"Canción Española. Primera mitad del siglo XX

CANCIÓN ESPAÑOLA (Spanish songs)
Higueras Arte EK CD 106 - 1997

Spain is a country reputed to provide essentially a huge repertoire for solo piano and concert songs ( Messiaen himself considered Albeniz´s Iberia a modelic piece, and among the greatest compositions for piano of the twentieth century.)
Maybe for this reason, leaving aside universal figures such as Casals, Segovia, Cassado, or Yepes, universally known piano soloists and singers have been widely produced, and consequently very good accompanying pianists.
Operatic repertoire, chamber music and symphonic music are not where they ought to be, but we shall not discuss this now as it is far from our task.
We shall concentrate in the program issued by Ana Higueras and Fernando Turina for this CD. From my point of view it takes the form of a recital. It is like the programs often presented in Germany, Austria, England etc. There are groups of songs by the same author such as Germans make their Lieder programs. All the songs in this CD were written in the first half of the twentieth century.
The recording starts with " Cuatro Tonadillas" by Enrique Granados, with words by Fernando Periquet. The first one is " La maja de Goya", which is not often performed in spite of its wonderful quality, probably because of the long prelude for solo piano. In fact the prelude was intended as the basis of a great recitative which thank goodness is seldom performed. Its beauty allows it to be performed by itself, better than leaving it out as some editions do.
It goes on with a brief cycle from the " Colección de Tonadillas" which is probably the best in all the collection. " La maja dolorosa" which is formed by three compositions " Oh muerte cruel", " Ay, majo de mi vida" and " De aquel majo amante" where a lass mourns the loss of her lover.
A second block is formed by the four Manuel de Falla´s extremely popular songs, about which almost everything has already been said: " El paño moruno", " Asturina", " Jota" and " Nana". This group of songs, following the order of apperance in this edition, ends with a soft and slow song. It does not intend a final special effect.
It is followed by another block of four songs by Joaquín Turina. The first," El fantasma" comes from his " Canto a Sevilla". It is the most beautiful song composed by him. The words are by Muñoz San Roman. Piano and voice are impressionist, showing fright of the gohst who is " love in disguise". The other three belong to the first block of songs by Joaquín Turina called " Poema en forma de canciones" Op. 19, following some poems by Campoamor.
The second one is the best known of his vocal compositions: " Cantares". There is a very important piano intermezzo coming from the first piano solo (Dedicatoria) which is not played here. It is also one of the most expressive songs from Turina´s production.
This block is followed by an extract of the " Seis Canciones castellanas" by Jesús Guridi from Vitoria. He composed these songs extracting them from traditional songs and texts. Sometimes he mixes two songs. The most important in this group are: the very beautiful " No quiero tus avellanas", which reminds us of a gregorian melody, where the beating is rather free, keeping time with a very simple piano composition but rich in harmonies.Very famous too is "Como quieres que adivine", also known as the " Jota castellana" which probably comes from the Cantabrian jota. The same tune is sung three times. A different tune is mixed with it twice, but each time in a different pitch. The last song, which also closes this block, " Mañanita de San Juan", evoques the feeling of waking up from a dream, because of its tenderness and softness.
The recital continues with two songs by two Catallonian composers who are very important in the field of concert song. All of them are written in Spanish, though most of their production was written in Catalan language. The two first ones are by Federico Mompou. The first is the beautiful "Pastoral" with words by Juan Ramón Jimenez. The second is one of the best of our concert songs " Cantar del alma", whith words by St John of the Cross. The piano solo, which is repeated three times, sustains in the middle a melody in gregorian style with words of the magnificent poet.
One of the best composers of concert songs in Spain, from my point of view, is Eduardo Toldrá. His three songs come from his only group of " Seis canciones en lengua castellana" ( six songs in Spanish). The first one " Madre, unos ojuelos ví" passionate, showing a youngster deeply in love, despairing because he has been forsaken by his lover. The words are by Lope de Vega.The second one, also after Lope de Vega, is one of the most beautiful Christmas songs ever written. It is also one of the best songs in our repertoire: " Cantarcillo" ( The small song), where we can find the famous poem " As you walk on the palms, saintly angels" which was translated into german by Geibel. It was also used by the very famous Johannes Brahms and Hugo Wolf. And the last one, whith words by Quevedo- it is obvious that the Spanish texts used by Toldrá are written by first class poets- " Después que te conocí" ( After I met you), is somehow the anti-climax of the first songs. Here the lover has fulfilled his love, and lays emphasis in that after meeting her " every thing else is superfluous"
The recital ends whith four of the most beautiful songs in Joaquín Rodrigo´s wide production. The first is a basic song in the Spanish repertoire: the " Cántico de la Esposa" ( The Song of the Wife), after St. John of the Cross. The Wife (the soul) looks for a Husband (God). At the beginning piano and voice alternate introducing the song, to intermingle in one of the songs with deepest meaning in the whole repertoire. The work, of course, is dedicated to his wife Victoria Kahmi. The second song is a love song with words by Lope de Vega: " Coplas del Pastor enamorado" ( Verses of a shepherd in love) where the poet sings to nature ( the banks of the river, valleys, fountains, mountains) asking the elements if they have seen the shepherdess he is in love with. The third and fourth come from the collection of Christmas songs by this composer born in Sagunto. The first is the best of his production from my point of view. He sings beautifully to the new-born child. The second one with words by Victoria Kahmi, his wife, "Coplillas de Belén", merry and gay, where a star (the child) has fallen on a palm tree. The rythm, very important in the piano, reminds us of the accompaniment of the first movement of his famous " Concierto de Aranjuez".
Are all the composers represented here?. If we had included in this record the songs of all deserving to be there, it would have been a kind of pot-pourri, and not a clear sample of the Spanish Concert Songs. The performers would have been obliged to include a simple song of some composers to show a kind of musical mosaic of one of the most important genres of our musical production.
The rest shall be included in a future CD.

Miguel Zanetti,1997
© Higueras Arte S. L.

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