Turina (b. 1882, Seville; d. 1949, Madrid)
Turina has often been viewed as a poor relation to the Albéniz-Granados-Falla
triumvirate. While the Sevillian cannot claim the pioneering status
of the first two or the endless capacity for artistic discovery of
the last, his unique musical voice merits more serious attention and
higher regard than it has received. In a perceptive program note entitled
"Spanish Music and Culture at the Turn of the Century: Joaquín
Turina," Antoni Pizà of the CUNY Music Department postulated
a political interpretation of the composer's dubious
reputation. According to this view, Turina's loyalty to Franco's regime
earned him the scorn of more
progressive-minded musicians and critics, including Gilbert Chase,
author of a leading English-language resource on Spanish music. Whatever
the underlying motivation, Chase's complaint of a formulaic approach
to composition and a stifled artistic development seems to have subtly
infected critical esteem for
the composer. In fairness, the charge of a certain sameness in Turina's
output is not groundless, but it presupposes a Beethovenian model
of artistic evolution as the sole ideal. By such criteria, the work
of a Chopin or a Mompou must also be judged wanting, since such composers
carve out and inhabit their unique niches early on. Moreover, the
adherents to Chase's perspective ignore the specific characteristics
that make the "Turina sound" an instantly identifiable musical
presence. Fertile melodic invention, infectious indigenous rhythms,
dizzying harmonic parallelisms, shimmering sonorous effects - one
imbibes and inhales Turina's music as much as one hears it. At the
same time, the intense sensuality is balanced by a rigorous sense
of form and order, the product of Turina's studies with Vincent d'Indy
at the Parisian Schola Cantorum.
In this regard, the music is remarkable not only for its adherence
to traditional forms, but for the freedom and creativity with which
Turina handles them. In this sense, he does not fit into the neo-classical
movement so much in vogue in the 1910's and 20's, because his classicism
is of a more sincere and vital nature. Turina doesn't merely remember
earlier styles or pay homage to his musical predecessors: he speaks
in the syntax of a seemingly native language. Indeed, as his opus
1 - a neo-Franckian piano quintet - demonstrates, Turina's assimilation
of Schola Cantorum compositional techniques was in place even before
the composer began to exploit his country's own musical resources.
When he turned to his native land for inspiration, Turina honored
Falla's artistic aspiration in creating Spanish music "with vistas
towards Europe." The three piano trios speak of Spain, but in
an international language.
Trio No. 1 for Piano, Violin,
and Cello, Op. 35 (1926)
The opening Prélude et fugue juxtaposes searing chromatic interplay
between the two string instruments with the rhythmic dignity of French-overture
dotted figures in the piano part. Turina's employ of such traditional
gestures seems void of self-conscious parody: the drama is uniquely
Iberian. The Prélude also serves as a thematic repository for
the subsequent Fugue, presenting at first in the cello part the theme
of a major episode. Turina labels his fugue "à l'inverse,"
no doubt an allusion to his reversal of the form's conventional unfolding.
Whereas fugues are "supposed to" commence with a clear and
complete statement of the subject in each part and reserve the piling-up
of overlapping statements known as stretti for the end, Turina's essay
wrecks havoc with these major structural signposts. Moreover, in its
use of contrasting episodes and key scheme, the movement is as much
a sonata form as it is a fugue. Still, after the Prélude's
emotional intensity and flexibility, the gradual flowering of the
Fugue's expanse from so simple a melodic germ affirms the rectitude
of Turina's title.
Thème et variations is another traditional form employed here
with considerable licence. The movement is in reality a picture-postcard
tour of Spain, featuring folk music from diverse regions in each variation.
Brooding with intimations of Andalusian cante jondo, the theme itself
frames the entire movement. The first variation visits the northwestern
region of Galicia with a sprightly muiñeira (miller's dance).
Madrid is the next stop for a taste of zarzuela represented by the
chotis dance. Next, the piano takes center stage for a tour of Basque
country in the unmistakable 5/8 dotted rhythm of a zortziko. In the
fourth variation, violin and cello alternate pizzicato and arco techniques
to evoke traditional plucked accompaniment of the Aragonese jota.
Finally, Turina returns to his native Andalusia for the fifth variation
with its intimations of a mournful soleá punctuated by guitar-like
falsetas in the piano part.
The concluding Sonate is true to the eponymous form, although Turina
cannot resist recycling themes from the earlier two movements in the
development and coda. Particularly Iberian is the secondary theme,
with its alternations of 3/4 and 6/8 rhythms; the concluding apotheosis,
a grandiose transformation of the first movement's fugal subject,
seems more rooted in neo-Franckian piety.
Trio No. 2 for Piano, Violin,
and Cello, Op. 76 (1933)
Somewhat more concise than the first trio, Turina's second essay in
this form is another three-movement work that reconciles traditional
musical forms with Spanish folk idioms. After a three-bar introduction,
the first movement pursues a theme of Brahmsian heft, symmetry, and
rhythm. The earnestness of this opening gesture is balanced by a more
relaxed second theme group, that conveys an aura of carefree improvisation
above an harmonically static accompaniment.
Written in the 5/8 of a Castilian rueda, the second movement functions
as a sort of scherzo. Above the meter's relentless bustle, Turina
floats Flamenco-like flourishes as well as more sustained lyrical
The last movement's form is less clearly discernible, although the
presence of two contrasting theme groups and the return of the first
in the home key at the end incline towards sonata form. An intensely
expressive introduction on shifty chromatic ground yields to the first
of these principal themes, stated initially by the piano. Its stark
parallelisms are gradually mollified with each successive statement,
as Turina furnishes increasingly elaborate counterpoints and accompaniments.
As if to balance the first theme's aura of solemn ritual, the secondary
material bursts upon the scene with dance hall garishness and irresistible
syncopation. The movement makes an obligatory nod at cyclical form
as well, briefly alluding to the first movement's main themes, before
its ultimate climax and heroic transformation of the primary idea.
para piano, violín y violoncello, Op. 91 (1936)
In his final essay for piano trio, Turina seems to have hit upon a
program tailor-made to his penchant for cyclical forms: the progress
of a single day, from dawn (Amanecer), through midday (Mediodía),
to dusk (Crepúsculo). Círculo was Turina's final composition
completed before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, although its
elegiac mood almost willfully refutes the incertitude and menace of
the contemporary political scene.
Depending on the subjectivity of one's perspective, Amanecer either
evolves from lazy yawns and stretches to manic activity, or follows
the rising sun from its first blushes to full-fledged radiance. In
Mediodía Turina indulges in a bit of españolado ("Spanishism").
The swagger of a Flamenco cantaor accompanied by strummed guitars,
the pomp and ceremony of the bullring - few Spanish stereotypes are
spared in this lively depiction of popular culture. Still, the music
has a magnetic appeal that lies in its garbo - a frequent interpretive
directive in this movement implying both grace and self-assured charm.
A brief flourish connects Mediodía to Crepúsculo.
Allegro vivace - Allegro - Allegro molto moderato - Andantino - Andante
- Lento. A mere perusal of Crepúsculo's tempo indications reveals
the ebbing energies conveyed in Turina's evocation of day's end.
Not only does the composer reverse the first section's dynamic organization,
but - after developing several new ideas - he recapitulates the main
themes of the second and ultimately first movements now attired in
Text by Adam Kent ©2000