Listening Guide: Fuego Español (Spanish Fire)

Dos Canciones – Lorenzo Palomo (b.1938)

I: Tientos

Alternating between a furious ostinato (repetitive figure) in 5/8 and free recitativo passages, this song is the embodiment of passion and desire. Listen for:

•Mixed meter – an irregular pattern of rhythm and meter

•The clear distinction between instrumental and vocal passages

•Abstract, often quartal (based on 4ths) harmony

II: Plenilunio

Punctuated by wildly contrasting characters, this depiction of a moonlit setting is likely an allegory for a sexual encounter. Listen for:

•A simplistic heartbeat figure in the violin

•The brash midsection, merging a crude violin ostinato with an equally crude melody

•The structure, beginning with a more lilting melody, progressing to increasing intensity and unpredictability

Danzas Españolas, Op. 23 – Pablo de Sarasate (1844-1908)

I: Playera

A seguidilla (Castilian folksong/dance form) of Andalusian origin, this melody is subdued in tempo but highly dramatic in affect. Listen for:

•Rhythmic qualities of dance merged with melodic qualities of song

•The use of the violin’s G string (its lowest) to create a ‘warmer’ tone quality

•Pedal sonorities: an unchanging bass line beneath changing harmonies, contributing to the aforementioned ‘subdued’ feel

II: Zapateado

This highly virtuosic dance – based on percussive footwork – is particularly representative of Sarasate’s style, incorporating many extended violin techniques. Listen for:

•Frequent ‘harmonics,’ a high-pitched whistle effect achieved by shifting the entire hand per each note

•Pizzicato and left hand pizzicato: plucking, most often with the same hand that stops the strings

•Up bow staccato (multiple, punctuated articulations in a single bow stroke) in the middle of the piece, immediately after the shift to minor key

Doce Canciones Españolas – Joaquín Rodrigo (1901-1999)

I: ¡Viva la novia y el novio! (Long live the bride and the bridegroom!)

The character is celebratory and lighthearted, in spite of its minor mode. Listen for:

•Mixed meter to emphasize text declamation

II: De ronda (Courting)

Text and music alike are silly and joyous. Listen for:

•An initially indiscernible meter created by syncopation

•’Circular’ figures in the piano and voice alike

III: Una Palomita blanca (The Little White Dove)

Based on an antiquated conception of virginity, the musical setting is surprisingly docile and sweet. Listen for:

•In the coda, a stark departure from the conventional harmony established throughout

IV: Canción de baile con pandero (Tambourine Dance)

The fourth movement takes on a lively, almost wild character, almost as if the singer was dancing and accompanying herself on the tambourine. Listen for:

•The repetitive piano figures that represent the sounds of a tambourine

•A very limited vocal range, most likely reflecting folk influence

V: Porque toco el pandero (When I Play My Tambourine)

High energy and a driving accompaniment leave a lasting impact in what is one of the shortest songs in the set. Listen for:

•The representation of the tambourine once again in the left hand of the piano

VI: Tararán (Carol)

A soft and lilting carol that in some ways parallels “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” The length, repetitiveness, and central positioning of Tararán suggest that it is the keystone of the Twelve Songs. Listen for:

•What happens in the Nativity scene in each verse

•The music box texture of the piano part between verses

VII: En las montañas de Asturias (In the Hills of Asturias)

This movement is just fun! Quick text declamation and an unconventional piano line add a lot of character to a text that is already very spunky. Listen for:

•Dissonance in the piano writing (almost to the point of sounding like mistakes)

•Distinct rhythmic figures at the end of each verse

VIII: Estando yo en mi majada (When I was up in my sheepfold)

This piece, which uses an Andalusian text, details the excitement of attending the Corpus Christi festival. Listen for:

•Two distinct musical sections (the first providing exposition, the second excitedly explaining the wonderful time the singer had at the event)

IX: Adela (Delia)

Simply a song of lost love and betrayal, this piece is definitely the darkest of the set in terms of subject matter. Listen for:

•Lengthy piano prelude and postlude

•Repetitive notes in the vocal line (for clear text declamation)

X: En Jerez de la Frontera (The Miller’s Wife)

Based upon a tale of a miller and his beautiful wife, there is much to enjoy in this charming song. Listen for:

•A strum-like piano accompaniment (that is sometimes played by an actual guitarist)

•Repeating triplet figures in the vocal line

XI: San José y Maria (Mary and Joseph)

Another Andalusian text is the centerpiece of this movement, which details the events that brought Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem for the Christ Child to be born. Listen for:

•A chant-like vocal line that almost does not belong in metered time

•The differences between an Andalusian accent and a Spanish accent

XII: Canción de cuna (Cradle Song)

The final movement takes on a quiet and peaceful tone, as the singer sings a gentle lullaby. Listen for:

•Intermingling eighth/sixteenth-note and triplet passages in the vocal part

•A lengthy piano postlude that evokes that familiar music box texture before one final “hush” from the singer

Sonata No. 2 “Española” in G, Op. 82 – Joaquín Turina (1882-1949)

I: Lento – tema y variaciones

Heavily infused with iconic Spanish Nationalist sound, the opening movement showcases many of Turina’s colorful harmonies and textures through a series of variations on an unaccompanied violin theme. Listen for:

•The very first theme which, while related, is not the theme upon which the variations are based (but remember this one during the last movement!) – and the following solo violin theme, which is the structural theme

•The form, split into six distinct sections: SONATA THEME (not the variations theme) – VARIATIONS THEME (beginning with the unaccompanied violin) – LILTING – INTENSE – ABSTRACT 5/8 – CODA

•Upon the coda, the use of a violin mute to soften the tone quality

II: Vivo – andante – vivo

This movement blatantly defies expectations of a slow middle movement and races through exciting dialogue between the violin and piano from start to finish. Listen for:

•Virtuosic right hand piano flourishes during the sustained violin melody

•A brief pause in the intensity for a dense, chordal interlude invoking the variations theme of the previous movement

•The short coda, first showcasing violin, then piano technique

III: Adagio – allegro moderato

The beautiful, deceptively unrelated opening gives way to what is an incredibly exciting, dynamic, and triumphant final movement. Listen for:

•The return of the theme from the very beginning of movement I

•An increasingly rhythmic version of the pervasive variations theme

•Diverse registers – from deep, piano pedal tones to exceptionally high violin shifts

Siete Canciones populares Españolas – Manuel de Falla (1876-1946), arr. David Matthew Brown

I: El paño moruno (The Moorish Cloth)

The opening song, based on yet another antiquated poem regarding the loss of virginity, demonstrates deliberate and stately syncopation amidst ornaments and harmonic colors particularly representative of Falla’s style.  Listen for:

•Changes in meter (or the implication thereof)

•Sustained violin figures to emphasize dissonant harmony

•Frequent but casual stylistic ornamentation

II: Seguidilla murciana (Dance)

Furiously fast, this song is a whirlwind of fast-paced ‘speaking,’ paired with virtuoso violin figures over a wild, triplet piano ostinato. Listen for:

•The ways in which the violin part mimics – and often aligns with vocal figures

•Vocal declamation similar to patter song (think Gilbert & Sullivan)

III: Asturiana (Asturias)

A dark but hauntingly beautiful text setting, Asturiana depicts sadness. Listen for:

•Piano texture like rain

•Dissonance at high registral points

•The use of the violin mute, and octave doubling above the voice

IV: Jota (Dance)

In stark contrast to the previous movement, herein is expressed love’s joy – and even humor. Listen for:

•The violin’s alignment with the piano and voice, respectively and alternating

•Contrast between song and dance

•Rapid tempo and texture changes

V: Nana (Lullaby)

This second hauntingly beautiful melody is an Andalusian lullaby. Listen for:

•Steady rocking in the piano

•A simple but ornamented vocal line

•Minimalist violin texture, enhanced by the use of the mute, and natural harmonics

VI: Canción (Song)

Although seemingly joyous at first, the lighthearted Canción reveals its melodramatic nature halfway through. Listen for:

•Violin left hand pizzicato and harmonics

•A tight canon of melodic statements between all three parts

•The melody in the second half remaining the same (as its previous statement) in spite of a stark change in harmony

VII: Polo (Andalusian Melody)

This passionate declaration of lost love and betrayal is perfect conclusion to Fuego Español. Listen for:

•A highly melismatic, quasi-improvisatory character in the voice and violin parts

•Furious, dissonant instrumental ‘jabs’ and ostinati