Monday, December 5, 2016

The Romanian Rhapsodies of Georges Enesco

Let’s talk about music from Romania! Georges Enesco (1881–1955) was a virtuoso violinist during his day, and also known for composing works that drew from his native Romania. The talented Enesco entered conservatory at the young age of seven. He is known primarily for his violin and piano sonatas, string quartets, symphonies, and opera. Most famous of all, though, are his Romanian Rhapsodies, specifically the first.

The Romanian Rhapsody #1 draws from folk tunes, using songs and dances popular in Romania. It is thought that Enesco also found inspiration in Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies when writing this work. Does this piece sound folksy to you?

Enesco was not happy that his Romanian Rhapsodies became his most well-liked pieces as he considered them to be works of his youth.

Join me next time as we wrap up our look at nationalism in music! 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Goyescas: A Piano Suite and an Opera

Last time we looked at the Spanish flavor found in the music of Isaac Albeniz. Today, let’s look at Enrique Granados (1867–1916), who often collaborated with Albeniz during his lifetime. Like Albeniz, Granados was a pianist who studied with Spanish nationalist Felipe Pedrell. He is primarily known for his piano works, chamber music, opera and other vocal works, and symphonic poems. His piano suite Goyescas (1911) is perhaps what he is best known for. This piece provides Granados’ reflections on the artwork of Spanish painter Francisco de Goya. Granados believed de Goya’s work exceptionally displayed a Spanish character that he hoped to convey in his own suite. Following the completion of the piano suite, he went on to adapt the work into an opera that premiered in New York City in 1916. While traveling home from the premiere, Granados drowned in the English Channel after his boat was torpedoed.
Below you can enjoy Goyescas both as the piano suite and the opera by Granados. Do you sense a Spanish character?

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Spanish Flavor of Isaac Albeniz

Isaac Albeniz (1860–1909) was a piano prodigy who was known for using Spanish nationalism in his music. It is only fitting that we listen to his music during our series on nationalism in music.

 After studying at conservatory and dabbling in composition, Isaac Albeniz found his musical voice after working with Felipe Pedrell, who sparked Albeniz’s interest in nationalism and writing music inspired by the folk tunes from his native country. Albeniz is primarily known for his piano works, many whose melodies, harmonies, and rhythms find inspiration in the sounds of Spain. One of his most famous works, Iberia, is a suite of twelve piano works broken into four books. Written in the early twentieth century, Iberia is not necessarily meant to be performed in its entirety, and may be played in any order the pianist prefers. The work is known for its difficulty and since its conception, has been orchestrated by various composers over the last century. Like many of Albeniz’s works, Iberia draws from Spanish influences. A piece in Book 1, for instance, is a musical portrait of Cadiz. A selection in Book 3 depicts the gypsy quartet in Granada. Let’s listen to a portion, “El Albaicin,” from Book 3.

It’s interesting to note that, while Albeniz was born in Spain and quite nationalistic, he actually spent the majority of his life living outside of his native land.

Who else can you think of who writes in a Spanish flavor? We’ll look at another example next time!