TURINA: Chamber Music = Piano Quartet in A Minor, Op. 67; Violin Sonata No. 2 in G Major, Op. 82 “Sonata espagnola”; Escena andaluza, Op. 7; Piano Trio, No. 1, Op. 35; La oracion del torero, Op. 34 – The Nash Ensemble – Hyperion CDA67889, 72:14 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:
The instrumental common denominator for these 17-19 December 2010 inscriptions of the chamber music of Joaquin Turina (1882-1949), violinist Marianne Thorsen, blends admirably well with her gifted colleagues, her assuming several personae – from featured soloist to constituent of a large ensemble. Turina’s music synthesizes strains from French Impressionism and Andalusian folklore, impulses he took to heart from advice given by Falla and Albeniz.
Turina wrote his Piano Quartet in A Minor in 1931 incorporating into its three-movement structure elements of Andalusian melos and gypsy rhythms. We hear the cante jondo or “deep song” of the Spanish soil, but the melody echoes traits we have heard in Faure and Debussy, certainly results of Turina’s studies at the Schola Cantorum in Paris. Pianist Ian Brown displays many passages that testify to Turina’s own keyboard virtuosity. The Vivo second movement pulsates with the night life we know from Falla’s “concertante” Nights in the Gardens of Spain. The violin applies a bussing motif in the first two movements that adds a hazily guitar affect or Moorish character to the atmosphere. Through composed, the block-chord and pizzicato materials of the first movement return for the Andante; Allegro of the final movement to solidify the cyclicism well associated with Franck and his disciples. That the piece offers moments of haunting beauty should surprise few who admire Turina’s innately generous musical gifts.
Thorsen and Brown collaborate directly for the Violin Sonata No. 2 in G Major (1933-1934). Variation form comprises the first movement, which starts slowly then moves into a series of melodic lines derived from dances like the quintuple meter zortziko from the Basque country. Again, we hear passing references to Falla, but the harmonies nod to Ravel and Debussy. It seems Turina spliced his native fandango impulse to the lessons of D’Indy and his own master Cesar Franck. The high register of the violin’s soaring line reminds us no less of Franck’s own contribution to the form. The brief Vivo movement throbs with visceral Spanish energy, the keyboard part scintillating in its liquid runs. Turina’s northern education and his southern roots collaborate for the final movement, Adagio; Allegro moderato. The wistful opening soon yields to gypsy rhythms and strummed guitars, over which insistent flamenco heels strike up a sensuous evocation.
The final pages uncompromisingly add a decisive Wagnerian passion to the color mix.
Turina’s Escena andaluza is in two movements, for viola (Lawrence Power) and piano quintet. Its first movement, Crepuscule du soir evokes a twilight in which a lone musician plays a serenade against the sky’s darkening over an Andalusian town. Those who know Loeffler’s Rhapsodie for Oboe, Viola, and Piano may find a kindred spirit here. The second movement, entitled A la fenetre (“At the Window”), employs tunes from the twilight section in lovely dialogue, as two lovers tryst passionately. As an enriched form of a piano quintet, the lush experiment in Spanish colors shares something of the aesthetic of Chausson’s Concert, Op. 21.
The most substantial work of the album, the Trio in D Minor, Op. 35 (1926), employs Thorsen, Brown, and cellist Paul Watkins. The severity of the French Classical style exerts itself in the opening Prelude and Fugue, a Spanish lilt having been applied to the strictures of J.S. Bach. The violin executes a rising motif that carries the burden of the filigree. The influence of the last movement of the Franck Violin Sonata dominates the affect. The second movement reverts to another theme-and- (five) variations, in which each variant delineates a regional dance: the muneira from Galicia; the schotis imported into Spain from Northern climes; the Basque zortziko; the jota of Aragon; and the soleares from Andalusia. Cellist Watkins makes points early, but soon violin and piano pair off in delightful interchange. Typical of the D’Indy school, Turina’s third movement recycles materials earlier presented, the very opening a clear call to the Franck String Quartet in D. Angular and modal, the music invites violin Thorsen to some exquisite communion with cello Watkins. The rhythms become quite jazzy, and the colors brighten considerably as the Trio assumes a sense of conviction and confidence in its own idiosyncratic means.
Violinist Laura Samuel fills in the second chair for a string quartet arrangement of the ubiquitous 1925 Op. 34, The Bullfighter’s Prayer. Love and death fill the air, anticipation and mortal dread, the cello’s song appealing to Divine Will for deliverance. Yet, as Hemingway noted: the real tragedy lies, ironically, in the death of the bull. A mystical beauty arises out of this primal confrontation, that of the individual soul faced with a gladiatorial event, with all its sordid yet machismo ritual.
An excellent survey of a favorite Chopin genre…