz’s shift to more serious composition.62 Of Sonata No. 1, Op. 28, only the scherzo movement can be found today; of Sonata No. 2, nothing seems to be known; Sonatas Nos. 3, 4, and 5 are in three and four movements. Unlike many of Albéniz’s salon pieces and Iberia, the sonatas contain no hint of the popular Spanish rhythms and melodic elements, but “their craftsmanship in harmony, scoring and voice-leading is beyond reproach.”63
The Suite Española is one of Albéniz’s best Hispanic collections. It features works that invoke the colorful rhythms of Granada, Cataluna, Seville, Cádiz, Asturias, Aragon, Castilla, and even Cuba. “Asturias” (Leyenda) and “Castilla” (Seguidillas) have proved to be the most successful works in this salon collection, which is representative of Albéniz’s stylization of Spanish traditional idioms.
La Vega, part of án unfinished suite called Alhambra, was written in 1889 and shows Albéniz’s transition to the gardens of the flatlands around Granada. The music suggests the counterpoint and chromaticism of Franck, with elements of the Andalusian petenera. Henri Collet reports that it has been compared with Islamey, the noted virtuoso piano work by the Russian Mily Balakirev.64
Azulejos ("Glazed Tiles") and Navarra were both incomplete when Albéniz died. The former, with its Moorish influences, was completed by Enrique Granados. The latter, completed by Déodat de Sévérac, reflects the rhythm of the jota from Navarra.65
Iberia, Albéniz’s unquestionable masterpiece, subtitled “Twelve New Impressions,” was published in four books from 1906 to 1909. All the pieces are of formidable technical difficulty and place demands on the best of artists. Collet, an ardent propagandist of the Spanish national school, relates that one day Manuel de Falla and Ricardo Vines met Albéniz in the street in Paris, in a perfectly heartbroken state. He confided to them the cause of his sorrow, “Last night I came near burning the manuscripts of Iberia, for I saw that what I had written was unplayable.”66 Edgar Istel speaks of the technical difficulties in Iberia as “horrific” and says that only virtuosos of the very first rank are able to master them. Blanche Selva, one of the first interpreters of Iberia, repeatedly told Albéniz: “This cannot be played,” to which Albéniz replied, “You shall play it.”67
The twelve pieces of Iberia are picturesque descriptions of Spanish scenes and landscapes, mostly centered around Andalusia. They employ characteristic dance rhythms, many of which alternate with a lyrical vocal refrain, or copla, and often are combined contrapuntally with the copla toward the end of the movement. Evocación, the opening work of Book I, is the only work that does not refer by title to a place or regional style. It serves more as an introduction to the suite. However, it contrasts two distinct melodies that imply regional dance rhythms, the first a fandanguillo and the second a jota navarra.68 Evocación has elements of the sonata principle within its guise of Impressionism (whole-tone passages, harmonic planing of augmented triads, and long pedal tones). Though technically easier than the other pieces in Iberia, Evocación is in the difficult key of Α-flat minor.
El Puerto, named for El Puerto de Santa María, a fishing village near Cádiz, is in ternary form. Three dance rhythms make this work immediately appealing—the polo (mm. 11-17, 25-40), bulerias (mm. 17-24, 41-54), and siguiriyas gitanas (mm. 55-74). Albéniz makes effective use of whole-tone harmonies combined with the French augmented-sixth chord of D-fiat for the retransition to the initial theme.
Corpus Christi en Sevilla (also titled Fête-Dieu à Seville), the last piece in Book I, opens with a marchlike theme, signifying the Corpus Christi procession winding its way through the narrow streets of Seville. Typical of the processions in this Andalusian city are the saetas (literally “arrows of song”), semi-improvised religious songs that punctuate the celebration. Thus, Albéniz inteijects a piercing saeta in fortissimo octaves against a difficult pattern written on two staves above it (see Ex. 11).
Book II of Iberia opens with Rondeña, which bears the name of a dance from the Andalusian city of Ronda. The rondeña, a variant of the fandango, like so many Spanish dances, is characterized by the alternation of measures of 6/8 and 3/4. The essence of this movement is the vacillation between the attractive dance patterns and the lyrical copla, both of which are combined near the end.
Almería, relating to the Andalusian seaport, features the rhythm of the tarantas, a dance characteristic of the region of Almeria, contrasted with a lyrical copla. Structurally, Albéniz uses a free adaptation of sonata form.
Triana, which also has elements of the sonata principle, is named for the gypsy quarter of Seville and has always been one of the most popular movements from Iberia. It features a paso doble in the opening followed later by and at times combined with a marcha torera (toreador march), according to Gilbert Chase.69 In emulating the guitar, castanets, and tambourine, Albéniz has created an irresistible masterpiece in Triana.
El Albaicín, the first work of Book III, is named for the gypsy quarter in Granada. It contrasts the rhythms of the bulerias with a haunting cante jondo melody,70 which moves within the characteristic narrow range of a sixth. Chase states that El Albaicin is the most beautiful and original of all the pieces in Iberia,71 and Debussy was so struck by it that he wrote:
Few works of music equal El Albaicin from the third volume of Iberia, where one recaptures the atmosphere of those evenings of Spain which exude the odors of flowers and brandy. . . . It is like the muffled sounds of a guitar sighing in the night, with abrupt awakenings, nervous starts. Without exactly using popular themes, this music comes from one who has drunk of them, heard them, up to the point of making them pass into his music so that it is impossible to perceive the line of demarcation.72
El Polo, the name of a melancholy Andalusian song-dance form, also shows elements of the sonata principle. The score is marked allegro melancólico at the beginning, and Albéniz uses the French terms sanglot and sanglotant, indicating a feeling of sobbing for this traditional Andalusian music. To this sorrowful type of folk song, Albéniz adds interesting harmonic color, what Paul Mast has called the Iberian augmented-sixth chord. It is a combination of the French and German augmented-sixth chords, creating a five-note chord. Sometimes a sixth note is added as a ninth above the bass.73 Ex. 12 shows Albéniz’s use of the Iberian augmented-sixth chord in F minor resolving to the dominant (mm. 248-250).74
Lavapiés was supposedly the work that almost caused Albéniz to destroy the manuscript because of its difficulties and his belief that it was unplayable. It gets its title from one of Madrid’s popular quarters, named for a church where the foot-washing ritual was performed on Holy Thursday. Albéniz directs that “this piece should be played joyfully and with freedom" in order to depict the chulos (people of that district), who are loud in manners and dress. Again, Albéniz uses the sonata principle for organization of his colorful ideas, this time with the rhythm of the habanera. Lavapiés is one of Albéniz’s most dissonant works.
The fourth book of Iberia, in the opinion of Collet, contains “the most beautiful jewels of the collection." Málaga, named for the Andalusian city on the Costa del Sol, has themes charged with the music of the malagueña, another of the forms related to the fandango. Here Albéniz again contrasts a rhythmic section with a graceful copla and then contrapuntally combines the two later in the piece.
Collet has deemed Jerez, the second piece of Book Four, the most beautiful of all the works in Iberia. Jerez takes its name from the famous wine-producing center Jerez de la Frontera, near Cádiz. (The English word sherry comes from the name.) Jerez, constructed on the principle of sonata form, opens with the pattern of a soleares, another dance associated with the gypsies of Andalusia (see Ex. 13).
Eritaña the concluding work οf Iberia, refers to the name of the Venta Eritaña, a popular inn on the outskirts of Seville. To describe this famous tavern, Albéniz employs the bright rhythms of the sevillanas, related to the seguidillas. This work makes the seventh piece of Iberia to employ principles of sonata form, but no lyrical copla impedes the gaiety of this remarkably bold work. Debussy was so taken by this work that he wrote:
Eritaña is the joy of morning, the happy discovery of a tavern where the wine is cool. An ever-changing crowd passes, their bursts of laughter accompanied by the jingling of the tambourines. Never has music achieved such diversified, such colorful, impressions; one’s eyes close as though dazzled by beholding such a wealth of imagery.75
Paul Mast, in his theoretical analysis of Iberia, has found Albéniz to be essentially a nationalist of Romanticism, not of Impressionism, stating that Albéniz’s use of modality; parallel motion; secundai, quartal, and added-tone sonorities; and bichords have their origins in Andalusian folk music and that his use of the whole-tone scale is generally tied to functional tonality and not to coloristic writing.76
ENRIQUE GRANADOS (1867-1916) was born in Lérida, Cataluna. He showed early signs of musical talent, and, after the family moved to Barcelona, he studied with the famous Spanish pianist Juan B. Pujol. Later he continued private piano lessons with Charles de Bériot, one of the main teachers at the Paris Conservatory.
In 1889 Granados settled in Barcelona, but continued to give recitais in other parts of Spain and in Paris. He taught piano and turned out many distinguished pupils, though he supposedly did not enjoy teaching.77 In 1900, he founded the Sociedad de Conciertos Clásicos and directed its performances.
Granados had none of the thirst for adventure that the young Albéniz had; in fact, Granados disliked traveling, especially by boat. However, he did consent to attend the first performance of his opera Goy e s cas in New York, and that was the beginning of a tragic end for one of Spain’s most revered composers. The time was 1916, the middle of World War I. On their journey back to Spain, Granados and his wife died when the Sussex was torpedoed by a German submarine and sank.
Granados had several things in common with Albéniz: both were Catalan by birth, outstanding pianists, and students of Pedrell, and both had studied in Paris. But here the resemblance fades. Granados generally did not have Albéniz’s preference for Andalusian music; Granados leaned more toward the Chopinesque, with Hispanic overtones as a means to an end. In the words of Gilbert Chase, “What the Alhambra was to Albéniz, Madrid was to Granados."78 Granados was intoxicated by the Madrid of the days of Goya, and the majos, majas, and manoleria —the flamboyant populace of Madrid. His suite Goy e sc as for piano, later expanded into an opera of the same name, and Tonadillas al estilo antinguo, for voice and piano, were both inspired by the paintings and sketches of Goya.
Though Granados’s great works display his madrileñismo, feeling for the spirit of Madrid at a colorful and romantic period of its history, many of his well-known smaller works show the influence of Andalusian music; e.g., Spanish Dances Nos. 2 (Oriental), 5 (Andaluza), il (Zambra), and 12 (Arabesca). However, Granados does not show the “realism” of an Albéniz or a later Falla. His music is always tempered, more restrained, aristocratic, and Romantic. More usual are Granados’s numerous salon pieces, such as Esc enas románticas, Escenas poéticas, and Valses poéticos.
Granados’s works for piano can be grouped into three distinct periods: the nationalistic, the Romantic, and the “goyesca.”79 The nationalistic epoch is represented by such works as Album de piezas sobre aires populares and Danzas españolas. The Romantic period features numerous salon pieces, e.g., Allegro de Concierto, Escenas románticas, and Cuentos para la juventud. The “goyesca" period contains the Goyescas for piano and the Tonadillas for voice.
Unlike Albéniz, Granados wrote no sonatas. However, he did write a composition of some dimension in his Allegro de Concierto, a work that reveals his great gift for improvisation, which he supposedly could keep up for hours.80 Constructed on the principles of sonata form, this rhapsodic piece features arabesques, wide leaps, and other difficult patterns recalling the works of Liszt (see, Ex. 14).
As with Albéniz, Granados’s masterpiece for piano came near the end of his life. The suite Goy e seas consists of six pieces published in two volumes (1912-1914). In a letter to the Spanish pianist Joaquin Malats, Granados wrote:
I have composed a collection of Goyescas of great sweep and difficulty. They are the reward of my efforts to arrive. They say I have arrived. I fell in love with Goya’s psychology, with his palette. With him and with the Duchess of Alba; with his lady maja, with his models, with his quarrels, his loves, and his flirtations. The white rose of the cheeks, contrasted with the flaxen hair against the black velvet with buttons and loops; those bending bodies of the dancing creatures, hands of mother-of-pearl and of jasmine resting on jet trinkets, they have disturbed me. . . .81
Subtitled Los Majos Enamorados (“The Majos in Love”), Goyescas consists of two parts: I. Los Requiebros (“Flirtations”), Coloquio en la Reja (“Conversation at the Window”), El Fandango de Candil (“Fandango by Lamplight”), and Quejas ó la Maja y el Ruisenor (“Complaints or the Maid and the Nightingale”); II. El Amor y la Muerte (“Love and Death”) and Serenata del Espectro (“The Specter’s Serenade”). The last two works Granados labeled “ballad” and “epilogue,” respectively. A seventh piece, El Pelele (“The Dummy”), is also associated with the suite and available in piano arrangement. El Pelele, based on the music of the opening scene of the opera Goy e sc as, depicts the “man of straw” being tossed in the air by the majas.82
Los Requiebros, the opening work from Goyescas, contains two main themes, both taken from the Tirana del Tripili by Blas de Laserna (see Ex. 15).83 Granados takes his thematic material from the passages “Con el tripili" and “Anda, chiquilla" in the Laserna song. Exx. 16 and 17 show Granados’s brilliant pianistic use of this simple vocal material.84
In Coloquio en la Reja, a love duet, Granados instructs that the bass notes should imitate the guitar. Midway through he includes an expressive copla. Toward the end of this movement, he recalls a triplet accompaniment from the preceding movement, which he marks in the score. Harmonically, Coloquio en la Reja is one of the most colorful movements because of Granados’s exquisite use of augmented-sixth chords.
El Fandango de Candil, the most Andalusian movement of the suite, is a stately fandango in ternary form with driving rhythms. The brief middle section is broad and expansive in contrast to the rhythmic opening section. The return to the initial idea includes a highly ornate version of the fandango.
The conclusion of Part I, Quejas ó la Maja y el Ruiseñor, is probably the best-known movement from Goy e sc as and, in the words of Gilbert Chase, “one of Granados’ most personal and most poetic utterances."85 Pedro Morales declared that “rarely has the Spanish soul manifested itself so clearly in cultured music as in the initial theme of La Maja y el Ruis e ñor.”86 This movement depicts a dialogue between a maid (maja) and a nightingale, the latter represented by a cadenza at the end of the piece. Ex. 18 shows the song of the maja, one of the most beautiful passages in all of Spanish literature. It is also interesting to note that for this thoroughly Romantic work, Granados chose the key of F־sharp minor, a favorite key for many Romantic composers who wrote works opening with an impassioned flow.87
The ballad El Amor y la Muerte, the first piece of Part II, consists primarily of themes from the other four movements, many of the interrelated themes marked by Granados in the score. Probably the most striking use of interrelated themes occurs in the nocturnelike adagio section in B-flat minor, where Granados employs a tragic transformation of the lovely maja melody over a simple syncopated accompaniment.
The concluding epilogue, Serenata del Espectro, also recalls themes from previous movements, the different setting of the copla from Coloquio en la Reja being the most exquisite. This movement being a sort of dance of death, Granados has subtly employed a fragment from the Dies Irae in the tenor register of the piano.88 Since this is a Spanish dance of death, Granados has the phantom disappear with the sounding of the open strings of the guitar.
While Albéniz’s Iberia is a series of separate pieces that can be played in any order, Granados’s Goy e s cas is a cyclical suite, bound together by poetic and thematic unity. Granados’s superb masterpiece requires a highly developed keyboard facility, very much akin to the brilliant, ornate side of the technique needed for Chopin’s music. Ernest Newman also remarks that the basis of the technique is Chopin, but that the style has a polyphonic quality too often lacking in Chopin. One could not say of this music, as Wagner said of Chopin’s, that it is “music for the right hand."89 Ernest Newman remarks further, “but above all, the music is a gorgeous treat for the fingers, as all music that is the perfection of writing for its particular instrument is. It is difficult, but so beautifully laid out that it is always playable: one has the voluptuous sense of passing the fingers through masses of richly colored jewels. It is pianoforte music of the purest kind."90
Both Albéniz and Granados wrote smaller, salon-type works for piano in their earlier years and created monumental, virtuosic works toward the end of their short lives. With Iberia and Goyescas, they became the peers of such notable Romanticists as Chopin, Schumann, and Liszt.
During the first half of the nineteenth century, a few Spanish composers (e.g., C. Baguer, M. Ferrer, F.M. Lopez, J. Prieto) continued to write light sonatas, but gradually the trend turned toward writing salon pieces and fantasies based on operatic themes. Just as audiences demanded these superficial works of Liszt, they expected them from Pedro Albéniz, the founder of the modern Spanish school of piano playing. It should be noted that this period marks the beginning of the Spanish pilgrimages to Paris for musical training. Unfortunately, during most of the nineteenth century, Spain cannot claim a Chopin, a Schumann, or a Brahms.
Following the paths set by Pedro Albéniz came other technically gifted pianist/composers such as José Miró, Juan Bautista Pujol, and Antonio Nicolau, who concludes a line of composers who wrote fantasies on operatic themes well into the twentieth century.
The descriptive character pieces of the masters eventually gave way to the saccharine salon pieces by many European composers, and in this regard the composers of Spain were no exception. Nineteenth-century Spanish piano music suffered, in general, at the hands of Italian opera, which had been well entrenched in Spain since Farinelli’s arrival in 1737. Pedro Tintorer and Joaquin Larregla were noted for their virtuosic salon works. Had he lived longer, Juan Crisóstomo de Arriaga might have contributed more worthy pieces to nineteenth-century Spanish piano music.
After the eighteenth century, the sonata tradition in Spain might virtually have died had it not been for the meager attempts of Nicolás Ledesma (Six Grande Sonates), Teobaldo Power (Grand Sonate in С minor), and Federico Olmeda (Sonate Espagnole). Although Isaac Albéniz composed five sonatas, they are early works and do not reflect the true creative talents to be seen later in his nationalistic works. None of these works comes close to the skillful and imaginative use of material found in the sonatas of Chopin, Schumann, Liszt, or Brahms.
Three Spanish composers who continued the sonata tradition in the early twentieth century include Vicente Arregui (Sonata in F minor), Juli Garreta (Sonata in С minor), and Joaquin Turina, whose descriptive sonata, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, is an excellent work. As we move further into the twentieth century, more sonatas appear in the catalogue of works by Spanish composers, many of which represent some of the best in this genre since the eighteenth century, e.g., sonatas or sonatinas by Rodolfo Halffter, Joaquin Nin-Culmell, Jesús Garcia Leoz, and Cristobal Halffter.
During the latter part of the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth, Spain experienced a keyboard renaissance, its golden age of piano music. This rebirth came first with Albéniz and Granados and continued with Falla, Tbrina, and Mompou.
After the age of Soler and Blasco de Nebra, Spain had to wait over a hundred years for keyboard composers who could be called the peers of other European notables. With Albéniz and Granados came Spain’s answer to Liszt and Chopin, respectively. Albéniz’s Iberia stands as one of the most impressive and technically difficult works in all piano literature, and Granados’s Goyescas, a work that reflects Spanish Romantic piano music at its height, also requires technical wizardry on the part of the performer.