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FastNotes

  • Albéniz began composing his Suite española in 1886. It was intended as a collection of eight pieces, each highlighting a particular region of Spain, including Cuba. As it happened, only four pieces were published, and those as individual compositions.
  • Twenty years later, another publisher took up the project and the suite as we know it was completed using other pieces Albéniz had composed in the interim. Deliciously atmospheric, by turns languid and festive, the suite’s movements each bear a descriptive subtitle.


Selections:

  • Granada (Serenada)
  • Sevilla (Sevillanas)
  • Cataluña (Courante)
  • Cádiz (Saeta)
  • Asturias (Leyenda)
  • Cuba (Notturno)

The triumvirate of Isaac Albéniz, Enrique Granados, and Manuel de Falla defined and elevated the idiom of Spanish music at the turn of the 20th century; each answering the call of their revered teacher Felipe Pedrell (1841-1922) for a music that united traditional and folkloric elements with classical disciplines to create a true national style. It is ironic that much of this music, written by virtuoso pianists for virtuoso pianists, was better known to music lovers for much of the 20th century in transcriptions for classical guitar. And despite the championship of a few luminaries, Alicia de Larrocha chief among them, if they were heard at all in their original form, it was most likely as an encore. They fully deserve the respect accorded them by a place in the program proper.

Isaac Albéniz began composing his Suite española in 1886, soon after entering Pedrell’s sphere. It was intended as a collection of eight pieces, each highlighting a particular region of Spain, including Cuba. As it happened, only four pieces were published, and those as individual compositions – each one, however, noting the final planned eight titles. Twenty years later, another publisher took up the project and the suite as we know it was completed using other pieces Albéniz had composed in the interim. Deliciously atmospheric, by turns languid and festive, the suite’s movements each bear a descriptive subtitle. 

The selections we hear tonight begin with “Granada,” a serenade. This is followed by “Sevilla,” a sevillanas – a Castilian dance with origins in the 15th century. “Cataluña” is a corranda, a dance in 6/8 time adopted from the Italian corrente. “Cádiz” was originally planned as a saeta, a kind of Andalusian religious lament sung at festivals, but the piece which was eventually published to fill this title has no such feeling and is usually listed as a canción or song. “Asturias” is universally known in its guitar incarnations, and “Cuba” is all tropical perfume with its gliding shifting rhythms.

– Grant Hiroshima