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Geniuses of Spanish Music

Fascinated by Spanish music, Rolando Saad regularly performs the great works of the genre: 'Concierto de Aranjuez' and 'Fantasía para un gentilhombre' by Rodrigo, 'Romanza' by Bacarisse, 'Sonatina' by Torroba, as well as versions of 'Carmen' by Bizet and 'El Amor Brujo' by Falla for guitar.

For several years, Rolando Saad has been performing The Great Night of Spanish Music, the program that transmits the vibrations of the Spanish heart on the stage. The guitar captures the sounds of Spanish spirit with its brilliant tone and its rhythmic energy as no other instrument, showing the nature of eternal music inspired by tradition and lyrical melodies.

The masterpiece of the program is the Concierto de Aranjuez by Joaquin Rodrigo, the fetish-composition of Rolando Saad, who is the guitarist that has played it more times worldwide, with 900 performances. Rolando Saad performed for more than two million viewers with prestigious orchestras, including the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London, in major concert halls of Europe. His virtuoso performance manages to capture the joyful spirit of the musical piece and encourages the audience to imagine the shiny days in the parks of Aranjuez. He turns the composition into the most beautiful music dialogue between guitar and orchestra. 

The program is complemented by the Fantasía para un gentilhombre of Rodrigo, a fresh and original twist  to Spanish themes of the seventeenth century, the Sonatina for guitar and orchestra of Federico Moreno Torroba and versions for guitar and orchestra from Bizet's Carmen and Amor Brujo of Falla. 

A passport to immortality

It is every composer’s dream to achieve a passport to immortality, even if it is by a single piece of work. For Joaquín Rodrigo (Sagunto 1902 – Madrid, 1999) this dream came true in 1940 when Concierto de Aranjuez premiered. This score reached extraordinary popularity and took the classical music world by storm. It became a true social phenomenon which eclipsed the rest of his production and there are now over seventy versions of it in the commercial markets, with sales figures which make it an all-time bestseller. Miles Davis’s genius showed in 1959 that Rodrigo’s score could become an absolute jazz masterpiece in his record Sketches of Spain and over the decades, several singers including Richard Anthony and Josep Carreras have lent their voice to endless arrangements of the piece – some of them prissy, distasteful or simply opportunistic.

All of this century’s guitarists perform the Concierto de Aranjuez as one of their signature pieces both at concert halls and recording studios. Mª Luisa Anido, Regino Sainz de la Maza, Narciso Yepes, Juliam Bream, John Williams, Pepe Romero and a number of other performers have all recorded one or several versions of Rodrigo’s masterpiece. And it is not guitarists; its version for harp has been performed by Nicanor Zabaleta, Marisa Robles and Isabelle Moretti.

 
                      
Joaquin Rodrigo 

 

Rodrigo’s orchestral body of work is structured around a number of concerts for several instruments, amongst which the guitar takes the main role. Along with Concierto de Aranjuez, other remarkable pieces are Fantasía para un gentilhombre, Concierto para una fiesta or Concierto andaluz para cuatro guitarras. His catalogue includes beautiful scores such as Concierto para piano, several concert pages for chelo, the Concierto Pastoral para flauta and the Concierto serenata para arpa y orquesta. Rodrigo also authored exquisit vocal compositions and displayed his talent in the orchestral realm too, with such achievements as Música para un jardín, En busca del más allá, Zarabanda lejana y villancico, Palillos y panderetas, Per la flor del lliri blau and Soleriana.

However, nothing compares to the slow tempo ornaments in Concierto de Aranjuez. It is inspiration in its purest state and none of his other creations achieved the same. Rodrigo ends an era in Spanish music, spanning almost the whole 20th century, which started with the nationalistic inspiration of composers such as Felip Pedrell, Isaac Albéniz and Enric Granados who had a strong and unequivocal international vocation.

Many composers walked that diffcult path with their sights in Europe but without ever breaking away from the traditional roots pervasive in Hispanic music from the splendour of Renaissance, throughout Baroque and Romanticism and present even in the 20th century repertoire. Manuel de Falla, Joaquín Turina, Frederic Mompou and many other Spanish composers were all determined to bury provincial ‘casticismo’ once and for all and welcomed new inspiration for the Hispanic musical heritage.

Rodrigo was born in Sagunto and brought up in Valencia, he was blind since he was 3 years of age and he followed in the steps of so many other Spanish authors that completed their studies in Paris, absorbing the main aesthetic and musical tendencies of their age. Among his teachers, there are two names that stand out, Eduardo López Chávarri from Levante and Frenchman Paul Dukas, who always praised the personality and inspiration of one of his favourite pupils. 

 

Salvador Bacarisse

The Concierto de Aranjuez was mostly composed in Paris and it was first performed in Barcelona by guitarist Regino Sainz de la Maza. It attained immediate success. Composer and music critic Enrique Franco wrote in his article ‘The end of a music era’, published by the newspaper El País on July 7th 1999 (the day after Rodrigo’s death): “Our composer is born as a different nationalist that, while having total admiration for Manuel de Falla, knows how to find alternative ways. He found them mostly in his new and refined revision of our 15th and 17the centuries and the typically Spanish courtesan 18th century, in what Rodrigo himself named neocasticismo. In fact, Rodrigo’s music is easily identifiable from the first compasses. As he himself liked to say:

“I am not sure if my cup is bigger or samller, but in any case, I drink from my cup”.

Rodrigo, as accurately described by Enrique Franco, became a “classic in himself” and within that classicism the crown’s jewel is the Concierto de Aranjuez. It is a piece touched by the lyricism that is characteristic to his work and also by the vitality which follows melancholy, exploding in the third movement. The piece, which opens with a first movement full of rhythmic strength and unique melodic beauty, reaches its state of grace in the Adagio, possibly the most beautiful and penetrating melody in the history of guitar. Rodrigo himself referred to the ‘elegiac dialog’ which the guitar establishes with other soloist instruments in the orchestra. His wife, pianist Victoria Kamhi wrote: “It was an evocation of the happy days of our honeymoon, when we walked through the joyful parks of Aranjuez. It was at the same time a declaration of love”. An optimistic and happy rhythmic spirit takes over the third movement again, with a swift and precise writing style that evokes a courtesan rococo dance.

 

Fascination for the guitar

Contemporary to Joaquín Rodrigo, Federico Moreno Torroba (Madrid, 1891-1982) shared with him a fascination for the guitar, which he paid homage to in his own style and under the approval of the fascist regime.

Despite a remarkable and extensive work that was produced, the compositions of Salvador Bacarisse have had little diffusion and are unknown to the general public. Besides composing music, he worked as a music critic in the Madrid press and served as government delegate in musical matters in Barcelona, organizing concerts and opera seasons. His work drew on a variety of sources: from the Spanish avant-garde, impressionism and the aesthetic influence of Cocteau and Los Six de Paris to romanticism that was always present in his compositions.

During the Spanish civil war Bacarisse moved, following the republican government, to Valencia and then to Barcelona, and at the end of the war was exiled to Paris, where he lived until his death. Perhaps the feeling of homesickness for his land prompted him to create compositions deep with Spanish roots, such as opera El estudiante de Salamanca by José de Espronceda, ballet Tía fingida by Cervantes, la Fantasía Andaluza  for harp and orchestra, and the Concertino for Guitar and Orchestra in a Minor in 1957. La "Romanza" is the second of the four movements of this great work, in which the classical and romantic features combine with a deep Hispanic sentiment, and somewhat remind of Concierto de Aranjuez by Rodrigo. 


Federico Moreno Torroba

Federico Moreno Torroba was born in a family of musicians and he focused his extensive musical trajectory on the composition of symphonic pieces, ballets, coral and vocal music and particularly zarzuelas, a genre of which he was a brilliant representative. He had great success in 1932 with Luisa Fernanda, a zarzuela which has now been performed over ten thousand times and enjoys public acclaim worldwide.

Along with zarzuelas, Torroba’s other great passion was guitar, to which he dedicated over one hundred compositions. In them, he uses a risky harmonic language resembles a goldsmith’s delicate craft: Homenaje a la Seguidilla para guitarra y orquesta, of ample proportions and lively in its wish to reach startling shine and colour to great effect; Diálogos para guitarra y orquesta, with a more intimate tone; Romántico de Castilla; Fantasía flamenca; Tonada concertante and finally la Sonatina, one of the most enchanting works in the history of this instrument. Here, Moreno Torroba develops a style with direct language, simple and bold but simultaneously of great formal elegance.

Shortly before his death in Madrid, aged 91, he dedicated and delivered Seis preludios pra guitarra to his friend Andrés Segovia.

Falla's love for flamenco

Manuel de Falla (Cadiz, 1876 - Alta Gracia, Argentina, 196) profoundly loved flamenco singing. Only a lover of flamenco and gypsy culture could create such a wonderful piece as the gypsy scene in El Amor Brujo. Popular music permeated Falla's musical universe, but not as an objective but as an inexhaustible source of inspiration. Cadiz composer recreated the melodic twists and harmonic and rhythmic patterns to the point of inventing a new music. On many occasions when he went to appointments, he converted his creations into happy musical winks, as for example the Catalan folk songs that he uses in the music of the fire of the Pyrenees in Atlantis, the monumental and unfinished cantata that became his swan song released on November 24, 1961 at the Gran Teatre del Liceu under the direction of Eduard Toldrà and unforgettable Victoria de los Angeles in the role of Queen Piren.

 Manuel de Falla 

El Amor Brujo in the interpretation of Rolando Saad

In 2011 Rolando Saad presented his version El Amor Brujo of Falla for guitar and orchestra. This meant accomplishing a project, with which the guitarist dreamed since his childhood. "As a child,-remembers Saad-, I was fascinated by the possibility of playing this piece. And the more I studied this work, the more I understood that taking it to the guitar interpretation was something natural, because for me Falla composed on the basis of two guitars, one for accompaniment and another carrying the melody line and so much so that the composer´s works, in general, are written in natural tones of this instrument."

The communicative power of music of this Cadiz author is so intense that he himself made a kind of symphonic suite of the final version. However, the presentation of the concert version for guitar and orchestra is something really new and challenging.

As a result, El Amor Brujo in the interpretation of Saad is an exceptional arrangement and a personal interpretation that captures the spirit and essence of the work of Manuel de Falla and also gives it a new dimension: the guitar restoring the essence of flamenco. This instrument, with a strong rhythmic force, is at the same time the backbone between the long flamenco tradition and the symphony orchestra. In this version, which includes most of the scenes, including the well-known "Ritual Fire Dance", the guitar strings supplement voice and draw with great lyricism that magical and superstitious gypsy Andalusia imagined and recreated by Falla. As one critic pointed out, Saad accomplishes that  "his guitar truly sings,  free and with personality."

 

The orchestral magic of Carmen 

The famous opera by Georges Bizet (Paris, 1838 - Bougival, France, 1875) is a marvel of melodic inspiration, rhythmic force, and orchestral refinement. It is a psychological portrait of the characters with narrative pulse where portentous dramatic sense of the great French composer captures the spectator with an overwhelming force. Away from the stage, the fascinating evocative power of music also manages to seduce the listener completely in the sphere of concert, since Bizet draws atmospheres and landscapes with exquisite orchestral palette. Although currently not played too frequently, Carmen suites were common concert pieces in the fifties and sixties. They were played both in the auditoriums and the recording studio, directed with passion and absolute conviction by legendary directors, such as Arturo Toscanini, Fritz Reiner, Thomas Beechan and Herbert von Karajan.

    Georges Bizet   

The base of the suites are the four intermissions of the opera, in which Bizet displays an exceptional orchestral talent. They are wonderful masterpieces of music- pure, concise, evocative, so exquisite in fine strokes and the deployment of the maximum opulence of the symphonic music. It is  a brilliant and refined music, a seductive dialogue between woodwinds. The suites incorporate, conveniently adapted, arias as emblematic as the "Habanera" that Carmen sings  or the "Toreador Song" that Escamillo sings. The brilliant "march of the Toreadors" or exultant "Danse Bohème" culminate the compositions in a  spectacular form.