Turina: Piano Music, Vol. 6 / Jordi Maso

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Especially revealing, enjoyable and interesting.

If you’re a sucker for Spanish music (as I am), then you’re going to love this disc. Turina’s piano music—there’s a ton of it—sounds a lot like Debussy in his Spanish mode, only more so. In other words, it’s consistently colorful, intensely lyrical, harmonically evocative, and so pretty that you think it can’t be as good as much of it is. This program is built around the idea of “fantasy”, and it makes perfect sense. Ritmos is better known in its orchestral guise, but the piano version sounds totally satisfying. It’s difficult to understand exactly what is “italiana” about the eponymous Fantasía—it sounds just as Spanish as everything else on the disc, and really, who cares? Jordi Masó has done excellent work in this ongoing series, and he’s in excellent form here. He makes everything sound natural, rhythmically pointed, and builds the climaxes without banging. Turina was, notoriously, a gentle soul who liked his music played with elegance, and Masó does just that, but without forgetting the muscle lying beneath the surface. Excellent sonics complete this wholly winning package.

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com


Well, how are your shelves holding up if you are collecting the Naxos complete Turina or even their Spanish Classics series? There was the orchestral stuff (for instance as on 8.555955) recorded in the mid-1990s. There were the Piano Trios recorded in 2000. Since then we have had the complete piano music with Jordi Masó as our reliable and wonderful volume-by-volume guide. From knowing very little fifteen years ago almost every note is now available to us thanks to Naxos and the indefatigable and brilliant Masó. What fortunate times we live in when we can enjoy this music at Naxos budget prices.

The disc opens with the earliest work here ‘Ritmos’ which is subtitled ‘Fantasia coreográfica’. It was magically orchestrated and is available on the first disc listed above. This version was first performed in Barcelona in October 1928 but never danced. The piano version it seems came first. It falls into six brief movements and is quite nationalistic in style and language with, after a dark Preludio, a very Spanish ‘Danza lenta’, later a ‘Garrotin’ an Andalusian dance (Turina was from Seville) and later still a Danza Exotica with its Latin-American rhythms. I commented in the review for volume 4 (8.570026) that Turina could have a “certain sternness of expression”. ‘Ritmos’ deliberately begins in a dark, stern tone before falling into happy and vibrant dance-mode as it draws to its conclusion.

In fact this CD is neatly planned and it is all about the ‘Fantasia’ - a form which obviously suited Turina as he was able to use his flights of not inconsiderable musical imagination unencumbered. It provided a platform from which he could immerse himself in the nostalgic childhood memories which often haunt his music. He was also a fan of the cinema as demonstrated in the ‘Fantasia cinematográfica’ which is partially in 5/8 time - the rhythm of the Basque dance called the ‘Zortziko’. There is another dance, this time originating from Galicia, a ‘Farruca’ in a slower 4/4. I’m not quite clear how we are to imagine the film that Turina thought might accompany these dances.

In the 16 th Century Spanish composers like Antonio de Cabezón wrote ‘Fantasia sobre ….’ for example on ‘la Vacas’ or other popular tunes. Purcell in the 1670s wrote for viols a ‘Fantasia on one note’. Here Turina writes a Fantasia sobre cinco notas and these notes spell out, in an inventive sort of way, the five letter surname of (Enrique Fernandez) Arbos who was celebrating his 70th birthday at the time (1934) and who had been a ‘big player’ in Spanish music. The influence is not renaissance but baroque with an opening Prelude followed by a ‘Tocat y fuga’ and then a ‘Coral con variaciones’. Not surprisingly it became one of Turina’s best known piano works.

The booklet is very cursory about the ‘Fantasia italiana’ - just offering us the fact that the three movement suite “was composed for Arturo Saco del Valle” the Spanish conductor and composer who died in the year of its composition. What is noticeable, right from the start, is how Spanish some of the ideas are despite the title. The first movement is a fantasia in itself ‘Vision fantástica’, the second ‘Driadas’ (Dryads) is lithe and melodious and the third ‘Napoles’ brings the music into the Italy of the title. It’s a curious work and not one which I found especially memorable.

Turina calls the Fantasia del reloj (Clock Fantasy) ‘Three Moments for piano’. These are entrancing miniatures with a distinctly religious and slightly nationalistic flavour. The sequence was composed for himself to play. The middle movement, which in English translates as ‘The hours in the magic corner’, is full of harp-like glissandi. The outer movements often have a hymn-like texture.

The final work on the disc is the Poema fantástico which is a true fantasy, not only musically with motifs and melodies tossed around between the four movements in a free-wheeling manner, but also in the scenes which are evoked. We return to the composer’s interest in visuals. A central figure, a Madrilena, moves between scenes first in ‘The hotel and lobby’ where a waltz is sometimes heard and then aimlessly walking the ‘Old Streets of Madrid’. The ‘Crossroads’ (Encrucijada) segues into the final ‘Afternoon at the cinema’ in which her movements and feelings are mixed in with the music of the film. I am not convinced by this piece but, according to the excellent booklet essay by Justo Romero the Spanish musicologist Federico Sopeña called it “one of the most important of Turina’s piano works”. Perhaps I just got out bed on the wrong side.

Nevertheless this is an especially revealing, enjoyable and interesting volume of Turina. I have heard now four of them, highlighting a particular area of this prolific composer’s output. I recommend that you search it out and brighten a chill British winter.

-- Gary Higginson, MusicWeb International

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: 8572141

  • UPC: 747313214174

  • Label: Naxos

  • Composer: Joaquin Turina

  • Performer: Jordi Masó