Turina Chamber Music for Strings and Piano
Lincoln TrioAurelien Fort PederzoliAyane KozasaDavid CunliffeDesirée RuhstratDoyle ArmbrustJasmine LinMarta Aznavoorian
- CDR 90000 150
The longer Cedille Selects track excerpts are designed to provide a representative overview of the album
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Following the success of its groundbreaking Cedille Records debut, Notable Women, the Lincoln Trio brings its “interpretative flair” (The Strad) and “masterly finesse” (Cleveland Plain Dealer) to the early 20th-century chamber music of Spanish-born, French-trained Joaquín Turina in a richly varied program of audience pleasing works blending Spanish dance and folk influences with romanticism and French impressionism.
The album offers Turina’s complete works for multiple strings and piano — four trios, a quartet, quintet, and sextet, including what is only the second recording of Turina’s lovely early Piano Trio in F Major. Among the Lincoln Trio’s guest artists on the CD is violist Ayane Kozasa, first prize winner at the 2011 Primrose International Viola Competition.
David Hurwitz, Classics Today
Here is yet another intelligent project from Cedille, and a real bonanza for chamber music lovers. Turina’s chamber works are gorgeous. True, the early Piano Quintet in G minor is a touch heavy and faux-Franck, but after that it’s basically smooth sailing. This two-disc set contains, first of all, the complete music for piano trio, expertly played with passion and precision by the Lincoln Trio. Most collections of this music contain only the two numbered trios plus the dawn-to-dusk tone poem for piano trio known as Circulo. Here we also get the large early trio in F major, a lovely work that brings the total playing time of the disc to more than 73 minutes.
The second disc offers the late Piano Quartet in A minor, the above-mentioned piano quintet, and the sunny, lyrical sextet in two movements subtitled Escena Adaluza. Turina’s mature works exude Spanish color in the cast of their melodies, but his music is also formally elegant and beautifully shaped. Several of these pieces, such as the Quintet and the Trio No. 1, contain spontaneous but intellectually sophisticated fugues, and there isn’t a routine note anywhere. The Lincoln Trio’s colleagues, especially violist Ayane Kozasa, who has a major part in the Sextet, blend seamlessly with the basic ensemble, and they are flawlessly recorded.
I never cease to be amazed at how, with a little thought and intelligence, it’s still possible to put together worthwhile programs of serious classical music that are wholly winning and simply delightful. This release would grace any collection; it’s a treat.
Joe Milicia, Enjoy The Music
Lovers of chamber music of the late 19th/early 20th centuries, especially in the French tradition, should acquire at once Cedille's bargain 2-CD set of Joaquín Turina's works for piano and strings. Though the Seville-born Turina (1882-1949) is best known for orchestral works with a Spanish flavor, he did live in Paris between 1905 and 1914, studying at the Schola Cantorum established by Vincent d'Indy, and the seven works at hand (dated 1904-1931) have as much a French as a Spanish identity. The Cedille set places the four works for piano trio on the first disc, thus highlighting the core performers of the set, the superb Lincoln Trio, with the Quartet, Quintet and Sextet filling out Disc 2. Cedille's typically excellent sound makes this collection all the more rewarding. The earliest work in the set is a four-movement Trio in F major, written when the composer was 21. It's quite an accomplished piece, with highlights like a brief scherzo in a graceful 5/4 rhythm and a slow movement that opens with the two string players in moody close harmonies until the piano launches into a lovely salon-like melody. The strongest stylistic influence seems to be César Franck, with a touch of Tchaikovsky in the first movement (a march-like theme that seems to echo the familiar passage following the motto theme at the beginning of the latter's Fifth Symphony).
Turina's official Opus 1 is his Piano Quintet, from 1907. It's quite distinctive, with a slow but impassioned fugue for a first movement and an equally stirring Animé movement that follows. If both movements conjure up Franck (or d'Indy, Franck's pupil and Turina's teacher), so what? The third movement is bafflingly labeled Andante scherzo: it's certainly slow, in an ebbing and swelling 6/8 rhythm, but if there's anything jokey about it, I completely missed it. The finale opens theatrically with cadenzas for both 1st violin and viola, then launches into a propulsive Assezvif, with some exciting use of pizzicato as well as contrasting passages that return to the impassioned mood of the earlier movements.
Isaac Albéniz attended the premiere of the Quintet, and (according to Richard Freed's liner notes for another Turina recording) later met in a café with Turina and Manuel de Falla to talk about writing true Spanish music. Turina later declared, "We were three Spaniards gathered together in that corner of Paris, and it was our duty to fight bravely for the national music of our country." The last piano-and-strings work of Turina's Paris years was a step in that direction: a Sextet for the unusual combination of Viola and Piano plus String Quartet (1912) with a Spanish subtitle,Escena Andaluza (Andalusian Scene). He did give French titles for the two movements, Crépuscule du soir("Twilight") and À la fenêtre ("At the Window"), but the flavor is strongly Spanish, or perhaps French-Spanish. The Sextet postdates all of Ravel's famous Spanish-inflected music except for Boléro, though it sounds even more like de Falla's Nights in the Gardens of Spain (completed 1916), if not as lush or Impressionistic. Leaving Paris at 32, Turina spent the rest of his adult life in Madrid, where he was a conductor, teacher at the Royal Conservatory and in his later years (sorry to say) administrator for the Franco regime. His Piano Trio in D major, Op. 35 (officially "No. 1," written 1926) is one of his best-known works: Heifetz and Piatigorsky, for example, included it in their famous concert series, joined by Leonard Pennario. This work, like the Quintet, is unusual in structure: a Prelude and highly atypical Fugue, followed by a Theme and Variations derived from the fugue theme with the variations each in the style of a dance of a different part of Spain. The finale, labeled "Sonata," is based on the themes from the first movement. One senses Ravel hovering in the background of this music, but it's still a highly original work, right from the first piercing high note of the violin through the complex mood shifts of the rest of it.
The Piano Quartet, Op. 67 (1931), in three movements, opens darkly with a four-note theme that will be the basis for the entire work. This work is even more distinctly Spanish in its rhythms, melodic contours, and pizzicati that suggest guitar plucking, though it also shares the sound world of Gabriel Fauré's Piano Quartets at certain moments. The Second Piano Trio, Op. 76 (1933), which somehow combines concision with sudden mood shifts, has perhaps the most perfect balance of Spanish and French styles of any of these chamber works.
Finally, Circulo (1936), subtitled Fantasia for Piano, Violin and Cello, is a more easy-going work than the Second Trio (despite its composition on the eve of the Spanish Civil War), with movements titled Amanecer, Mediodía andCrepúsculo ("Dawn," "Midday" and "Twilight"). Since there does not appear to be a definite program for the work beyond its titles, I can only say that "Dawn" happens very gradually, with radiant joy expressed at the movement's end; and that "Midday" gives us not the stark blazing sun of a Castilian summer, but perhaps a day in early spring with a good deal of genial bustling about, while "Twilight," which follows without pause, gradually settles into complete serenity. Indeed, the final bars echo the first bars of "Dawn," thus closing the "circle" of the title while also following the cyclical structure Turina learned from Franck and other Romantics, and used in all of these chamber works.
The Lincoln Trio give richly committed performances of all these works, and on Disc 2 Ayane Kozasa proves an ideal partner in the larger works, including solo presence in Escena Andaluza. The gorgeous, intense sound of the unison strings in the Quartet, well supported by the piano, is particularly breathtaking, but each of the works has its own excitement.
I found it of great interest to compare the Heifetz/Piatigorsky/Pennario recording on Sony (recorded 1963, released by RCA 1967) to the Lincoln Trio's rendition. As one might expect, the older trio give outsize, characterful individual performances—without ceasing to function as a trio, I hasten to add—emphasized by what seems to be closer miking. The Lincoln players are comparatively discreet, but unbeatable in their sensitivity to one another and overall balance. They play the work notably slower than Heifetz & friends, giving the opening Prelude, for example, a more funereal character—but I mean they present the music as thoughtfully dark, not ponderous.
Cedille's recording, if not quite state-of-the-art, is very fine, bringing out the warmth and beauty of all the players, while giving a clear stereo image of each but with perfect balance and blending. An informative booklet essay by Andrea Lamoreaux is an extra bonus.
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Joaquín Turina: Pianist-composer with strings attached
Notes by Andrea Lamoreaux
Opera-lovers know Seville as the home of Figaro, Don Giovanni, and Carmen, who sings about the city’s ancient walls in her Seguidilla aria. It’s the capital of the Spanish autonomous territory of Andalucia — a mountainous region in the country’s south bordering Portugal, Gibraltar, and the Mediterranean Sea — whose individual provinces include Granada, Cordoba, and Cádiz. Over the centuries, Andalucia has been home to influences from the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Visigoths, Moors, Spaniards from the north, and Sephardim. It’s the traditional home of bullfighting and flamenco, and its Moorish-influenced architecture is renowned.
By the late 19th century, Seville was growing fast in terms of both industry and culture. The 20th century would find it an early battleground of the Spanish Civil War. More recently, Seville was the site of the 1992 Universal Exposition that celebrated the 500th anniversary of Columbus’s discoveries.
Joaquín Turina was born in Seville in 1882 and undertook his first musical studies there. He was a child prodigy on the piano and continued to play the instrument all his life. At age 20, he went to Madrid to continue his studies. Three years later, in 1905, he followed some of his fellow Spaniards — and other aspiring musicians and artists throughout turn-of-the-century Europe — by going to live and work in Paris. There he enrolled in the Schola Cantorum, a rather conservative-minded music school established by French composer Vincent d’Indy, who had been a student of Cesar Franck. Perhaps the most important event of Turina’s Paris sojourn — which lasted until the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 — was his encounter with two fellow countrymen, Manuel de Falla and Isaac Albéniz. These important Spanish composers influenced Turina to return to his roots and take musical inspiration from the sounds and rhythms of his native land, particularly the rich and varied traditions of Andalucia.
After 1914, Turina made his permanent home in Madrid. He achieved success with orchestral works such as La Procesión del Rocío, Sinfonía Sevillana, and Danzas Fantasticas. His best-known composition is probably La Oración del Torero, for either string quartet or string orchestra. He became a symphony conductor and taught composition at Madrid’s Royal Conservatory starting in 1930. With the end of the Civil War and the start of the Franco dictatorship, he accepted several semi-official positions including General Commissioner of Music, in which capacity he re-organized Spain’s National Orchestra. He was ill during much of the 1940s; because of poor health and administrative responsibilities, he composed relatively little during his last years.
The performances on this double disc, encompassing Turina’s chamber music for piano and strings, bring to light some unfamiliar pieces and allow us to trace the stylistic development of this profoundly interesting yet relatively little-known composer.
Turina had an abundant melodic gift; all of the pieces heard here overflow with rich lyricism. It’s also quite clear that he was a gifted keyboard virtuoso: the piano parts are challenging, thick with chords and octaves, exploiting every resource of the instrument. Also apparent is his fondness for sudden and frequent dynamic contrasts, quick alternation between pizzicato (plucked) and arco (bowed) string playing, and the ethereal sound of muted strings.
The Piano Trio in F major — so titled even though the first movement is in F minor — dates from 1904 and doesn’t appear on the composer’s list of official, opus-assigned works. Although it pre-dates his years in Paris at the Franck-influenced Schola Cantorum, it’s very French-sounding and reveals a Franckian principle, that of cyclic composition — a technique Turina favored throughout his life. The declamatory, turbulent first movement (Lento — Allegro non tanto) is succeeded by an Andante that opens and closes peacefully with several emotionally-charged passages in between. The third movement, Allegro alla danza, might be tricky to dance since it’s in 5/4 meter; it’s nonetheless a charming duet for violin and cello with solid piano support. The declamatory nature of the opening and reminiscences of earlier themes return for the finale.
The two opus-attached piano trios are probably Turina’s best-known chamber works. Of opus 35 in D major (1926), the composer wrote: “The first movement is unbelievably difficult technically. It is a prelude and fugue, the latter in reversed sequence, beginning with the stretti.” In fugal terminology, a stretto is a passage in which one voice, or instrumental line, begins the theme (or “subject”) and another enters with it before the first voice has finished. This technique intensifies the complexity of the polyphony and usually happens toward the end of a fugue. Here it comes at the beginning, with the cello entry quickly following the violin’s opening figure. As the movement reaches its conclusion, the fugal entries are presented more normally, leading to a quiet ending. The second movement, Variations, exploits a simple theme — related to the first movement’s fugal theme — through the medium of Spanish dance rhythms. The finale, Sonate, recalls both the fugal theme and the very opening theme of the first movement. Its tempo marking, Allegro, could just as well be Agitato.
Turina said he crafted his Piano Trio No. 2, Op. 76 in B minor “with more classical atmosphere than the First Trio and without popular elements.” Its overall impression is that of constantly alternating themes and tempos. The cello gets several solo passages, and violin and cello are paired in the central movement against the powerful piano. This middle movement, Molto vivace, is in 5/4 meter, adding a subtle, piquant quality to the rhythmic progressions.
Círculo, Op. 91, is subtitled Fantasía para Piano, Violin y Violoncello. It was written shortly before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War but not premiered until 1942. It’s a short and colorful piece both cyclic and programmatic. As the title implies, it depicts the day as a circle, from dawn to dusk. The individual movements are Amanecer (Dawn), Mediodía (Noon), and Crepúscolo (Twilight). It begins very softly, on cello and piano, and ends likewise, with similar melodic material. The Amanecer movement progresses from its quiet image of first dawn to a more robust full daybreak. The pizzicato strings at the beginning of Mediodía call forth images of guitars played in the sunlight of a town square.
Turina’s Piano Quartet in A minor, Op. 67, dates from 1931. After a fanfare-like unison string opening and a brief piano answer, the violin gives out the first version of what will be the principal motive of the entire work, a four-note scale fragment that continually reappears in almost uncountable guises. Its slightly melancholy sound emanates from the progression of its first two notes, E-F, taken from the medieval Phyrigian mode. The quartet’s first movement (Lento — Andante mosso) is a rondo. The Vivo central movement is more dance-like; as in Círculo, pizzicato strings at the opening recall guitars. The finale presents a succession of contrasting sections. The violin opens with a short cadenza-like passage, but the succeeding texture is dominated by piano chords. The string writing is punctuated by emphatic unison passages in which the players recapitulate and transform motives heard earlier in the piece.
Turina’s Piano Quintet in G minor is his official Op. 1 and dates from 1907, when it was first performed in Paris. The principles of D’Indy’s Schola Cantorum, among whose aims was to resurrect contrapuntal practices from earlier centuries, seem to be echoed in the title of the first movement, Slow Fugue. (Another echo of earlier times is the slow-fast-slow-fast tempo layout of the four movements.) The fugal subject is given first to the muted viola, followed by second violin, cello, and first violin; only after all of the strings have spoken does the piano enter. The thematic material, growing out of the original fugue subject, becomes progressively more chromatic. The movement ends as it began, with the fugue theme played very softly. The Animé second movement, a strong mood contrast to the opening, is an exercise in headlong virtuosity. The third movement emphasizes lyricism; unusually labeled Andante scherzo, its sound evokes the first word much more than the second. The rapidly-paced finale opens with short cadenza-like passages for the violins and viola.
The sextet titled Escena Andaluza, from 1912, is evidence of Turina’s musical return to his Spanish origins even before his actual return from Paris to Madrid. The influence of the nationalist ideals of Albéniz and Falla has produced a highly original piece, short and vigorous, with a major passage in Habanera rhythm (as in Carmen). The principal interest of the Escena, outside of its melodic richness, is the unusual instrumentation: solo viola, piano, and string quartet. The opening is given over entirely to the piano, which has a strong presence throughout. The quartet has more of a supporting role as emphasis shifts between the unusually spotlighted viola and the keyboard.
Andrea Lamoreaux is Music Director of 98.7wfmt, Chicago’s Classical Experience