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.
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!
review by Patrick Waller