MANUEL DE FALLA (1876-1946) was born in Cádiz. His father was a businessman from a family of bankers and shippers; and his mother, an excellent pianist, was Falla’s first teacher. The young Falla was a gifted piano student. At age fourteen he gave his first concert, which included works of his own and the first Cádiz performance of Schumann’s Piano Quartet, Op. 47. Later he moved to Madrid, where he studied with the noted teacher José Tragó.
Falla eventually came into contact with Felipe Pedrell, the new leader of Spanish nationalism. Falla wrote that he had been “full of joy to meet, finally, something in Spain that I had imagined finding since beginning my studies. I went to Pedrell to ask him to be my teacher, and to his teaching I owe the clearest, and firmest orientation of my work.”1
On July 5, 1904 the Academia de las Bellas Artes of Madrid announced a prize for a one-act Spanish opera, the first contest of its kind. Shortly after, the piano dealers Casa Ortiz y Gussó announced through the Madrid Conservatory that a concert grand would be given as a prize for the best performance of a formidable list of works, including the usual Bach fugue, Beethoven sonata, and works by Schumann, Chopin, and others. The opera was to be submitted before sunset of March 31 the following spring, and the piano contest was to begin the next day. Falla needed to win both and did. The opera submitted was La vida breve. In the piano contest he was pitted against the best pianists in Spain, including Frank Marshall, pupil of Granados and later director of the Academia Granados. Falla’s performance so moved the jury that he was awarded the prize on the spot by acclamation and without discussion.2
Falla, like so many other Spaniards, made the pilgrimage to Paris. There he was warmly received by Paul Dukas, who introduced him to Albéniz, an already famous figure in Paris. Later he met Fauré, Debussy, and Ravel. The support of these noted musicians was to be invaluable in many situations, e.g., when Falla received a note from the publishing house of Durand, “The messieurs Debussy, Ravel, and Dukas have spoken to me of your Four Pieces for Piano. If you would care to send them to us we will be happy to publish them.” Durand offered him 300 francs for the works. “They paid you fifty francs more than they gave me for my quartet” said Debussy. “That’s what they gave me for The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” said Dukas. “They didn’t pay me anything for my score of Catalonia,” said Albéniz. “And they didn’t want my quartet even as a gift,” added Ravel. Durand published Cuatro piezas españolas in 1909.3
With the coming of World War I in 1914, Falla returned to Madrid, where he completed such important works as El amor brujo, El sombrero de tres picos, and Noches en los jardines de españa, a work begun before he went to Paris. During these years in Madrid, Falla enjoyed an ever-increasing reputation as a composer.
In 1922, he moved to Granada for more peace and tranquility. For his place of refuge, he chose the hill of the Alhambra. Falla left Granada only when obligations as a composer or soloist demanded it, e.g., the trips to Mallorca in 1933 and 1934 to participate in the Chopin festivals. In the summer of 1939 he moved to Argentina and lived there until his death in 1946.
Falla wrote only seven works for solo piano: Serenata andaluza, Vals capricho, Nocturno, Allegro de concierto,4 Cuatro piezas españolas, Fantasía bética, and Homenaje a Dukas.5 They are seldom played, but one frequently hears transcriptions for piano of the popular dances from Ltf vida breve, El amor brujo, and El sombrero de tres picos, “The Ritual Fire Dance” being the best-known transcription.
Among the original works for solo piano, Vals Capricho is a weak, un-Spanish salon piece; but Serenata andaluza, a more colorful work, holds more interest. It opens with an evocative dotted figure that sets the stage for the ensuing lyrical Andalusian melody, which hints at Falla’s later piece “Andaluza” from Cuatro piezas españolas.
Cuatro piezas españolas, published in 1909, had already been performed in 1908 at the Société Nationale by Ricardo Viñes, a Spanish virtuoso pianist and a champion of new music. Falla himself played them in 1911 at his first concert appearance in London.6 They are dedicated to Albéniz, who died in the year of their publication, and bear a slight resemblance to the piano works of Falla’s older colleague. “The similarities are analogous to those that would be found in paintings of the same landscape by two different artists. The objects represented would be identical, but the point of view, the personal vision, the colouring, the drawing, the emphasis, would make each painting a separate and distinct work of art.”7 Albéniz generally gave the pieces in Iberia the names of particular cities or districts within a city; Falla uses names relating to entire provinces (“Aragonesa,” “Cubana,” “Montañesa,” and “Andaluza”), as Albéniz had done much earlier in his Suite española.
The first three works of Cuatro piezas españolas are in ternary form, while lhe fourth is more extended. For the opening piece, “Aragonesa,” Falla employs the popular dance rhythm of the jota of Aragon. Its incessant triplet figure is unmistakable, and scarcely a measure is to be found without it.
The second piece, “Cubana,” may seem out of place with the others, but one must remember that many reciprocal influences existed between Andalusia and the Antilles at one point in Spanish history. At times, it was often difficult to separate what belonged to the New World and what to the Old. Thus, Falla has given this work the rhythm of the guajira, the most typical Cuban dance, characterized by alternations of 6/8 and 3/4. He sometimes contrasts these meters simultaneously between the two hands, making this small character piece metrically complex.
The third piece, “Montañesa,” evokes a landscape of the region of La Montaña near Santander. An exquisite Impressionistic introduction is followed by a lyrical section in the style of a Montañés folk song. Falla contrasts this tranquility with a fast dance section based on the folk melody “Baile a lo llano.” After the return to the opening mood, he gives a brief hint (“as an echo”) of the dance section at the close of the movement.
The final piece, “Andaluza,” provides a striking contrast to the preceding one. It is marked tres rhythmé et avec un sentiment sauvage (“very rhythmic and with a savage feeling”). This feeling is inevitable from Falla’s expert use of grace notes to give the opening chords a metallic “clang,” suggesting the rasp of the guitar.
Julio Esteban contends that “Andaluza” is the most perfected of the four pieces because of its motivic development. Falla develops a familiar motive associated with Spanish folk music, an introductory call of the tonic chord repeated four times, with sharp accentuations on the first beat (see Ex. 1). He converts this motive into the main theme, employing different devices in its development (compare Ex. 1 with Exx. 2 and 3).8 The contrasting secondary theme is a lyrical, florid evocation of cante jondo with an oscillating accompaniment figure. Falla bases this material on the Gypsy-Andalusian scale with its Phrygian characteristics (see Ex. 4). Structurally, “Andaluza” resembles sonata–allegro form, with contrasting themes and development, but the return to the opening material is in reverse order.
Fantasía bética (1919), Falla’s largest and most difficult composition for solo piano, is his last work in the Andalusian idiom and a synthesis of all he had written before in this style. Provincia Baetica was the ancient Roman name for Andalusia, thus the composition is an Andalusian fantasy. Gilbert Chase remarks that it has never been popular because professional pianists are afraid it may not prove effective enough and amateurs are afraid of its technical difficulties.9
From a structural standpoint, Fantasía bética proves not complex at all, being in ternary form, but the numerous arabesques, downward arpeggios, and glissandos make it a formidable work (see Ex. 5). In this work, Falla goes beyond the biting dissonances of “Andaluza” to a harsher, more percussive guitarlike strumming, much more severe than in most works by his Spanish contemporaries. It smacks of the primitive and is more akin at times to Bartók and Stravinsky.
Falla’s last work for solo piano, Homenaje a Dukas (1935), bears no outward visible sign of Spanish origin, but continues the dissonant vein of Fantasía bética and resembles the style of the Harpsichord Concerto. It is marked to be played in tempo severo, and makes effective melodic use of grace notes.
JOAQUÍN TURINA (1882-1949) was a native of Seville, located in the southern province of Andalusia. During his adolescent years, he studied piano with Enrique Rodríguez and harmony with Evaristo García Torres, choirmaster of the cathedral. These early years were preoccupied with the opera and operatic productions in the theater of San Fernando. On May 14, 1897, Turina participated in a concert in the Sociedad de Cuartetos. Between a quartet by Spohr and the Escenas andaluzas by Breton, the young lad from Seville obtained sensational success with his fantasy on Moïses by Thalberg. He was acclaimed by the local newspapers and acquired a local fame for pianistic virtuosity.10
From 1902 to 1905, Turina traveled back and forth from Seville to Madrid. It was during those years that he became friends with another Andalusian youth, Manuel de Falla. Turina began piano studies at the Madrid Conservatory with José Tragó, who was already Falla’s teacher. Turina’s Madrid years had one goal—Paris.
Turina arrived there to study at the Schola Cantorum in the autumn of 1905. On the advice of Joaquín Nin, he began piano work with Moritz Moszkowsky, who specialized in the understanding of Spanish music from a standard of salon virtuosity. At the time that Turina came to Paris, the musical environment was, to say the least, stimulating. Debussy had recently composed La Mer, and d’Indy had published an article on Pélleas. Although Debussy was not interested in getting involved with factions, the struggle between the Impressionists and the Schola Cantorum gave nourishment to sharp and picturesque incidents.11
The Schola Cantorum, under the direction of d’Indy, was born toward the end of the previous century with the aim of improving French church music and sustaining the traditions of Franck. Its rival, the Paris Conservatory, was directed at that time by Faúré and housed many of the followers of Debussy. While Turina and Falla maintained their friendship of the Madrid days, they differed musically. Falla had entered the Debussy orbit at the conservatory, but Türina was able to keep a balance between the traditions of Franck and the innovations of Debussy.
In October 1907 Turina participated in a significant concert with a string quartet founded by Armand Parent. The program included the Schumann Piano Quintet; Book I of Albéniz’s Iberia; Prelude, Chorale and Fugue by Franck; and, in its first performance, Turina’s Piano Quintet in G minor, his first edited work. Both Albéniz and Falla attended the performance. Turina reports their first meeting in an article contributed to Vanguardia of Barcelona in 1917. He describes Albéniz as a fat man with a long black beard, wearing a huge broad-brimmed sombrero, who swept Falla and himself away to a café on the rue Royale. At that moment, the greatest metamorphosis in Turina’s 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.”12 This meeting resulted in a triple pact to write “musica española con vistas a Europa” (“Spanish music with vistas toward Europe”).
In early March 1913 d’Indy delivered to Turina a certificate from the Schola Cantorum. Only a few days later, the Orquesta Sinfónica of Madrid, directed by Arbós, introduced Tlirina’s La procesión del rocío. The work had to be repeated on the same program, and Arbós took it in triumph all through Spain. In 1915 another symphonic poem, Evangelio de Navidad, was performed in Madrid by the Orquesta Sinfónica. It is a more intimate work, refleeting a quieter Andalusian mood. The Danzas fantásticas (1920) have become popular, both in piano transcription and in their original form for orchestra; and Turina’s Sinfonía Sevillana, one of the many tributes to his place of birth, was awarded a prize in a competition at San Sebastián in 1920.
In addition to composing music, Turina wrote two important books that filled a vacuum at that time in Spain. Enciclopedia musical abreviada (1917), with a prologue by Manuel de Falla, has served many Spanish musicians in the study of music history and composition. The work is dedicated to d’Indy and is a summary of the teachings and experiences acquired at the Schola Cantorum. Later, Turina wrote Tratado de composición (1947), a more personal view, in the opinion of his biographer, Federico Sopeña.
When the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936, Turina and his family spent many anxious days in Madrid. He and his chamber music colleagues used to meet in the home of Isabel and John Milanes, the British Vice-Consul in Madrid. The Milaneses kept open house for Spanish musicians during the revolution. Several of Turina’s works received their first performances in their home, and one of them, El cortijo, was dedicated to the couple in a tribute to Anglo-Spanish friendship.13 When the Comisaría general de la Música in the Ministerio de Educación Nacional was created in 1941, Turina was named its head.
Piano works constitute a significant part of Turina’s total output: four sonatas, four fantasies, five sets of dances, five miscellaneous abstract works, and 38 descriptive works (five in one movement, 33 in the form of suites), a total of 55 published works for piano.14
Two of the piano sonatas have programmatic elements — Sanlúcar de Barrameda (sonata pintoresca), Op. 24, and Rincón mágico (desfile en forma de sonata), Op. 97, each in four movements. William S. Newman does not mention these sonatas in The Sonata since Beethoven, probably because the subtitles are lacking in certain listings of Turina’s works. In any event, the omission is unfortunate, especially regarding Sanlúcar de Barrameda. Federico Sopeña states that this large sonata is “perhaps the most virtuosic work for piano in the Spanish repertoire, after the works of Albéniz.”15 Albert Lockwood also refers to Sanlúcar de Barrameda as a formidable concert sonata.16
The early Sonata romántica (sobre un tema español), Op. 3, is in three movements. Turina characterized this sonata as “Romantic” “because he desired to combine in it the harmonic-vertical tendency of the Debussy school, the counterpoint and form of d’Indy, and the sentiment of the Spanish race.”17 He chose for his tema español the Spanish folk song “El Vito,” which can be found in the second volume of Vingt chants populaires by Joaquín Nin. Winton Dean considers the first movement of this sonata, a theme and variations, as one of the most interesting of Turina’s piano works.18 Sonata fantasía, Op. 59, has only two movements and is dedicated to the Spanish musicologist José Subirá.
The four fantasies are all relatively late works. Fantasía italiana, Op. 75, and Fantasía del reloj, Op. 94,19 are essentially descriptive suites. Fantasía cinematográfica, Op. 103, bears the subtitle en forma de rondó, and for the rondo theme, Turina employs one of his favorite dance rhythms, that of the Basque zortzico.20 Turina dedicated his Fantasía sobre cinco notas, Op. 83, to Enrique Arbós on the occasion of the famed conductor’s seventieth birthday.21 It is based on the letters A-R-B-O-S, which equal the pitches A-D-B-flat-C-G. This work, later orchestrated, is the only abstract fantasy in the group.
As one might expect, Turina’s dances are some of his most characteristically Hispanic contributions to the literature. This fact is immediately apparent from the title of the earliest set, Tres danzas andaluzas, Op. 8. Turina pays homage to another Spanish province in Dos danzas sobre temas populares españolas, Op. 41, one of which is based on the Basque national song, “El Árbol de Guernica.” The two sets of Gypsy Dances, Op. 55 and Op. 84, are dedicated to José Cúbiles, a noted interpreter of Turina’s piano music. Although these dances are basically descriptive movements evoking gypsy rituals, Turina employs authentic dance rhythms in certain movements, e.g., the polo in “Generalife” of Op. 55.22 He reverted to the previous century for his Bailete, Op. 79, a cyclic suite of nineteenth-century dances. One dance of this set is a bolero, a dance rhythm made popular five years earlier by the Frenchman Ravel.
Most of Turina’s abstract works for piano are a part of Ciclopianístico, a large cycle that includes Tocata y fuga, Op. 50; Partita en Do, Op. 57; Pieza romántica, Op. 64; Rapsodia sinfónica, Op. 66, for piano and string orchestra; and Prelúdios, Op. 80. As the titles show, Turina drew some of his inspiration from Baroque instrumental forms, but he did include one descriptive work in the cycle, El castillo de Almodóvar, Op. 65, which was later orehestrated.
The largest category within the piano music is that of the descriptive works, mostly in the form of suites. One only has to read the titles of many of Turina’s compositions— Album de viaje, Op. 15; Mujeres españolas, Op. 17; Niñerías, Op. 21, to name only a few—to see that he has given the words album and suite more significance than have many of his colleagues. Like Schumann, he made a special contribution to the literature for children.
The descriptive suites usually contain from five to eight movements. The programs are mostly geographical, often localized in Seville. There are three sets of female portraits; several series of childhood evocations; legends; and visits to the shoemaker, the circus,23 and the radio station.
The preceding discussion should not lead one to believe that all Turina’s descriptive works are small in scale. On the contrary, Sevilla, Op. 2; El barrio de Santa Cruz, Op. 33; and Por las calles de Sevilla, Op. 96, are large, technically difficult works. All three compositions evoke some aspect of Turina’s native Seville, unique among them being El Barrio de Santa Cruz. This unusual work is a set of rhythmic variations on a multiple theme from whose motives Turina draws a set of pictorial impressions. Winton Dean goes so far as to single it out as one of Turina’s best descriptive compositions.24
Turina obviously had a predilection for the descriptive. On the whole, he preferred to express himself musically through intimate, personal evocations, instead of through larger forms. As Walter Starkie points out, Turina did not look upon the piano as an instrument for great effects, but rather as a dear friend of long standing to whom he could pour out his confidences.25 According to a music critic for the Musical Times, Turina’s Niñerías, Op. 56, was written for the composer’s children and “to be played to them, probably, rather than by them. They are not very difficult, but they need good technique and musicianship if they are to sound as simple as they should.”26 With further bearing on the smaller suites, a reviewer in the Monthly Musical Record writes that Turina’s Jardín de niñios, Op. 63, is no more for a child to play than is Schumann’s Kinderscenen.27
The factors that most influenced the shaping of Turina’s style are (1) the Andalusian idiom, or some other Spanish regional influence; (2) the post-Franckian atmosphere of the Schola Cantorum; and (3) the innovations of Debussy. At least one of these factors is likely to be present in his piano music, whether in the melody, harmony, rhythm, texture, or form. The Spanish flavor and nationalistic air of Turina’s music, which derives chiefly from the Andalusian idiom, impresses itself on the listener immediately. Turina devoted himself entirely to writing nationalistic music after his memorable meeting with Albéniz and Falla in Paris in 1907.
He was first and foremost a composer of lyrical melodies. This observation is not surprising in light of his allegiance to nationalism, which was characterized to a large extent by exquisite Hispanic melodies. They often possess what the Spaniards call evocación, that is, “a sense of poetry or suggestiveness, something which can be felt rather than explained.”28
The idea of evocación is indeed subjective, and for this writer, one of Turina’s finest melodies that possesses this quality is in “Petenera,” from Tres danzas andaluzas, Op. 8 (see Ex. 6). This thoroughly Hispanic melody, placed in the tenor register of the piano, is replete with syncopations of the hemiola type. It shows the characteristic Andalusian pattern of a descending minor tetrachord (la-sol-fa-mi) and has a predominance of conjunct motion. Melodies that evoke a particular mood or spirit also permeate the piano literature of Albéniz, Granados, and Falla.
Turina not only writes melodies that sound Spanish but also employs actual Spanish folk songs in his piano music, as in his Sonata romántica, Op. 3, based on “El Vito.” By no means does he rely totally on borrowed material, but he does seem to employ it more than do his famous contemporaries.29
Many of Turina’s melodies have a modal flavor, which results primarily from emphasis on the dominant by way of a Phrygian cadence. This modal quality, found in a great deal of Spanish music, is often referred to as “the Spanish idiom.” Gilbert Chase offers a welcome clarification of this term when he states:
It is only when we specify “Andalusian,” “Basque,” “Asturian,” or “Catalan” that we designate a definite musical idiom. What has happened in actual practice is that the preponderance of the Andalusian idiom, with its semi-oriental exoticism, has tended to overshadow every other phase of Iberian popular music and to impress itself upon the world as the typical music of Spain.30
Turina’s melodies are steeped in the Andalusian idiom, which “became a passport to international success for him.”31 What makes an Andalusian melody unique? What gives it its special attraction, an attraction that greatly influenced Turina’s noted French contemporaries, Debussy and Ravel? For a start, it is difficult to come to grips with an Andalusian melody in terms of our major or minor modes because of its general movement within a system of interchangeable tetrachords. The more common terminology of “minor-major,” used to indicate a mixture of modes, does not seem adequate to reflect the flexible character of an Andalusian scale. As Ex. 7 shows, this flexibility makes the second, third, sixth, and seventh degrees of the scale interchangeable major-minor degrees. This scalar trait, indigenous to the Andalusian idiom, places it in a peculiar harmonic-melodic position that, if not singled out at a specific moment for analysis, distorts the actual nature of the music.32
Dean’s assessment of Turina’s harmonic style is most perceptive: “Throughout his entire output, the modal Spanish element jostles a Franckian luxuriance in such chords as the unresolved dominant ninth, and both alternate with patches of whole-tone colouring and unrelated triads which owe their existence to Debussy.”33 Although there were many harmonic innovations during Turina’s compositional career—the tone clusters of Bartók, the quartal writing of Hindemith, the atonal and serial writing of Schönberg, the “tonality by assertion” of Stravinsky—Turina, unlike his colleague Falla, incorporated only the new French harmonies of Impressionism, while holding fast to the Romantic tradition.
Cyclical writing is the most salient feature of Turina’s form. The emphasis on interrelated melodies stems from the post-Franckian atmosphere of the Schola Cantorum, where Turina studied with d’Indy. Exx. 8, 9, and 10 illustrate his exquisite and varied treatment of a lyrical melody as it recurs throughout Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Op. 24, his large, descriptive sonata.34 Ex. 8 shows the first statement of this haunting theme (mm. 46-53)—hushed, simple, and direct. Ex. 9, from the third movement, shows the theme in open-fifth sonorities in the middle register of the piano and accompanied by delicate broken octaves in a higher register. For the climactic conclusion of the sonata (fourth movement), Turina employs the same theme embellished with a brilliant seven-note accompaniment figure that emits a broad sweeping effect (Ex. 10).
By no stretch of the imagination does Turina have an Iberia or a Goyescas in his output, but he did leave some large, technically demanding works as well as many gems in miniature. On the whole, he seemed to be more at home using the training he received in Paris to paint a thousand scenes from his homeland. The intimate nature of his music exhibits a delightful balance betweenthe sentimental and the gracious. Sopena best sums up his style with the term andalucismo universalizado, meaning the union of traditional European forms with the spirit of Turina’s native Andalusia.
FEDERICO MOMPOU (b. 1893), a native of Barcelona, began his studies at the Conservatory of the Liceo de Barcelona with Pedro Serra. At age eighteen he transferred to Paris to expand his studies under the direction of Isidore Philipp (piano), Ferdinand Motte Lacroix (piano), and Marcel Samuel Rousseau (harmony and composition).
With the outbreak of World War I, Mompou moved back to Barcelona, where he composed his first works for piano. He created his own individual style of music, breaking away from bar lines, key signatures, and traditional cadences. Mompou describes his music by the term primitivista —a path toward simplicity and synthesis to achieve maximal expression with minimal means.
In 1921, Mompou returned to Paris, where the noted critic Emile Vuillermoz listened to his music. As a result of a long article in which Vuillermoz praised Mompou’s work, the composer soon received international acclaim. Mompou remained in Paris for the next twenty years, during which he composed many of his important works for piano. In 1941, he returned to Spain, reestablished permanent residence in his native Barcelona, and continued to work on vocal and choral compositions as well as various other pieces for piano.35
Mompou’s music for piano represents one of the largest and most important collections for the instrument to come from Spain in this century. From the earliest to the most recent, it shows a remarkable consistency of style. In the words of Joanne Huot, “Mompou’s music is rooted in an eclectic style, and in this he is perhaps closest to Manuel de Falla, who like Debussy was more his own personal guide. . . . The Andalusian art of Falla and the Catalan art of Mompou have evolved into perhaps the most original styles of contemporary Spanish music.”36 Wilfrid Mellers once referred to Mompou as the only living Spanish composer to reveal the reality of Spain rather than the picture-postcard versión and to be the creator of what could be the most narrowly limited stylization in musical history.37
According to Vuillermoz, “There have never been any true Debussians in France. The only disciple to continue for the composer of La Mer whom one would have the right to cite is perhaps the young Spaniard Federico Mompou. Mompou, who, without ever having known Debussy, has gathered up and comprehended the essentials of his teachings.”38 Mompou’s harmony is decidedly Impressionistic, though the notes at times are very sparse. He uses added seconds and sixths, with higher chromatic discords exploiting the piano’s overtones. Though the harmonies suggest Debussy, the simple but effective melodies and the economy suggest the influence of Satie and the cult of the “enfantine.”39
Many of the interesting textures in Mompou’s piano music are the direct result of the particular anatomy of his own hand. He likes to apply widely spaced open intervals and extensions of tenths, which his own fingers encompass without the least physical difficulty.40
Mompou’s most characteristic works for piano are impregnated with Catalan folk ideas. He has indicated three divisions in his works: (1) those that depict subjectively the atmosphere and essence of the rural landscape of Catalonia as contrasted with the bustling life of the city of Barcelona (Suburbis, Scènes d’Enfants, and Fêtes Lointaines j; (2) pieces inspired by the hidden and primitive enchantment of nature (Charmes, Cants màgics, and Música callada); and (3) works that stress the folklore element that underlies Catalan life (Canción y Danza series).41
Many of Mompou’s piano works abandon bar lines completely or use them sparingly, but the rhythm does not become vague. One such example is Cants màgics (“Magic Chants”), Mompou’s first published work, written between 1917 and 1919. Ex. 11 shows the typical widely spaced sonorities, a salient characteristic of Mompou’s style. Adolfo Salazar was the first to proclaim the genius of Mompou in El Sol (Madrid). On June 18, 1921, after hearing Cants màgics, he wrote that Mompou’s style resembled the slenderest of Debussy’s preludes, though technically Mompou was nearer to Satie. Vuillermoz also praised him: “This young Spaniard, who works silently in his country retreat, is a magician. He searches in music for enchantments and spells wherewith to compound his magic songs. His formulas are short, concise, concentrated, but they possess a weird, hallucinating power of evocation.”42
Some of Mompou’s best-known piano works come from the series Canción y Danza (“Song and Dance”).43 Mompou states that he combined songs and dances in this series because of the contrast between the lyrical and the rhythmical. The pieces are written over a period of sixty years, and in one sense, they are quite similar and consistent in style; yet they undergo a gradual evolution from the early to the later ones, becoming increasingly austere and introspective. Many employ Catalonian folk songs.44
Ex. 12 shows Mompou’s poetic use of a folk song, distributed on three staves, in Canción No. 2. The melody of “La senyora Isabel” appears in unison at a distance of two octaves with a hypnotic accompaniment sandwiched in between.
Mompou always takes great care to “voice” his music clearly. Consequently, when he features the melody in the tenor register of the piano, the effect is often breathtaking. See Ex. 13 from Canción No. 9, based on the folksong “El Rossinyol.”
Mompou’s longest and most difficult work for piano is the Variations sur un thème de Chopin, based on Chopin’s brief Prelude No. 7 in A major. Mompou does not adhere strictly to the ternary rhythm of the Prelude, but uses compound duple and simple duple meters as well for some variations. He incorporates a variation for left hand alone (No. 3), a mazurka (No. 5), a waltz (No. 9), and a galop (No. 12). Variation No. 10 even includes an excerpt from the middle section of Chopin’s Fantaisie Impromptu. Mompou builds to a stunning climax in the virtuosic twelfth variation and coneludes the work with a quiet epilogue.
Mompou says, “I always endeavor to make good music. My only aspiration is to write works that contain neither too little nor too much. . . . Some people find it difficult to understand that I don’t have the same feel for grandiose form and traditional characteristics that they do; for me, nothing exists except my form and my concept.”45 This postulate seems to be the composer’s dictum in all his works, but especially in Música callada (“Silent Music”).
The four volumes of Música callada contain 28 pieces written between 1959 and 1967. Mompou takes his inspiration for these works from a statement made by the mystic poet San Juan de la Cruz, “La musica callada, la soledad sonora”—the concept of a music that would be the very voice of silence.46 These intimate, abstract works, which Mompou at first did not intend to publish, are the quintessence of his later style for piano. They relate somewhat to the earlier Cants màgics and Charmes, but, as Mompou states, Música callada is more intellectual, more cerebral, more “composed.”47
Mompou’s piano works, on the whole, do not call for a virtuosic technique. More the difficulties “reside above all in the expression and poetry, and in understanding the harmonic structure—a musical intuition to discern the original harmonies in order to draw them out from those that are secondary, and to operate with the pedals the sonorities and resonances of the music is needed. It is an extremely plastic music that only very educated hands and fingers follow.”48 Walter Starkie summarizes Mompou’s place in the twentieth century when he declares that Mompou’s music is “art in miniature and comes as a pleasing relief in an age when we have grown weary of the immense and the gigantic and long to see the universe reflected in a single drop of water.”49
In the spring of 1930, a group of young composers banded together in Madrid and became known as the Grupo de los Ocho. It counted among its members Juan José Mantecón, Salvador Bacarisse, Fernando Remacha, Rodolfo Halffter, Julian Bautista, Ernesto Halffter, Gustavo Pittaluga, and Rosa García Ascot. All made significant contributions to Spanish piano music, except Garcia Ascot (b. 1906), the sole female of the group. Her only contribution was a suite for piano. She later settled in Mexico.
JUAN JOSÉ MANTECÓN (b. 1896), of Ponte vedra, was the oldest member of the Grupo de los Ocho and was primarily a writer on music rather than a composer. His piano works include Capa de pasos, Españolada, and Dos sonatinas.
SALVADOR BACARISSE (b. 1898), of Madrid, studied piano with Antonio Alberdi and composition with Conrado del Campo at the Madrid Conservatory. He won several national prizes, notably for the symphonic poem La Nave de Ulise in 1921 and for Música sinfónica in 1931. He was also awarded the National Prize in 1934 “for the merit of his work as a whole.” From 1925 to 1936 he was musical director of the radio station Unión Radio in Madrid. After the Spanish Civil War, Bacarisse left Spain.
For the piano, he has written Siete variaciones sobre un terma de las canciones del marqués de Santillana; Veinticuatro prelúdios; Berceuse; Pasodoble; Preludio, fugueta y rondó; Tema con variaciones; Toccata; and Cinco piezas breves. Heraldos, symphonic impressions, is also available in a piano version, but proves difficult to negotiate. The Toccata contains interesting bitonal writing but difficult passages in thirds and chords of the octave and sixth.
FERNANDO REMACHA (b. 1898), of Tudela, studied violin in Pamplona and Madrid. He also studied composition with Conrado del Campo. Later, on a scholarship, he worked with Gian Francesco Malipiero in Rome and won the National Prize with his string quartet.
Remacha’s Tres piezas for piano deserve special mention. Though “Spanish” in flavor, they are not the usual description of some regional locale. The first piece, Allegro, mostly in 5/4 meter, displays a hypnotic ostinato with downward cascading figures. The second, Lento, features the rhythm of the habanera with harmonic planing of the Impressionist school. Con alegría, the last and most difficult movement, contains hand-crossings, cadenzas in fifths, and exquisite writing on three staves. These works certainly merit further investigation by pianists. Remacha has also written a Sonatina for piano.
RODOLFO HALFFTER (b. 1900), brother of Ernesto Halffter, is a composer of German-Spanish parentage. During the Spanish Civil War, R. Halffter was chief of the music section of the Ministry of Propaganda with the Loyalist government. After its defeat, he fled to France and eventually to Mexico, where he settled in 1939 and became a naturalized citizen in 1940. Halffter has been largely self-taught, but he profited from the valuable advice of Manuel de Falla.
In Mexico, Halffter founded a progressive triannual periodical, Nuestra Música. He has also been professor of musical analysis and music history at the National Conservatory, director of the publishing firm Ediciones Mexicanas, and music critic for El Universal Gráfico.
R. Halffter’s piano music can be divided into two distinct periods: polytonal (through 1951) and serial (beginning in 1953). The pre-serial works for piano include Dos sonatas de El Escorial, Op. 2; Preludio y Fuga, Op. 4; Danza de Avila, Op. 9; Homenaje a Antonio Machado, Op. 13; Primera Sonata, Op. 16; Once Bagatelas, Op. 19; and Segunda Sonata, Op. 20.50
We have a clue to the style and form of Dos sonatas de El Escorial, Op. 2, from part of the title. The Escoriai is a monastery outside Madrid built by Philip II between 1562 and 1586. Every autumn, after 1733, Scarlatti resided there with the royal family;51 and Antonio Soler, a pupil of Scarlatti, took Holy Orders and entered the monastery of the Escoriai, to spend the rest of his life there as a composer, organist, and choirmaster. The very spirit and structure of Soler’s many sonatas betray him as a disciple of Scarlatti. Thus, we may conclude that in Dos sonatas de El Escorial, Halffter is trying to reflect the spirit of these two great masters. His harmonic vocabulary, however, is the piquant bitonal language of the modern period.52
Both sonatas of Op. 2 are in a bipartite structure, as in a Scarlatti model. The same is true for Danza de Avila, Op. 9, a work with a folk-dance rhythm, characterized by hemiola, that is cast in the form of a Scarlatti sonata. The structure used in the first Escoriai sonata and in Danza de Avila is so close to Scarlatti/Soler that one can easily detect Kirkpatrick’s crux. However, in the second sonata, Halffter prefers to recapitulate, in an abridged manner, the opening material in the key of the dominant, after an eight-measure excursion in the minor dominant. This procedure closely resembles the embryonic sonata form of the finale to Haydn’s Sonata in A major (No. 12 in the Päsler edition, No. 28 in the Zilcher edition), though Haydn recapitulates in the tonic after a seven-measure excursion. Nonetheless, the style, spirit, and rhythmic drive of the Halffter work are unmistakably more related to Scarlatti.53
The attractive Homenaje a Antonio Machado, Op. 13, in honor of the Spanish poet Antonio Machado, contains four movements, each prefaced by lines of poetry. The outer movements are longer and faster, the middle movements slower. The Hispanism of Halffter is readily apparent here, be it in slow or fast movements.
Halffter’s first major sonata, Op. 16, is in three compact movements—the first in sonata form, the second a slow imitative movement, and the third a bustling rondo. The outer, fast movements feature Halffter’s typical rhythmic complexities, that of grouping notes across the bar line. Michael Field found the slow movement a good example of creating a penetrating emotion by very simple means, employing Halffter’s method of “seventhchord polytonality.”54 The finale features passages of bitonality with different key signatures for the treble and bass clefs. According to one reviewer, “The whole work is beautifully written, unpretentious and a pleasure to the ear.”55
Once bagatelas (“Eleven Bagatelles”), Op. 19, is most likely a pedagogical work, written to initiate the student in the problems of modern music: polytonality, the combination of opposing rhythms, and neo-modality.56 Nos. 4, 9, and 11 are especially effective, showing the clear crystalline piano style of Halffter (see Ex. 14).
Segunda Sonata, Op. 20, dedicated to Carlos Chávez, is laid out in Classical construction with four movements: Allegro, in sonata-allegro form; Andante poco mosso, in song form; a scherzo and trio; and the finale, a rondo.57 The first theme of the slow movement is one of Halffter’s most poignant lyrical utterances (see Ex. 15). Note the characteristic sevenths formed with the bass.
Michael Field contends that the chord of the seventh is the pivotal point of Halffter’s harmonic structure and that by it he is strongly linked to Falla and the Spanish tradition. He explains it in the following manner. The very first chord of Falla’s Concerto for harpsichord, flute, oboe, clarinet, violin, and violoncello
is the keystone in the structure of Falla’s later music and that of his legitimate successor, Rodolfo Halffter. It consists of a clash between the seventh chord of the tonic E-flat minor, combined with the chord of D major. The resultant phenomenon is what Falla always referred to as “apparent polytonality,” for the notes of the chord of D major are, in fact, the natural harmonic resonances of the notes of the seventh chord on E-flat. The minor mode is used to provide a common note between the two chords (F-sharp or G-flat). This is not arbitrary chromatic alteration and constitutes a principle from which Falla, and Halffter after him, built up a harmonic system capable of great force and evocative power.58
According to Gilbert Chase, R. Halffter is more cerebral in his conceptions than his brother. R. Halffter at first showed influences of Schönberg and, though he subsequently moved toward more tonal clarity, he retained a mordant and ironic quality reminiscent of Stravinsky’s middle period.59
JULIAN BAUTISTA (1901-1961), born in Madrid, studied composition with Conrado del Campo at the Madrid Conservatory. He won the National Prize in 1923 for his String Quartet No. 1 and in 1926 for String Quartet No. 2; and in 1933, he won first prize for his Obertura para una Opera Grotesca in the International Competition sponsored by Unión Radio. In 1936 Bautista was appointed professor of harmony at the Madrid Conservatory. After the Civil War, during which many of his manuscripts were destroyed, he left Spain for Belgium and then Argentina, where he became active in the Argentine League of Composers.
The Argentine critic Roberto Garcia Morillo suggests that four different “manners” may be discerned in Bautista’s music: Impressionistic, nationalist, neoclassical, and contemporary.60 According to Chase, Colores, for piano, reveals a modernism divorced from any deliberate nationalism.61 However, Preludio y Danza, for piano, is a decidedly nationalist piece of the Andalusian variety. The biting dissonances, vital rhythms, and guitar effects make for a very exciting work. Especially to be noted are the rhythmic patterns written “across the bar lines” in the dance movement.
ERNESTO HALFFTER (b. 1905), brother of Rodolfo Halffter, was born in Madrid. He showed musical talent at an early age and eventually attracted the attention of Manuel de Falla, who took him as a private pupil. In 1925, Halffter won a National Prize for his Sinfonietta in D major, a work fashioned after the Classical sinfonia concertante. Three years later, his one-act ballet Sonatina, based on a poem by Rubén Darío, was produced in Paris.
Halffter became conductor of the Orquesta Bética of Seville in 1924 and director of the National Conservatory of Seville in 1934, holding this post until the outbreak of the Civil War in 1936. He later settled in Lisbon. His early works for solo piano include Marche joyeuse, three sonatas, Pregón, Habanera, Llanto por Ricardo Viñes, and transcriptions from the ballet Sonatina: “Danza de la Pastora,” “Danza de la Gitana,” and “Las Doncellas,” a suite of dances.
Marche joyeuse, dedicated to Adolfo Salazar, is crisp, biting, and bitonal. In general, it shows witty, effective writing for the piano, though the surprise whole-tone ending seems a bit abrupt. Supposedly Halffter was greatly influenced by Debussy’s L’Isle joyeuse when he composed this work.62
His three sonatas, according to Salazar, are “Scarlattian in aspect, but modern in spirit.”63 Though the Sonata in D major features some attractive bitonal writing, many passages are somewhat unidiomatic for keyboard, more orchestral.
Pregón, reflecting the spirit of Cuba, is based on an alluring rhythmic pattern in 5/8:. The tonality is F-sharp major with delightful tinges of dissonance and the usual characteristic Phrygian implications.
Llanto por Ricardo Viñes is one of E. Halffter’s most inspired works for piano. Along with works by Rodrigo and Mompou, it was originally part of a collected memorial to the great Spanish pianist Ricardo Vines, who played numerous new works by his contemporaries. The depth and profundity of Halffter’s work comes through immediately. One can hear the Falla of Homenaje a Dukas quite clearly in the many arpeggiated passages, the effective use of grace notes, the exquisite voicing, and the overall stark severity of the work. Through this piece, one can easily see Halffter’s compositions as successors to the late works of Falla.
Halffter’s transcriptions for piano have become as popular if not more so than his original works for piano, a fact also true of Falla’s works. Danza de la Pastora and Danza de la Gitana, both from the ballet Sonatina, are excellent examples of this composer’s clear, crystalline craftsmanship. They are quite effective as piano solos in their own right, and the folk-dance atmosphere gives them immediate appeal.
GUSTAVO PITTALUGA (b. 1906), of Madrid, studied at the University of Madrid. While preparing himself for a legal and diplomatic career, he also studied music; he was a composition student of Oscar Esplá.64
As a member of the Grupo de los Ocho, Pittaluga took it upon himself to define the point of view of his comrades in a lecture, later printed in La Gaceta Literaria.65 The article significantly does not discuss nationalism or folklorism, with which musicians of the previous generation had been so largely preoccupied. Instead it stresses the necessity of creating “authentic” music of an entirely nonethnic variety, that is, music whose worth should be measured solely by its musical qualities, without literary, philosophical, or metaphysical associations. It called for “no Romanticism, no chromaticism, no divagations, and no chords of the diminished seventh.”66
Pittaluga’s piano works include Trois pièces pour une espagnolade, Six danse espagnolade en suite, Homenaje a Mateo Albéniz (originally for guitar, arranged by the composer for piano), and Hommage pour le tombeau de Manuel de Falla (for harpsichord or piano).
VICENTE ARREGUI (1871-1925) studied at the Madrid Conservatory, where he won first prize in piano and composition. In 1902 he went on to Paris and Rome for further study. Later he became music critic for El Debate in Madrid. Arregui composed operas, symphonic works, and for piano Tres piezas líricas, Impresiones populares, and Sonata in F minor.
The Sonata is Arregui’s tour de force for keyboard. It is a long, difficult work in three movements and is one of the few large-scale sonatas by a Spanish composer from the first quarter of the century. The first movement, Lento y triste a modo de marcha funebre, opens with a theme based on the descending minor tetrachord, a very familiar “Spanish” motive. This idea is contrasted with a more dramatic second theme in F-sharp minor, accompanied by orchestral tremolo effects (see Ex. 16). After a brief interlude, there occurs a reverse recapitulation, with the second theme followed by a hint at the opening material.
The second movement, in F major, Allegro moLto scherzando, proves to be a grandiose scherzo and trio. The principal scherzo idea is a light, scampering, staccato theme, featuring added tones and ninth chords, while the trio section exhibits a broad expansive theme. The whole movement is very difficult technically, and a bit long and tedious.
The virtuosic finale, in С minor, Allegro assai con fuoco, is also cast in sonata-allegro form, but displays more development of thematic material than does the first movement. The opening section is mostly figurai in style, while the second theme, in the key of the subdominant, is very expressive, with an undulating triplet accompaniment. There follows a demanding development section with a recapitulation that is obscured, the exact opening material being omitted. This time Arregui places the second theme in the key of the submediant. To conclude the work, he writes a coda with fast, brilliant figuration that climaxes to a Lisztian recitative passage. Even the final chords of the tonic, submediant in first inversion, tonic smack of Liszt.
CONRADO DEL CAMPO (1879-1953), violist and composer, studied at the Madrid Conservatory, where he later became a professor of harmony and composition. He had a profound influence on the musical life of Madrid and, as a teacher, turned out some of the most outstanding musicians in Spain in this century.67
Conrado del Campo came first under the influence of Franck, then Richard Strauss. In the words of Adolfo Salazar, “Chromaticism, national lyric drama, and Sturm und Drang are the terms that define the personality of Conrado del Campo from his youth to his maturity.”68 The orchestra and string quartet were his favorite modes of expression.
According to Salazar, the fact that Conrado del Campo was not a pianist and did not intend to write for piano had two consequences: It made it difficult for his music to become known, and it resulted in an aversion on his part toward the Impressionistic tendencies, which came from the piano, the easiest medium for experimentation.69 But eventually he did write Paisajes de Granada, Impresión Castellana, and Añoranza for solo piano and Rondel for two pianos.
JULIO GÓMEZ (1886-1973), composer and music critic, studied piano, theory, and composition at the Madrid Conservatory in addition to receiving a Ph.D. His research topic involved Blas de Laserna, a noted eighteenth-century Spanish composer of tonadillas.70 Gómez later became the director of the Museo Arqueológico of Toledo, worked in the music division of the Biblioteca Nacional in Madrid, and was music librarian at the library of the Madrid Conservatory. Though he is known mostly for his orchestral, theater, and vocal literature, he did write Variaciones sobre un tema salamantino for piano.
MANUEL MARTÍNEZ CHUMILLAS (b. 1902), an architect and composer, has written three piano works: Tres piezas de aire popular flamenco, Letargo, and Cinco sonoridades, all charасteristic of his musical endeavors.
JAVIER ALFONSO (b. 1905) studied at the Madrid Conservatory with José Tragó, Pérez Casas, and Conrado del Campo, as well as in Paris with José Iturbi and Alfred Cortot. Later he became a professor of piano at the Madrid Conservatory. For many years, he concertized in the principal cities of Europe and America, and in 1946 he was awarded the National Prize in piano. Among his piano compositions are Sonata in G minor, Scherzo, Seis sonetos (homenaje a Góngora), Los peregrinos pasan, Capricho en forma de Bolero, Guajira, Nana, Díptico (homenaje a Turina), Seis piezas infantiles, Preludio y Toccata, Impromptu, and Suite (homenaje a Isaac Albéniz). He has also written Ensayo sobre la técnica trascendente del piano.
The Suite in memory of Albéniz, a more recent work, shows a variety of styles. The opening movement, “Ofrenda,” exhibits tinges of Impressionism, while the interesting second movement, “Estúdio para el empleo de sonoridades simultâneas,” shows various patterns and scales in minor seconds. The most novel feature of the third movement, “Gesto,” is the plucking of certain notes inside the piano. The fourth movement, “Impromptu,” is another study in minor seconds but of a “perpetual motion” variety. The finale, “Danza,” returns to the more Andalusian atmosphere, as in the first movement, but in the style of a dance.
JULI GARRETA (1875-1925), a Catalan composer from San Feliu de Guixols, received a few music lessons from his father, a watchmaker and musician, but for the most part he was self-taught. Garreta played violin in a small orchestra and eventually became the pianist/director of a quintet. He composed mostly sardanas and orchestral works, with some chamber pieces and songs.
His only composition for piano is the large Sonata in С minor, which received its premier performance in 1923. It even attracted the attention of Blanche Selva and Fanny Davies, who performed it in Paris and London, respectively. The sonata has four large movements, basically a Classical conception, but the harmonic Ianguage shifts between Wagner and Debussy. All verbal expressive marks in the score are in Catalan.
The first movement opens with a fantasylike introduction (tonic and dominant statements); the main theme, a very pianistic figurative idea, does not begin until measure 47. A contrasting lyrical theme, in the remote key of A major, is based on a descending scale pattern. The development section expands many of the former motives and is followed by an abbreviated recapitulation in the tonic minor. Portions of the introductory material also return, but the second theme has been omitted.
The second movement, Рос а рос (slowly), should be performed in the manner of a fantasia. This ternary movement is very chromatic, contains several changes of time signature, and exhibits numerous sweeping figures and arabesques.
The third movement, normally a scherzo, turns out to be a sardana, the national dance of Cataluna. It is not surprising to find it here, for Garreta wrote so many of these dances he was known as the “Wagner of the Sardana.”71
The finale also begins with a fantasylike introduction, this time written on three staves. On the whole, this movement has many more “Classical” passages, somewhat reminiscent of Beethoven (see Ex. 17). The first theme is bold and syncopated. After many measures, Garreta arrives at a lyrical theme in Ε-flat major. The development section is quite extended, with an unfolding of numerous motives heard before, and the work concludes with an abbreviated recapitulation in the tonic.
Along with Turina’s picturesque sonata, Sanlúcar de Вarrameda, Op. 24, Garreta’s Sonata in С minor represents one of the best in the genre to come from Spain in the first quarter of the twentieth century. Pablo Casals, who was very instrumental in getting Garreta’s works performed, described the composer as a “brilliant man and profoundly intuitive.”72
JAIME PAHISSA (b. 1880), of Barcelona, was Enric Morera’s most important pupil. Pahissa studied both music and architecture at the University of Barcelona, but finally decided on music for a career. He became a leading figure in Catalan musical life, but in 1937 he moved to Argentina, where as pedagogue, composer, and orchestra director, he exercised a great influence on the artistic media.
According to Gilbert Chase,
Pahissa cultivates a “vertical” or “linear” style of writing in which harmony plays a secondary role. He considers himself the inventor of a “system of pure dissonance” which is neither tonal, nor atonal, nor poly tonal. His Suite Intertonal for orchestra was written to illustrate this system. Another orchestral work, Monodia, is intended to demonstrate that a composition can be based exclusively on melody, without regard to harmony or rhythm.73
However, most of his music does not evidence these experimental practices.
Pahissa is mostly known for his larger works, operatic and orchestral, but he has written the following pieces for piano: Seis pequeñas fugas a tres voces, Preludio y grandes fugas a dos voces, Escenas catalanas, Piezas espirituales, Nit de somnis, Dos danzas catalanas, and a Sonata.
JOAN MANÉN (b. 1883), a Catalan violinist and composer from Barcelona, showed unusual musical ability as a child. By age seven, he was performing Chopin and Bach in public. Manén studied both violin and piano, but preferred the violin. He wrote a suite for piano entitled Cuadros, and his style essentially follows the tradition of Wagner and Richard Strauss.74
BALTASAR SAMPER (b. 1888), of Palma de Mallorca, settled in Barcelona, where he studied piano with Granados and composition with Pedrell. Under the guidance of Pedrell, Samper became interested in the folk music of his native Mallorca and set about collecting Balearic melodies. He also enjoyed great success as a concert pianist. Later he moved to Mexico, where he became director of the Mexican Archive of Folklore. Samper’s works for piano include Balada, Variaciones, and Danzas mallorquinas.
GASPAR CASSADÓ (1897-1966), of Barcelona, son of the well-known organist/composer Joaquín Cassadó, began his music studies at age five. At age seven, he began cello lessons and two years later gave a concert that was so well received that he was given a scholarship to study further. In 1910, he became a student of Casals in Paris. Under the influence of Falla and Ravel, he began composing, but with the outbreak of World War I, he returned to Barcelona to study composition with his father. Cassadó eventually became one of the most outstanding cellists from Spain and toured extensively. Later he became a professor at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana at Siena, Italy.
Though mostly known as a virtuoso cellist and composer-transcriber of cello music, Cassadó wrote Quatre pièces espagnoles and Sonata breve for piano. Sonata breve gives evidence of fine craft. It is in three movements and reveals Cassadó’s Impressionistic tendencies, emphasizing quartal writing. The first movement (Proemio), an abridged sonata-allegro form, contains subtle Spanish inflections. It ends on a suspensive chord, and the composer directs that this movement lead directly into the next. The second movement (scherzo) is delightful and witty, with the main theme marked “quasi burlesco.” Although the meter is 3/8, most of the patterns are grouped in pairs “across the bar line.” The Spanish element can also be found here. The concluding rondo opens with an expressive folklike theme and is contrasted with more rapid arabesques and chordal patterns between the hands.
ROBERTO GERHARD (1896-1970), born in Valls, Tarragona, studied piano with Granados and composition with Pedrell. Gerhard was Pedrell’s last pupil. Afterward he worked with Schönberg in Vienna and Berlin from 1923 until 1928. He subsequently held a brief professorship at the Escola Normal de la Generalitat in Barcelona and served in the music division of the Biblioteca de Cataluña. After the defeat of the Republic in the Spanish Civil War, he settled in Cambridge, England, where he made his living almost entirely as a free-lance composer. He was visiting professor of composition at the University of Michigan during the spring of 1960 and at the Berkshire Music Center, Tanglewood, during the summer of 1961. In recent years, he showed interest in electronic music.
Though Gerhard’s piano works are relatively insignificant when compared to his orchestral and chamber works, they are mentioned here because of the stature of the composer. They are Dos apunts, Soirées de Barcelone (arranged from the orchestral suites), Don Quixote, ballet and dances from Don Quixote, and Tres impromptus.
MANUEL BLANCAFORT (b. 1897), of La Garriga, was the son of a pianist, who gave him his first musical instruction. Blancafort then worked with Lamote de Grignon. Like Mompou in the early twentieth century, Blancafort represented the Spanish Anti-Wagnerism in Paris, and came under the spell of Impressionism. Later, he was more influenced by Les Six and Stravinsky.
Blancafort, like Mompou, has been one of the most important Catalan composers of piano music. His output contains Notas de antaño, Juegos y danzas, Canciones de montaña, Cants intims, El parque de atracciones, Polca del equilibrista, Chemins, American souvenir, Sonatina antigua, Dos nocturnos, Romanza intermedio y marcha, Momentos musicales, Tres tonadas, and Piezas espirituales.
The pianist Ricardo Viñes introduced El parque de atracciones to the French public, establishing Blancafort as a representative of the modern Spanish school.75 The four pieces entitled Chemins, dedicated to Mompou, are good examples of Blancafort’s Impressionistic writing. Unpretentious, but very delightful, these small works show an excellent command of harmony, as liberated by Debussy and Ravel. Both slow and fast movements prove attractive.
JAIME MÁS PORCEL (b. 1909), pianist and composer from Palma de Mallorca, obtained a scholarship in 1927 from the Diputación de Baleares that permitted him to study with José Tragó in Madrid. He was given an additional scholarship to continue his studies in Paris, and there he worked with Alfred Cortot. He was mostly known as a teacher of piano and as a concert artist. His few piano compositions include Suite mallorquina, six Sonatinas, and Méteores.
JOSÉ ARDÉVOL (b. 1911), son of the Catalan pianist Fernando Ardévol, completed his musical training with his father. At the age of nineteen he went to Havana, Cuba, to become maestro for a Jesuit college. In 1934, he founded the Orquesta da Cámara in Havana and became its director. His music has been described as almost always modal, contrapuntal, and diatonic.76
Ardévol has written numerous works for orchestra, voices, films, chamber groups, and the following pieces for piano: Capriccio, Nocturnos, Invenciones a dos voces, Preludios, Sonatina, and four Sonatas.
JOAN MASSIÀ (b. 1890), Catalan composer, studied piano and violin and eventually toured as a violinist with the famed pianist Blanche Selva. His piano works include Ocell de Pedra, El gorg negre, Libellula, and Scherzo.
AGUSTÍ GRAU (b. 1893) is important for his piano works, especially Hores tristes.77 EUGENI BADIA (b. 1904) contributed an interesting Sonata a l’ antiga, and JOSEP ROMA has written Sonatina hierática.
EDUARDO LÓPEZ-CHAVARRI (1875-1970) was at one time a very important leader of the Valencian school. He studied with Pedrell in Barcelona and became known as a composer, musicologist and poet. López-Chavarri taught aesthetics and musicology at the Valencia Conservatory and also conducted the conservatory orchestra.
For piano he wrote Cuentos y Fantasías (which contains the popular “Leyenda del Castillo Moro”), Feuille d’Album, Danzas valencianas, and Sonata Levantina. The last-named, a work in four movements, evokes the folk music of the region known as Levante—Murcia and Alicante. The third movement (Minueto) and fourth movement (Fantasía) are especially attractive for their folk-dance tunes.
FRANCESCH CUESTA (1889-1921), a student of Salvador Giner, contributed some Valencian piano music during his short life. His piano works include Danses Valenciennes, Sérénade Valencienne, Prélude et Improvisation, Chanson Valencienne, and Scènes d’enfants. Henri Collet found his works to be delightful and poetic in nature.78
MANUEL PALAU (1893-1967), of Alfara del Patriarca, Valencia, studied piano and composition at the Conservatory of Valencia. To further his studies in music, he went to Paris, where he studied composition with Koechlin and Bertelin and received helpful advice and instruction on orchestration from Ravel. Meanwhile, he was a teaching assistant in aesthetics and music history as well as in the vocal and instrumental division of the Conservatory of Valencia.
Palau won the Spanish National Prize in music in 1927 and 1945. He directed several orchestras and choral groups in Madrid and Valencia, and was named director of the Conservatory of Valencia in 1952. His earliest works are based on elements of Mediterranean folklore. Later he embraced poly tonality, atonality, and a modal style.79
Palau left a substantial addition to twentieth-century Spanish piano literature. His major works are Valencia, Levantina, Sonatina Valenciana, Tres impresiones fugaces, Tocata en mi menor, Campanas, Paisaje Balear, Danza Hispalense, Danza Ibérica, Evocación de Andalucía, and Homenaje a Debussy.80
Sonatina Valenciana shows the influence of Scarlatti, with its binary structure and pungent dissonances. Containing Valencian folklike melodies, it proves to be one of Palau’s most desirable works. In sharp contrast to this work are the Tres impresiones fugaces, which reveal an appealing use of dissonance and bitonality.
Four attractive works that show the influence of French Impressionism are Paisaje Balear, Campanas, Homenaje a Debussy, and Tocata en mi menor. The Tocata is an exceptionally striking work, wholly pianistic, with a singing melody set off by a rippling accompaniment (see Ex. 18).
According to Leon Tello, a decided change in style can be detected in Danza Ibérica and Evocación de Andalucía, which reflect “a distinct language, more concentrated and polished, more concise and compressed.”81
JOSÉ MORENO GANS (b. 1897), of Algemesi, Valencia, studied composition with Conrado del Campo at the Madrid Conservatory, and after being awarded a scholarship by the Fundación Conde de Cartegena, furthered his studies in Vienna, Berlin, and Paris. For piano, he has written a Sonata, Algemesienses, Gavota, Danza con variaciones, Pastoral, and Homenaje a Albéniz.
The last work is a suite of three movements entitled “Sevillanas,” “Saeta,” and “Final.” It reflects the Seville that inspired Albéniz’s masterpieces, but represents a very conservative approach, even more so than Albéniz’s works for his time.
JOAQUÍN RODRIGO was born in 1902 in Sagunto, Valencia, and was blind from the age of three. After studying in Valencia, he went on to Paris in 1927, where he studied with Paul Dukas and also profited from the advice of Manuel de Falla. Rodrigo returned to Spain in 1933 and was awarded a scholarship to continue his studies in Paris. In 1936, at the outbreak of the Civil War, he returned to his homeland; and in 1939 he took up residence in Madrid and won instant fame with his Concierto de Aranjuez for guitar and orchestra. In addition to being acclaimed as a composer, Rodrigo is also known as a critic and lecturer, having been a professor of music history at the University of Madrid.
Rodrigo has written numerous works for piano, some of which include Suite, Preludio al gallo mañanero, Serenata española, Sonada de adiós (Homenaje a Paul Dukas) , Danzas de españa, A l’ombre de Torre Bermeja (Homenaje a Ricardo Viñes) , Seguidillas del diablo, and Cinco sonatas de Castilla con toccata a modo de pregón.82 Federico Sopena cites the Preludio al gallo mañanero (1928) as one of Rodrigo’s most ingenious piano pieces, a work that covers the keyboard from sub-contra A to A4 with effervescence and intelligent abandon.83
A work of great pathos and depth is Homenaje a Paul Dukas, which was originally published in the musical supplement of La Revue Musicale, May-June 1936. Set in the difficult key of A-flat minor, it is a brief yet telling encounter with Rodrigo’s craft. The composer sets a plaintive tune with a mesmerizing accompaniment, both of which are difficult to negotiate at times.
The Sonatas de Castilla (1952) show Rodrigo’s penchant for minor seconds, which help to give his works a burlesque flavor. The “Sonata, como un Tiento,” dedicated to Frank Marshall, is the most lyrical af the five.
Another Valencian composer is VICENTE ASENCIO (b. 1903), who wrote the following piano works: Dos danzas, Giga, Infantívola, Cuatro danzas españolas, Sonatina, and Romancillo a Chopin.
OSCAR ESPLÁ (1886-1976), of Alicante, at first prepared for a career in civil engineering and later received a doctorate in philosophy. He had little systematic instruction in music as a child, though he showed musical ability. Furthering his musical studies as a youth, he spent time in France, Italy, Belgium, and Germany, where he studied with Max Reger. In 1909 he won an international prize in Vienna with a suite for orchestra. By 1931, Esplá had become a figure of national importance in Spain. He became president of the Junta Nacional de Música and director of the Madrid Conservatory. During the Spanish Civil War, he settled in Brussels. In 1953, Esplá was elected to the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Spain.
Many of Esplá’s works are based on a scale that he derived from the folk music of his native region, the Levante, the region of Murcia and Alicante. The scale consists of the notes C, D-flat, E-flat, F-flat, G-flat, G-natural, A-flat, B-flat.84
I have constructed my works very openly on the basis of this scale, whose special color agrees with that of the folk songs of the Levante and with their own melodic-harmonic tendency; the bonds of tonic-dominant are related to that established in the diatonic scale; but, with the exception of the perfect chord, which can be constructed on the tonic, no exact equivalent exists between the harmonic links of the two scales.85
According to Henri Collet, Esplá first used this scale in the piano work Evocaciones (1918).86 It is also used in Crepúsculos, Ronda Levantina, and “Canto de vendimia.”87 Ex. 19, from “Canto de vendimia” (first movement of the suite La Sierra), shows Esplá’s use of the scale, transposed to F-sharp, G, A, B-flat, C, C-sharp, D, E. In the opinion of Salazar, the lack of definite tonal contrasts in the scale produces a certain monotony and uncertainty of construction in some of Esplá’s works.88
Esplá supposedly did not believe in musical “nationalism” or in reproducing folk melodies to obtain local color. His musical system was to give “universal character” to his music. Unless one is thoroughly grounded in the music of Levante, Esplá’s music will not sound “Spanish.”89 A good introduction to the music of his region is Levante, ten pieces based on dance themes. They show mostly a modal flavor, but are quite a refreshing change from the universally known Andalusian types.
One of Esplá’s larger, more difficult works for piano is Sonata española, Op. 53. This work was written at the invitation of UNESCO for the “Tombeau de Chopin,” an international homage to Chopin celebrated in Paris in October 1949, on the centennial of his death.
The first movement is in sonata-allegro form with no development. Especially to be noted is the recapitulation, which features the plaintive main theme above a shimmering accompaniment. The second movement, “Mazurka on a popular theme,” displays Esplá’s whole-tone writing. The finale, also an abridged sonata form, contains some difficult, abstract writing, even breaking into three staves at times. Ex. 20 gives the principal theme of the movement, one of Esplá’s captivating folklike melodies.
RAFAEL RODRÍGUEZ ALBERT (b. 1902), was born in Alicante, but resides in Madrid. He was a pupil of Oscar Esplá and received advice in composition from Manuel de Falla. Rodríguez Albert has been lecturer, pianist, and teacher at the Colegio Nacional de Ciegos in Madrid. His piano works include Impromptu, Preludio, Homenaje a Albéniz, Tres miniaturas, El cadáver del príncipe, Meditáción de sigüenza, Homenaje a Falla, Cuatro preludios, and Sonatina.
JOSÉ ANTONIO DE DONOSTIA (1886-1956), noted Basque musicologist and composer, was born in San Sebastián. He entered the Franciscan-Capuchin order in 1902. Padre Donostia studied harmony, counterpoint, fugue, and instrumentation in Paris, where he lived from 1920 to 1923. Later he made frequent trips to Paris to continue his contacts with French composers. For many years he was organist/choirmaster in Navarra, in the town of Lecaroz.
Though chiefly known for his work in musicology, especially in Basque folk music, Donostia wrote music for organ, voice, piano, chamber instruments, and chorus. A complete edition of his works in twelve volumes is in progress, ten volumes having been completed.90 The piano music can be found in Volume 10 of the series.
Donostia’s piano music is divided into three groups: Preludios vascos, Mosaico, and Infantiles. The first group, Basque Preludes, was written between 1912 and 1923 and includes such works as “Improvisación,” “Diálogo,” “Canción triste,” and “Paisaje sulentino.” Most of these pieces are of the Romantic salon type. The second group, Mosaic (1913-1954), contains several works for guitar transcribed for piano by the composer. A notable work here, originally for piano, is the “Homenaje a Juan Crisóstomo de Arriaga,” in memory of the great Basque composer from the early nineteenth century. In this work, Donostia uses a Neoclassic approach that reminds one more of Scarlatti than of Arriaga. The final group, Infantiles (1937-1947), is written for piano four hands.
JESÚS GURIDI (1886-1961), of Vitoria, became one of the most important Basque composers of this century. He studied first with his mother, then with Valentín Arín in Madrid and Sáinz Basabe in Bilbao. In 1903, Guridi entered the Schola Canto rum in Paris; from there he went to Brussels and Cologne for further training. Upon returning to Bilbao, he was named professor of organ at the Academy of Music and in 1927, professor of harmony and organ at the Conservatory. In 1939, he moved to Madrid, where he devoted most of his time to composition. In 1944, he became professor of organ at the Madrid Conservatory.
Guridi is known chiefly for his zarzuelas, choral works, symphonic works, and studies in Basque folk music. His piano works include Cantos populares vascos, Danzas viejas, Intermezzo, Lamento e imprecación de Agar (Homenaje a Arriaga), Ocho cantos, Quatorce morceaux, Vasconia, and Tres piezas breves.91
Though Antonio Fernández-Cid has found Guridi’s organ works to be superior to the piano works, mention should be made of Vasconia, three pieces for piano on Basque folk themes.92 Entitled “Viejo Carillon,” “Leyenda,” and “En el Chacoli,” they show Guridi’s Basque heritage coupled with some attractive, pianistic writing, though mostly of the Romantic salon variety.
JOSÉ MARÍA USANDIZAGA (1887-1915), of San Sebastián, was yet another talented Basque composer who died at a very early age (recall the great Arriaga of the early nineteenth century). After studying in San Sebastián, Usandizaga went on to Paris, where he studied piano with Francis Planté and composition with Vincent d’Indy at the Schola Cantorum. He returned to San Sebastián and became very active in the Basque musical movement, determined to create a Basque opera. After achieving local fame, he went to Madrid; one of his operas was a great success there as well as in other parts of Spain.
Usandizaga had a great melodic gift and a good flair for the theater. He showed the influence of Franck, from his training at the Schola Cantorum, and the theatrical emotionalism of Puccini. Unfortunately he died of tuberculosis at the age of 28.93
Compared to his works for the theater, Usandizaga’s piano pieces are indeed minor compositions. They include Trois pièces pour piano, Op. 28; Rapsodia vascongada; Suite para piano; Jota; and Chopin (Waltz).94
JOSÉ MARÍA FRANCO (1894-1971), Basque violinist and composer from Irún, Guipuzcoa, began his musical studies at age six. After moving to Madrid, he entered the Madrid Conservatory, where he won prizes in piano, violin, and harmony. In 1919 he was appointed professor of violin at the Conservatory of Murcia. As a pianist, he formed part of the Quinteto Hispania, which toured Spain, South America, and Cuba. Upon returning to Spain in 1925, he was named orchestra director for Unión Radio of Madrid.
In 1927 he became a teacher of piano, organ, harmony, and composition in the Colegio Nacional de Ciegos; and in 1930 he went to Paris to present new works there. In 1932 Franco was appointed director of the Orquesta Clásica de Madrid, and in 1935 he became a professor in the vocal and instrumental division of the Madrid Conservatory. In 1939 he directed the Orquesta Filarmónica and later the Orquesta Sinfónica of Madrid.
Franco’s piano works include Miniaturas, Cantos-arca, Dos danzas españolas (two sets), Evocación malagueña, Tres piezas, Piezas infantiles, Escoriai, Sonatina, and A bordo del Lucania.
JESÚS GARCÍA LEOZ (1904-1953) was born in Olite, province of Pamplona. He began his musical training in Pamplona and later studied at the Madrid Conservatory with Conrado del Campo. He was also a student of Joaquin Turina. García Leoz was a gifted composer of film scores, song literature, and chamber music; notable in the last category is his Piano Quartet.95 His very attractive Sonatina for piano is dedicated to his teacher Turina.
The Sonatina contains three movements. The first, in sonataallegro design, opens with a rhythmic figure, “Spanish” in character, but soon gives way to a beautiful lyricism. The second theme proves to be one of Garcia Leoz’s most expressive statements, with attractive counterpoint in the tenor register of the piano. After a development of the opening rhythmic idea, the recapitulation begins in the tonic, F-sharp minor, but the second theme is brought back in the enharmonic key of G-flat major.
The hauntingly beautiful second movement features ostinato patterns in the lower parts against a plaintive melody in the upper part. García Leoz expands effectively to three staves in the middle of the movement to achieve the desired sonority (see Ex. 21).
The finale, the most difficult movement, is a sparkling rondo with 3/4 in the right hand against 6/8 in the left. This movement illuminates the composer’s clarity of style for the piano and concludes a work that is, on the whole, above average and a very desirable piece for pianists.
ROGELIO VILLAR (1875-1937) was a composer/musicologist from León. He went to Madrid for further study and there worked with Llanos and Dâmaso Zabalza at the Conservatory, where, in 1918, he became a professor. Villar’s Romantic language is based on the style of Grieg. The general mood is one of pastoral simplicity and elegiac melancholy, expressed with a technique that is purposely naïve.96
In addition to the five volumes of folk songs from León with his own harmonizations, Villar wrote Eclogue for orchestra, six string quartets, songs, and piano pieces. His most typical compositions for piano are the Danzas montañesas, which are built on themes from the region of León or were inspired by their specific characteristics. As with the Romantics Chopin and Granados, Villar did not compose them as “authentic” but as lyric, individual interpretations.97
VICTORIANO ECHEVARRIA (1898-1965), of Palencia, was at one time director of the Banda Municipal Madrileña. Most of his compositions are for orchestra, the theater, or chamber groups; however, he did write for piano Sonata ibérica, Ricercare, and Nocturno andaluz, the last an overly sentimental work.
ANTONIO-JOSÉ (1903-1936), of Burgos, wrote for piano Danza burgalesa (a set of three), Evocaciones, Poema de la juven՛tud, and Sonata Gallega. The sonata is a large, difficult work in three movements that evokes the region of Galicia. According to the score, it won a composition contest, but no details are given.
The first movement of the sonata opens in an unusual way— “freely, in the manner of a prelude.” The forceful arpeggiated chords with modal melody “punched out” on top remind one of César Franck’s Prelude, Chorale and Fugue. The free introduction leads into a faster section marked Allegro apasionado, a long, complex sonata-allegro form.
The second movement, entitled “Caneioneilla,” presents lovely folk-song ideas. The second theme is stated more forcefully than the first, and with thicker chords.
The third movement, a rondo, features cyclical form. The initial rondo theme is contrasted with the introductory theme from the first movement, the second folklike idea of movement number two, and material from the fast section of the first movement.
The Sonata Gallega fluctuates between the chromaticism of Franck and the Impressionism of Debussy, both erratically and un-evenly at times. However, the work as a whole shows a promising talent, but unfortunately Antonio-José did not live long enough to develop it properly.
FACUNDO DE LA VIÑA (1876-1952), of Gijón, Asturias, began his studies at the Madrid Conservatory and continued them later in Paris. He became a professor at the Madrid Conservatory. Along with operas and orchestral works, he composed piano pieces including Seis impresiones (“Andaluza,” “Culto antiguo,” “La melodia” “Era el dragón . . .,” “Sueños,” and “La fuente abondonada”).
JOAQUÍN NIN (1879-1949), of Spanish origin, was born in Havana, Cuba. He went to Spain as a child and studied piano in Barcelona. At age fifteen he toured as a concert pianist. In 1902 he settled in Paris as a pupil of Moritz Moszkowski and of Vincent d’Indy at the Schola Cantorum. From 1908 to 1910, he lived in Berlin. Then in Havana he founded a conservatory and concert society. Nin soon returned to Europe—to Brussels and then Paris—until World War II drove him back to Havana.
Nin’s edition, in two volumes, of Classiques espagnols du piano (1925, 1929), made available for the first time certain eighteenthand nineteenth-century Spanish keyboard works. The importance of these two volumes, with their valuable prefaces, cannot be overe mphasized, even though Nin makes numerous emendations to the original scores.
His original works for piano include Danse Andalouse, Danse Murcienne, two works entitled Danse Ibérienne, Chaîne de Valses, Message à Claude Debussy, and 1830, Variations sur un thème frivole. Danse Murcienne is typical of Nin’s Spanish dances. Completely of the salon variety, this work alternates between “fantasy” sections and rhythmic/melodic elements typical of the region of Murcia.
ÁNGEL MINGOTE (1891-1961), of Daroca, Zaragoza, studied composition in Zaragoza with Ardanús and Vega in Madrid, but he is generally considered self-taught. At age sixteen he directed a musical group in Daroca, where he eventually became organist of the basilica. Later he moved to Teruel and became pianist and conductor of the orchestra. He also became a professor of the Escuela Oficial de Jota, which is connected with the Conservatory of Zaragoza, and a professor of solfège at the Madrid Conservatory.
Mingote composed numerous works in various categories, demonstrating a solid technique. Unfortunately many of his works disappeared during the Spanish Civil War. For piano he wrote Suite primitiva. He was also noted for his collections of folk songs from Aragón.
MANUEL INFANTE (1883-1958) was born in Osuna, near Seville. He studied piano and composition with Morera. In 1909 Infante settled in Paris, but he did not forget the musical attractions of his native province, Andalucía.
Infante’s solo piano works include Gitanerías, Pochades Andalouses, Sevillana, and El Vito (variations on a popular theme and original dance). Also popular are the Three Andalusian Dances (“Ritmo,” “Gracia,” “Sentimiento”) for two pianos.
The set of variations on “El Vito,” dedicated to José Iturbi, is a virtuoso salon piece in the grand manner. This attractive folk song, a polo, was also used for a set of variations by Joaquin Tlirina in the first movement of his Sonata romántica.98 Infante’s six variations and original Andalusian dance require a skilled performer to ferret out the theme from the difficult, but pianistic figurations. Not to be taken lightly are the treacherous left-hand leaps, seemingly so innocent at times.
MANUEL FONT Y DE ANTA (1895-1936), of Seville, began his musical training with his father and the chapelmasters Vincente Ripollés and Evaristo García Torres. Later he studied composition with Turina in Madrid and Jan Sibelius in New York. He became the director of an opera company, which took him to South America for several years. Afterwards he returned to Spain.
Besides his orchestral music, zarzuelas, and chamber music, Font y de Anta wrote a large, difficult suite for piano entitled Andalucía, in three volumes. Volume I contains “En el parque de María Luisa (Sevilla),” “Macarena,” and “En la Alameda de Hércules”; Volume II, “La Alhambra,” “El barrio de la Vina (Cádiz),” and “Perchei (Málaga)”: Volume III, “En la Mezquita (Córdoba),” “En un patio Sevillana,” and “En los toros (Pasacalle).” Though on a grand scale and technically difficult, these “postcards” of Spain are disappointing. After one has been exposed to the descriptions given by Albéniz in Iberia, all others seem to fade quickly. It is interesting to note, however, that “La Alhambra” was dedicated to Arthur Rubinstein and “El barrio de la Viña” to Manuel de Falla.
JOAQUÍN NIN-CULMELL (b. 1908), son of Joaquín Nin, was born in Berlin. Nin-Culmell first studied with his father and re ceived his general education in New York and Paris, where he attended the Schola Canto rum. He studied with Dukas and later with Falla in Granada. Before retiring from teaching, he was a professor in the music department at the University of California at Berkeley.
Nin-Culmell has contributed some attractive pieces to the Spanish literature for piano—Tres impresiones, a sonata,99 and a series entitled Tonadas. Tres impresiones consists of “Habanera,” “Las Mozas del Cántaro,” and “Un jardín de Toledo” Typical picture postcards of the salon type, they do not rank with his other works for piano.
The sonata, dedicated to Ricardo Viñes, is composed of three movements, all appealing for their clarity of style. The opening movement, an abridged sonata form, features the common interplay between 3/4 and 6/8. The many trills make for a brilliant, crisp sonority. The very brief second movement develops the rhythmic motive . The finale, in fast triple meter, is imitative in style with occasional inversions of the subject. By far the most difficult movement, it presents the subject in octaves near the end, making for a stirring conclusion to a well-written sonata.
The series entitled Tonadas represents some of the best teaching pieces in the Spanish literature from the twentieth century. Wholly pleasing to the general public, they are all based on folk material from various regions of Spain, but with modern harmonic touches.
Following the lead of Albéniz and Granados in their revival of Spanish piano music, Falla, Turina, and Mompou continued the Spanish keyboard renaissance through the first half of the twentieth century. Although Falla wrote few works for piano, his stature as a Spanish composer and the excellence of certain of these works place them among the important pieces in the literature from that period. Turina, on the other hand, wrote six times as many works for piano as did Falla. Though he often lacked the skill and inspiration of Falla, he added many colorful and nationalistic pieces to the Spanish repertoire. Mompou, that unique Catalan poet of the piano, holds a special place in the hearts of all Catalan musicians. His style essentially has not changed, either before World War II or after, as he continues to add works of exquisite beauty to the Spanish literature.
More than any other country, Spain possesses numerous folk songs/dances that have influenced composers. Since the eighteenth century, this colorful material has been the basis for countless keyboard works. On the one hand, it has resulted in scores of weak, descriptive pieces of the salon variety, what Wilfred Mellers calls “postcard music”; on the other hand, however, it has inspired some true gems for the whole of piano literature, e.g., Soler’s Fandango, Albéniz’s Iberia, Granados’s Goyescas, Falla’s Cuatro piezas españolas, Turina’s Tres danzas andaluzas, and Mompou’s Cancion y Danza series.
“The last refuge of poor musicians is nationalism. It is the last illusion of people without talent.”100 This very provocative pronouncement is pointed directly at composers (such as Soler, Albéniz, Granados, Falla, Turina, and Mompou) who are the musical embodiments of their country. All too often, only the negative aspects of a nationalistic composer are pointed up. One only has to examine the aforementioned works to dispel much of that negativism.
Between World War I and the 1950s, many other Spanish composers wrote piano music. Works of high standard also came from Rodolfo Halffter, before the Spanish Civil War a member of the Madrid Grupo de los Ocho; the Catalan composers Juli Garreta, Gaspar Cassadó, and Manuel Blancafort; the Valencian Manuel Palau; Oscar Esplá of the Levante; and Joaquin Nin-Culmell, who now lives in the United States. But many Spanish composers of this era continued to write descriptive, less-innovative works.
A basic trend that one finds in Spanish piano music since the eighteenth century is that of the repetition of melodic fragments, without motivic development, in order to fill out the phrases of the work. This observation parallels the conclusions of Mildred K. Ellis:
They [the French] attach paramount importance to what they term “la primière idée,” “l’idée principale,” or ‘l’inspiration mélodique,’” giving, perhaps, even more importance to the effectiveness of the thematic material than to its manipulation, however adroitly handled. They would reason that the effectiveness of the thematic material used by a composer in a composition depends directly upon his sensibilité in matters musical. This trait a composer either has or does not have, and it seems that there is nothing that can be done about it, while his skill in the manipulation of the material used as subject matter in a composition results from his musical education, which can be acquired.101
As with the French composers of character pieces, many Spanish keyboard composers have placed more importance on the “suggestive quality of a melody (evocación)” and alluring native dance rhythms than on the manipulation of material. This is a preference in compositional procedure and by no means demeans the quality of all Spanish or French works of this type. It is more a realization that one cannot compare Brahms’s Sonata in F minor for solopiano with Turina’s picturesque sonata Sanlúcar de Barrameda. They are both great works of art in their own right, but of different emphases.