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Joaquín TURINA (1882-1949)
Piano Music Vol. I
Danzas fantasticas, op.23 [15:30]
Tres danzas Andaluzas, op.8 [11:49]
Danzas gitanas, op.55 [13:03]
Danzas gitanas, op.84 [13:56]
Dos danzas sobre temas populares Espagnoles, op.41 [04:52]
Bailete: suite de danzas del siglo XIX, op.79 [11:13]
Jordi Maso (piano)
Recorded in the Auditorium, Jafre, Spain, 24-25 April, 2003
NAXOS 8.557150 [70:27]


In one of his books the Hungarian satirical writer George Mikes pondered his position in the hierarchy of authors throughout history. He placed himself well down in his cleverly defined list where there were the "first rate" and then the "first rate second rate" and so on. Whenever this subject comes up in respect of composers there is much argument and dissent – for example as to whether Mozart and Beethoven are equal in importance or whether one should be placed before the other. So it was that I speculated as to where Turina might be placed.

Joaquín Turina along with de Falla, Albeniz, Granados and Mompou made, says the liner notes, "an outstanding contribution to Spanish piano repertoire". I can’t argue with that as I don’t know his work well enough, but since he wrote over one hundred pieces for piano he must certainly be considered as important in the Spanish scheme of things. However, this disc has not convinced me that he is anywhere close to the aforementioned composers or with someone strangely absent from that list: Rodrigo.

All the works on the disc, part one of a series of discs of Turina’s piano music, are miniatures and last between around a minute and twenty seconds and almost six minutes. The liner notes continue "unlike his four compatriots" who were "committed to the development of Spanish musical nationalism, Turina created his own musical world" and "borrowed and reworked traditional elements". Am I missing something as the result is music by five composers, six with Rodrigo, that is instantly recognisable as Spanish, despite some wag once declaring that the best Spanish music was written by non-Spanish composers. The main difference to me, however, is that Turina’s music on this disc, though pleasant enough, is very samey and it’s hard "to hear the join". Whilst preparing this review I listened again to piano music by Granados whose Spanish flavour is equally strong but more inventive, and to a new disc, I shall soon review, of Rodrigo’s piano music and to which I could listen endlessly, it is so brimful of ideas despite the works being of similar brief length. I’ve tried to be objective about Turina but am certain that should anyone want to hear typically Spanish sounding music for piano any of the other five will give greater satisfaction. Nevertheless I applaud Naxos (how often I find myself saying that!) for giving us the opportunity to form a judgement and to Jordi Maso for playing with such obvious commitment.

Where would I place Turina on this showing – perhaps as a first rate tenth rate composer which is still pretty good when you think of who would be below him!

Steve Arloff

see also review by Patrick Waller



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