Joaquín TURINA (1882-1949) Piano Music - Volume 12 Recuerdos de mi rincón (Memories of my little corner) Op. 14 (1914) [16.31] La Venta de los Gatos (The Cat’s Inn) Op. 32 (1925) [18.30] Navidad (Christmas) Op. 16 (1916) [13.26] El Cristo de la Calavera (The Christ of the Skull) Op. 30 [19.05]
Jordi Masó (piano)
rec. Auditorium, Jafre, Spain, 3-4 October 2015 NAXOS SPANISH CLASSICS 8.573539 [67.48]
Well, are you one of those who have been assiduously collecting the - up till now - fourteen hours of Turina’s complete piano music? What a feat by Jordi Masó. After all, this music is rarely simple, either technically or musically. As Turina seems often to have been the first performer of much of his music he was probably a very fine player himself.
It’s more likely however you have lost track of this series; I certainly have, ever since I reviewed volume six in 2010. We have now moved on to what the CD openly calls ‘’programmatic pieces”. That is - and I quote the blurb at the back of the case - “music inspired by local scenes or texts by the late romantic author Adolfo Bécquer” (1836-70), stories based mainly in Seville or Madrid.
It seems somehow more usual - acceptable even - to hear programme music played by an orchestra. I suspect this is because the orchestral colour possibilities enable the imagination to run more freely; imagining bubbling water for example or a some vast landscape or a chase. Stravinsky's Petrushka, although a ballet is in many ways a good example of music that is programmatic. Turina himself is well known for such dashing and descriptive orchestral works as his Sinfonia Sevillana and La Procesion de Rocio … but the piano?
Although the booklet notes by Justo Romero are quite detailed and would, in almost every other case, be perfectly useful, there is not the space to adumbrate the narrative details of each of these works. You have to guess what Turina’s intentions were, or find copies of the stories or, better still, just let your own imagination run riot.
The Recuerdos de mi Rincón can be translated as “Memories of my little Corner”. By that Turina was thinking of the characters and habitués of a “now defunct café on the Calle Alcala” in Madrid including various artists, musicians and authors. Turina curiously, calls the piece a ‘tragicomedy’ but it is witty and full of colour. Dependent on where the characters are from we have allusions to the Aragonese ‘jota’. There's also a typically Andalucían ‘seguidilla’ using the rhythms and melodies as leitmotifs throughout its length in a sort of conversation.
Also inspired by a meeting place is La Venta de los Gatos in Seville (‘The Cat’s Inn’); perhaps the rather sexy one featured on the CD cover. This is a two movement piece and sounding in many ways the most overtly Spanish of the four on the disc. It is also the most virtuoso. It was inspired by a Bécquer short story, which, sadly, is not offered in the notes. Masó calls the work “truly inspired and beautiful”.
El Cristo de la Calavera (The Christ of the Skull) is a three-movement adaptation of Bécquer’s story about of two friends who have an unrequited love for the same woman. They agree to fight a duel in front of the image of ‘Christ of the Skull’ but its mystical powers overcome them and they are prevented. As with the other two works this score is littered with instructions by the composer but this piece suffers a little too much from being ‘bitty’ with seemingly short-lived ideas tumbling over each other. That said, repeated listening does enable one to discover melodic repetition and motivic development, which are always clever and vibrant.
Navidad was written, like Recuerdos, during the dark days of World War I and was probably aimed at cheering up the first audiences. It is a two movement work, a ‘miracle play in two scenes’ which was originally incidental music for a staged poem by Gregorio Sierra (d.1947) who was also a theatre director. Turina re-arranged the score for solo piano a decade later. One reads - I obviously haven’t seen the score - that it is covered with meticulous details of stage directions. There are also quotations from suitable sacred and seasonal carol melodies which are more striking I imagine to Spanish audiences. Turina had known Debussy and Ravel whilst studying with d’Indy in Paris. This piece, as well as passages in La Venta de losGatos, shows influences of what we know as ‘impressionism’.
As enjoyable as I have found this recording to be, I wouldn’t advise a Turina 'virgin', as it were, to start here. No, go for an earlier volume. I much enjoyed, as my older review points out, volume six but volume three with the suites of pieces called ‘Spanish Women’ is especially attractive. Masó, especially by this penultimate volume, has a complete grasp of Turina’s language and musical needs and he is aided by a perfectly serviceable recording. If you enjoy Spanish music then you must have something in your collection of Turina’s copious piano music.