|Wednesday March 5th, 2008|
|Asociación Musical Cacereña|
Preludes Op 17
El Amor Brujo (transcription for piano: JLNieto)
Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin (1872 – 1915) was a Russian composer and pianist. Scriabin, who was influenced by Frédéric Chopin, composed early works that are characterised by tonal language. Later in his career, Scriabin developed a substantially atonal and much more dissonant musical system, which accorded with his personal brand of mysticism. Scriabin was influenced by synesthesia, and associated colours with the various harmonic tones of his atonal scale, while his colour-coded circle of fifths was also influenced by theosophy. He is considered by some to be the main Russian Symbolist composer. Scriabin was one of the most innovative and most controversial of early modern composers. The Great Soviet Encyclopedia said of Scriabin that, “No composer has had more scorn heaped on him or greater love bestowed.” Leo Tolstoy described Scriabin’s music as “a sincere expression of genius. Scriabin had a major impact on the music world over time, and influenced composers such as Igor Stravinsky, Sergei Prokofiev, and Nikolai Roslavets. However Scriabin’s importance in the Soviet musical scene, and internationally, drastically declined. According to his biographer, “No one was more famous during their lifetime, and few were more quickly ignored after death.” Nevertheless, his musical aesthetics have been reevaluated, and his ten published sonatas for piano, which arguably provided the most consistent contribution to the genre since the time of Beethoven’s set, have been increasingly championed. Rather than seeking musical versatility, Scriabin was happy to write almost exclusively for solo piano and for orchestra. His earliest piano pieces resemble Frédéric Chopin’s and include music in many genres that Chopin himself employed, such as the étude, the prelude, the nocturne, and the mazurka. Scriabin’s music progressively evolved over the course of his life, although the evolution was very rapid and especially brief when compared to most composers. Aside from his earliest pieces, the mid- and late-period pieces use very unusual harmonies and textures. The development of Scriabin’s style can be traced in his ten piano sonatas: the earliest are composed in a fairly conventional late-Romantic manner and reveal the influence of Chopin and sometimes Franz Liszt, but the later ones are very different, the last five being written without a key signature. Many passages in them can be said to be atonal, though from 1903 through 1908, “tonal unity was almost imperceptibly replaced by harmonic unity.”
Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff (1873 – 1943), was a Russian composer, pianist, and conductor. Rachmaninoff is widely considered as one of the finest pianists of his day and, as a composer, one of the last great representatives of Romanticism in Russian classical music. Rachmaninoff’s style showed initially the influence of Tchaikovsky. Beginning in the mid-1890s, his compositions began showing a more individual tone. His First Symphony has many original features. Its flexible rhythms, sweeping lyricism and stringent economy of thematic material were all features he kept and refined in subsequent works. He started leaning towards sumptuous harmonies and broadly lyrical, often passionate melodies. His orchestration became subtler and more varied, with textures carefully contrasted, and his writing on the whole became more concise. Rachmaninoff also possessed an uncanny memory—one that would help put him in good stead when he had to learn the standard piano repertoire as a 45-year-old exile. He could hear a piece of music, even a symphony, then play it back the next day, the next year, or a decade after that. Siloti would give him a long and demanding piece to learn, such as Brahms’ Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel. Two days later Rachmaninoff would play it “with complete artistic finish.” Alexander Goldenweiser said, “Whatever composition was ever mentioned—piano, orchestral, operatic, or other—by a Classical or contemporary composer, if Rachmaninoff had at any time heard it, and most of all if he liked it, he played it as though it were a work he had studied thoroughly.”
El amor brujo is a ballet composed in 1914-1915 by Manuel de Falla to a libretto by Gregorio Martínez Sierra. The work is distinctively Andalusian in character with the songs in the Andalusian Spanish dialect of the Gypsies. The music contains moments of remarkable beauty and originality; it includes the celebrated “Danza ritual del fuego” (Ritual Fire Dance), “Canción del fuego fatuo” (Song of Wildfire, or Song Of The Will-o’-the-Wisp) and the “Danza del terror” (Dance of Terror). El amor brujo was commissioned in 1914 as a gitanería (gypsy piece) by Pastora Imperio, a renowned flamenco gypsy dancer. It was scored for cantaora voice, actors and chamber orchestra and performed at the Teatro Lara, Madrid, on 15 April 1915, unsuccessfully.