composer Joaquín Turina was a versatile musician and a contemporary
of Ravel, of Manuel de Falla, and of Isaac Albeniz whose influence
sometimes appears to be quite noticeable. Like de Falla he spent
much of his life in Andalusia.
Naxos has been doing
a splendid job on behalf of many Spanish composers especially
Turina, with four discs of his piano music all in the very capable
hands of Jordi Maso. There are other discs including his chamber
music and his colourful orchestral works. I have bought a few
and have really been enjoying the opportunity to get to know
his music. I could recommend any of them but let us consider
There are two aspects
to this CD which are crucial: one is that all of the music is
in some form or other concerned with aspects of childhood. The
second is that Turina, who has been called the ‘Spanish Debussy’,
shows his indebtedness to the French master in many of these
miniatures. Let’s take the first point: childhood and nostalgia.
The word ‘Ninerias’
actually translates as childishness or childish diversions or
games. With titles like ‘Parade of the Toy Soldiers’ and ‘Dance
of the Dolls’ the picture is painted for you. These are miniatures,
eight in each of the four sets, all neatly contrasted and very
inventive. Some pieces were actually dedicated to his own children;
‘Ninerias Series 1’ is ‘To my beloved children Joaquín, Maria
and Conchita’ and one assumes was, written for children to enjoy.
In the movement ‘Jeux’ he even uses a children’s song. The second
series includes titles like ‘Conchita at school’ and ‘Conchita
Dreams’ as well as ‘Children’s Carnival’. Other pieces are clearly
inspired by his own Andalusian childhood, such as ‘View from
La Giralda’ and in the Miniatures ‘The Village Sleeps’ whilst
the child lies awake listening.
Turina was also
influenced by Vincent D’Indy and a certain sternness in expression
may sometimes be traced to that influence as in the opening
Prelude and Fugue to the First set of ‘Ninerias’. You can also
hear it in the quite strict counterpoint of ‘Market’ in the
Miniatures. The Debussian influence is found firstly in the
collection called ‘Jardin de Niños’ with all eight movements
being given a French title like ‘Boite à musique’ and ‘Petite
Danse’, surely Debussy’s ‘Children’s Corner’ (1908) or the ‘Petite
Suite’(1888) are close at hand. Also Turina is able to establish
a very particular atmosphere, as in the rising of ‘Dawn’ in
the ‘Miniatures’. Turina uses the whole-tone scale as in ‘Sentimental
Duet’ found in ‘Miniatures’ and sometimes a touch of the pentatonic
scale. When we add this to various Spanish rhythms and minor
key melodies the mix is quite ‘sexy’.
In Jordi Maso we
have a pianist who has over a period of several years come to
know and understand this composer and who is in total sympathy
with him. Despite the fact that he knows that he is playing
miniatures Maso offers us a broad view of the music, grasping
the overall structure. He has an especially successful and sensitive
rubato and use of the pedal. He can make a melody sing, especially
a distinctively Spanish one, heard for example in ‘View from
La Giralda’ from Book 1.
The recording is
fine, and mellow and aids the music’s subtle communication.