ISAAC ALBENIZ

Mal­lorca Bar­carola

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

Brid­get is back, this time ar­rang­ing and tran­scrib­ing an­other of Albeniz’s stun­ning works ded­i­cated to his beloved Spain.

Isaac Al­béniz (1860-1909) was a Span­ish com­poser and vir­tu­oso pi­anist whose mu­sic has at its heart a deep Span­ish iden­tity. He drew great in­flu­ence from Span­ish folk mu­sic and made a huge con­tri­bu­tion to both the reper­toire and ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the mu­sic of his home­land. Al­béniz was a truly as­ton­ish­ing pi­ano vir­tu­oso and prodigy – mak­ing his first per­for­mance aged only four and pass­ing the en­trance exam to the Conservatoire de Paris at the age of seven. By his mid-teens he had run away from home to em­bark on an in­ter­na­tional con­cert ca­reer and to study with none other than Lizst.

Al­béniz wrote (aside from four op­eras) al­most ex­clu­sively for the pi­ano (never for the guitar). How­ever, as his writ­ing is so in­flu­enced by Span­ish folk mu­sic (which in turn is in­trin­si­cally linked to the guitar) it’s full of gui­taris­tic fea­tures, such as ‘open string’ pedal tones, Phry­gian in­flec­tions, re­peated ’tre­molo’ notes, open voic­ings, Span­ish dance rhythms, arpeg­gios and ‘strummed’ chords. It is, there­fore, per­haps in­evitable that his work would be tran­scribed (and is now, in fact, far bet­ter known) for the guitar. Guitarists Tár­rega, his pupil Llo­bet and sem­i­nal gui­tarist Se­govia tran­scribed his works from pi­ano to the guitar and have con­trib­uted a huge deal to the clas­si­cal gui­tarist’s reper­toire and ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the in­stru­ment through him.

Mal­lorca was writ­ten in 1890 when Al­béniz was 30 years old and liv­ing in Lon­don. It has a strong nos­tal­gic Span­ish sense, which he later de­scribed as hav­ing “pas­sion, sun­light and the taste of olives”. This is a per­fect de­scrip­tion for the lilt­ing bit­ter­sweet and ex­traor­di­nar­ily beau­ti­ful piece. The work is es­sen­tially in a ternary form with ‘dark’ the­matic ma­te­rial, mainly in D Mi­nor (from bars 1-33 and bars 76 to the end) ei­ther side of ‘lighter’ mid­dle sec­tion mainly in the key of D Ma­jor (bars 34-75). This type of move from a Mi­nor key to a ‘par­al­lel’ Ma­jor key (one that shares the same root) and back again, is per­fectly bit­ter­sweet, a mo­ment of joy ei­ther side of sad­ness. The piece is char­ac­terised by a slow 6/8 rhythm set up in the first four bars. Make sure that you fully un­der­stand and ab­sorb this rhythm be­fore at­tack­ing the whole piece – or pulling it around ex­pres­sively - as it is the foun­da­tion of the work.

The main tech­ni­cal chal­lenges in­volve sound­ing the ex­quis­ite melody in an ap­pro­pri­ately le­gato and vo­cal man­ner while balanc­ing it with the ac­com­pa­ni­ment. This may take sig­nif­i­cant work, but is worth the ef­fort as the piece – de­spite be­ing writ­ten for pi­ano – is in­cred­i­bly ef­fec­tive with our in­stru­ment’s tim­bre and res­o­nance. NEXT MONTH Bring out the con­fetti as Brid­get ar­ranges Men­delssohn’s Wed­ding March

ALBENIZ GAVE HIS FIRST PER­FOR­MANCE AGED ONLY FOUR, AND PASSED THE EN­TRANCE EXAM TO THE CONSERVATOIRE DE PARIS, AT JUST SEVEN YEARS OLD

Isaac Albeniz: pi­ano ge­nius and mag­i­cal com­poser

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