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uites of character pieces for piano were the principal form of instrumental music for Isaac Albéniz – although most of them were rather arbitrary (even posthumous) – commercial collections rather than integral multi-movement works. A case in point is the Suite española, originally created with four pieces in 1886, and doubled in 1898; several of the individual pieces were also used in other works.

On one level, this is a set of musical postcards, but the painting is of “spirit- scapes” as much as it is of Spanish places and scenes, portraying character and feelings in deeply evocative music. “Castilla” (the historical and geographic center of Spain) is a brilliant and insistent seguidilla, the characteristic dance of the region. Albéniz arranged it for two pianos, and it has been much arranged by others, particularly for one or two guitars. The great Spanish conductor Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos (1933-2014; he led the Los Angeles Philharmonic on many occasions) arranged the Suite española for orchestra and recorded it with the New Philharmonia Orchestra; his arrangement of “Castilla” features the bright rhythmic punch of castanets.

John Henken