For many people the classical guitar is synonymous with Spanish music, and it is often this music that first draws them to the guitar. Several of the pieces on this recording were favorites of mine as a child, and they remain so now. Perhaps because of that familiarity I had avoided performing much of this repertoire in concert until the summer of 2013 when I had the opportunity to play a series of concerts for travellers on the Camino de Santiago, a 1,000 year old pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. I was based in and around the small town of Carrión de los Condes in the province of Palencia, in Castile y Léon, very nearly the geographical centre of the main Spanish portion of the Camino. There I had the honor and pleasure of performing for and meeting pilgrims and local residents, an experience that was profoundly moving and inspiring for me. Programming works by Spanish composers seemed appropriate and I found it tremendously refreshing to revisit that repertoire.
The music on this recording spans a period of almost 100 years, starting in the late 1800’s with Isaac Albéniz and Miguel Llobet, but the influences go back much further, even to the Renaissance vihuela suggested by the opening music of Joaquín Rodrigo’s Junto al Generalife. Elsewhere we hear the strong presence of the music of Andalusia, flamenco rhythms and techniques and the spirit of cante jondo are most clearly heard in the works of Manuel de Falla and Joaquín Turina.
Albéniz said this of his own works, although I think the essence is applicable to much of this repertoire:
"There are among them a few things that are not completely worthless. The music is a bit infantile, plain, spirited…In all of them I now note that there is less musical science, less of the grand idea, but more color, sunlight, flavor of olives. That music of youth, with its little sins and absurdities that almost point out the sentimental affectation…appears to me like the carvings in the Alhambra, those peculiar arabesques that sway nothing with their turns and shapes, but which are like the air, like the sun, like the blackbirds or like the nightingales of its gardens. They are more valuable than all else of Moorish Spain, which though we may not like it, is the true Spain."
After a period of international neglect in the late nineteenth century it was the energy and determination of Andrés Segovia that was in large part responsible for the instrument’s reappearance on the concert stage, and much of the repertoire here is very closely associated with him. The works of Turina and Federico Moreno Tórroba were written for him, and the published versions were edited by him. In recent years there has been much attention paid to Segovia’s influence over the compositions. As original manuscripts have come to light some performers prefer to follow these more faithfully, believing that they give us a closer representation of the composer’s wishes, rather than having them presented through the performer’s lens. Turina and Moreno Tórroba were not guitarists of course, and Segovia’s changes were presumably made not only with the intention of helping the music to speak more clearly on the instrument, but also with the composer’s consent.
In my opinion such a collaboration between the composer and the performer is an important part of the process in bringing music to life, and in the case of several of the works presented on this recording I’ve taken the liberty of including Segovia’s revisions in some cases, in others taking my inspiration more directly from the manuscript. Falla’s Homenaje is now published with revisions by Llobet, the dedicatee, and we can choose to see these “guitarisms” as realisations of Falla’s real intent - magnified by a performer who had the benefit of knowing the instrument so much more intimately than the composer - or obfuscations of it. Albéniz composed for the piano of course, but is believed to have heard and approved of transcriptions of his music by Francisco Tárrega, and almost certainly this was the case with Llobet, despite obvious deviations from what he had originally written. In arranging almost any music from piano (or orchestra in the case of Falla’s Cancion del fuego fatuo) to the guitar choices must be made as to how best to let the music speak in its new medium. Rather than exactly replicate the original score (a futile task in most cases), and without the benefit of being able to collaborate directly with the composers, my intention was to be as faithful as possible to what I perceive as the essence of the music. In the works written for the guitar by Falla, Turina and Moreno Tórroba I have done my best to do the same, and I can only hope that my efforts would meet with their approval.