To warm you up on this winter weekend, here's a burst of Spanish sun!
Classical Break: Andalusia
Photos of Andalusia by Rupert Kirkham
Track One: Los Pacos Els Pacos, Vincente Perez LLedo
This is Classical Break, on Somer Valley FM, and I’m Rupert Kirkham. Today’s music is from Spanish composers attracted to the theme of Granada and the region of Andalusia. You have just heard Los Pacos Els Pacos, a festive ‘Moorish’ March associated with Christian Spain’s age-old driving out of its borders of the Arabian and Moroccan invader. The composer was Vincente Perez Lledo. The performers are the Sociedad Musica “La Alianza” de Muchamel (a town near Alicante). The timbre of the trumpets possesses the almost explosively effortful vibrato common to much of Spain.
They came to Andalusia, the Southern Kingdom of Spain, in force, in 811AD: the Moors of North Africa. Their influence did not end with the Catholic reconquest of the Kingdom in 1492, when joint rulers of Spain, Ferdinand and Isabella passed laws requiring Muslims to convert to Christianity or leave. Andalusia had been occupied for over 6 centuries, and had been a place of trade with the whole of the Mediterranean for far longer than that. The influence of North Africa and the Middle East was strong (incidentally, Sephardism was almost as important as Islam, before the Inquisition closed in), and Andalusians have been suspected of divided loyalties as well as a people of great cultural fascination for poets, musicians, artists of all kinds, proud and distinct.
Spanish music has often been aped by Germans, Russians, Frenchmen, Englishmen; it was á la mode throughout the 19th Century, and - via South America to some extent - added to the melting-pot of popular music in the 20th. Frequently, just as Hungarian and zigeuner sounds have been confused, so Andalusian music has coloured our idea of Spanish music plus non ultra standing for music of the other just as distinct regions. Many of the catchy rhythmical patterns of what we take to be Spanish music originated in Moorish and Gypsified Andalusia. Zapateados, Sevillanas, Alegrias, Bulerias, Tarantas, Malaguenas, Polos – many, flamenco steps - belong to the Andalusians, to a limestone-rocky, mountainous country of tropical vegetation that is lush near water, dusty and barren elsewhere, a land of cities such as Granada, Malaga, Alicante, Seville, and of villages perched on vertiginous slopes connected by high bridges or steep, dusty tracks, where water must be carried from a spring-head. A land of religious processions, ferias, corrida, municipal bands, and folk-musicians.
Here is a typical example of ‘Moorish’ Romantic-Nationalist music, a dance written by Enrique Granados (1867-1916), one of hisDanzas Espagnolas. It contrasts dusky, almost stealthy measures and a simple lilting and extremely touching song-theme developed from them. The dance was composed for piano-solo. Here, Edouado Fernandez plays his arrangement of it for guitar.
Track Two: Andaluza, No 5, from Danzas Espagnolas, Granados
Above Granada stands a monastery. By an irony that suits the occasion, the water of the fountains, waterfalls and pools of the celebrated and most lavish Moorish palace in Spain, the Alhambra, is ducted from its spring. Let’s hear some characteristic Gregorian chant from the Mass. Gloria.
Track Three: Gloria
The Andalusian School of music of the Moors was just one loss to Spain brought about by the reconquest of Andalusia. Arabian music derives much of its hypnotic quality from short, self-repeating phrases and a firm, regular beat emphasized by percussion. The vocalist or pipe-soloist is encouraged to perform straight or embellish a simple line above a bare instrumental background of sparse harmony. The Sufic style that originally inspired Dervishes to entranced worship remained to colour Christian Andalusian hymns, secular songs and dances, and performance practices. For ourselves, here in the 21st Century, we may feel ourselves to be in realms of psychedelia – though not those of the contemporary Costa Del Sol. Here’s the anonymous hymn to Allah,Jalla Man.
Track Four: Jalla Man, the traditional Andalusian School
Flamenco-toque is a busy style of guitar-playing associated with Andalusia. Its origins are said to be in Moorish and gipsy wedding-dances. The costumes are bright and fussy, the dance-steps complex, the intensity of displays is known throughout the world, but, even in Andalusia, not always as is claimed to be authentic! Fandango, for instance, a form imposing accelerando and crescendo, may be a South American import. A famous gipsy family perform flamenco at inhabited caves not far from the famous Moorish Alhambra and Generaliffe palaces of Granada. Of the Alhambra, more anon! Flamenco takes many forms, some sung; in the case of the Tangos, which is emphatically not to be associated with the Argentinian dance, it is traditionally built on its own Phrygian modal scale. Here is a Tangos by the great Spanish guitarist, Juan Martin – entitled simply Malaga.
Track Five: Malaga (Tangos), Martin
Tomas Breton was born in the city of Salamanca in the Western region of Spain, Castile y Leon. He wrote fluently in many forms, in particular, in opera, zarzuela – a Spanish folk-form of the genre – and chamber and pictorial orchestral music. His Andalusian Scenes are justly famous, a suite of four numbers, including a Bolero and Zapateado, and Polo. Polo is an accompanied and sung form of flamenco. Here’s Breton’s Polo, a beautiful example of scoring in which the sounds of string-pizzicato (ending on the cellos) seem to resonate as solo or tiered woodwind and even brass. The sinuous phrases found in scalic figures, narrow melodic intervals and arabesques may be heard as Moorish – not far-removed from the Granados Andalucia we heard earlier.
Track Six: Polo, Breton
Track Six: Polo, Breton
(FX Collage: Evening frogs, nightingale, Jalla Man – fades out before:)
In reality, it is like a small town unto itself, with a huge pleasure-garden. In buildings, the dominant colours are red, blue and yellow. Art consists of non-representational geometrical patterns. Filled with plainly adorned rooms and courts, fountains, cascades, its features also include tiled walls, colonnades, myrtle-, orange-trees, vines, roses... In the park, there stands a copse of elms, dating back to 1812, and gifted by the Duke of Wellington after the Peninsular War. It is a place for tourists, dancers and musicians, a place of solemn contemplation of time and the greatness that lives on after its sponsors.
Andres Gaos-Berea, born in A Coruna, Galicia in North-West Spain, was a protégé of Pablo Sarasate, a violinist of high reputation in South America - in especial, Argentina, where he lived for most of his life. Our last work for today is his orchestral tone-poem of 1916,Granada – An Evening In The Alhambra. It is scored for double woodwind, plus cor anglais and piccolo, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, tuba, full strings, and percussion that includes the dry festivity of castanets and tambourines. The piece attracted accolades in Buenos Aires, A Corunna, Vigo and even Paris – there, in 1937, the famous Lamoureux Orchestra were conducted to great effect by the composer, himself, at the Salle Gaveau, and his masterwork of Alhambrismo was given once more the following year.
Gaos’ piece begins in Debussyan whole-tone harmonics and level woodwind depth of twilight, a viola-shaded arabesque that fixes one’s attention, a tritone hinted-at in the relationship between arabesque and accompaniment; the cor anglais, accompanied by imitational alto and bass strings, sings a highly elegant and yet plangent song – piccolo and lower woodwind suddenly providing brief bird-calls over this appealing sound. The Alhambra is famed for its nightingales as well as walkers in the mild Summer twilight. The tone lightens and builds bewitchingly in bassoon, brass and strings – castanets – and with clever play of rapidity over slowness – a Sibelian or Schubertian trick that precludes the audible ‘gear-change’ that disrupts impressions of expressive unity, we have a beautifully scored flamenco of syncopated beat, with tambourines and much exhilarating high woodwind detail, a variation deservedly repeated! There is something autobiographical in the form of this dance. It begins as Farruca.
Farruca is a kind of danced flamenco thought to have come from Galicia – As a rule, it is characterized by minor key tonality rather than by a modal scale; the dancer comes in on a strong first beat, and syncopation - reinforced by clapping -gives rise to quick, unexpected twists and turns amid a complex step-pattern. Significantly, it is associated with Galician travellers who feel far from home.
Farruca is a ‘male’ dance. The ‘feminine’ reply that ensues is modal, regular, skippingly light in comparison, responsible for much of the exhilarating woodwind detail! The birds comment on this dance almost in parenthesis. A new theme on cellos adds its own commentary, about it, the bird-song plays. It is the big, romantic tune in the piece, developed from the cor anglais tune of the introduction. The lead is turned over to violins for their higher-pitched fervour, and a quiescent, modal chant follows its subsidence, wound about by flute and piccolo. A guitar-like, deep pizzicato leads to a new, Moorish development on clarinet, the strings providing a bolero-like tread, and viola-shading. It returns, and the modal chant frames this austere, narrowly lyrical episode. Abruptly, the flamenco is on us again, as high-spirited as before. Instead of a two-fold repetition, Gaos plays what is surely his masterstroke in continuity – as the secondary crescendo launches straight into his passionate big tune, full-throated in its fervour. This seems the heart of Spain herself singing. Extended, it is as though lifted higher by its own afflatus, ending in the modal chant. This muses lullingly, with great pathos and brings us back to the music of the rapt introduction, minus the opening tritonal passage – the strings draw out this lovely melody with Griegian harmonies which suggest that Gaos is more than loath to leave his dreamworld. The birdcalls and dusky strings muse on this sublime, humane song of regret until it finds something of its own consolation, after which the birds sing more freely again. The harmonics return, the ghostlier for what we have heard. Flute and muted horn sound stealthily, almost mockingly, before the neither loud nor quiet last, repeated and extended chords of cadence on lower strings.
The success of this piece in Paris came as Spain endured the bloodiest Civil War in European history, the invader from North Africa and Canary Islands, this time, being the Spanish Army under the Fascistic, avowedly Christian General Franco.
This was Classical Break on Somer Valley FM, and I’m Rupert Kirkham. Today’s programme was researched and written by Mike Burrows. We hope that you enjoyed our musical tour of Southern Spain, and will join us again soon. Adios!
Granada, Un Creposculo En La Alhambra, by Andres Gaos-Berea.
Track Seven: An Evening In The Alhambra, Gaos-Berea