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Manuel de Falla (1876-1946)
Suite populaire espagnole
Manuel de Falla, together with Albeniz and Granados one of the great three of „racial” (to use a term of Karol Szymanowski) Spanish composers, used in extenso Spanish folk music as his main source of inspiration. He came from a family with a double national colour: his father was an Andalusian, his mother a Catalan. The idea of Siete canciones populares españolas for voice and piano was born in 1914, in the last months of the composer’s stay in Paris. The songs premiered in Madrid as early as in 1915, were published in 1922, and transcribed for the violin by Paweł Kochański and for the cello by Maurice Maréchal. The are known in their instrumental version as Suite populaire espagnole. A collection of miniatures rather than a cycle, they can be understood as a metaphorical journey through region of Spanish culture.
El paño moruno has its origins in the Moorish South. The popular folksong Canción received an original harmonic accompaniment; it is characteristic in the repetitiveness of melodic turns, typical for the folk style. The lyrical and melancholy character is represented in the suite by two lullabies, the Andalusian Nana and Asturiana from Northern Spain. The temperament of fiery flamenco is personified in Polo, an Andalusian dance maintained in small metre, with syncopated rhythm and rapid note repetitions that energise the course of the music. Its Oriental roots are audible in melismas and intonations of motives in the melody. A different variety of gesture is brought by Jota, a dance of Aragonian provenience, in a rapid tempo and compound metre, originally performed with castanet accompaniment. The differentia specifica is defined by the contrasts between the motoric qualities and the quasi-improvisational character of cascade motives.
In his Spanish Suite, Manuel de Falla did more than just reproduce the emotionality of folklore, suspended between deep singing and elemental rhythm – he sublimated it. The musical narration, varying from one individual miniature to the next, draws the audience into a kaleidoscope of colourful images of music and movement, provoking it into active participation. Olé
Manuel de Falla (1876-1946)
Siete canciones populares españolas
Although de Falla spent seven beautiful years of his life in Paris, exposed to the art of Debussy and Ravel, he was a true, Cadiz-born Andalusian. And, as an Andalusian, he almost naturally permeated his music with that hardly definable phenomenon, the duende.
Between his piano concerto nicknamed “Nights in the Gardens of Spain” (1909) or the opera La vida breve, and his song cycle Siete canciones populares españolas and his ballet El amor brujo (1915), he wrote music rooted in his native culture and full of significant expression. Federico Garcia Lorca reminds us that “the great artists of the Spanish South know very well that there is no real emotion in song, dance, or play, without the duende.”
Although this cycle of seven Spanish folksongs brings together melodies and rhythms from the North as well as the South of the country, the duende makes itself felt. Roman Kowal, who devoted a separate essay to these songs, saw in de Falla’s work “the endless cycle of the experience of love,” measured out by the sequence of emotions: “love – happiness – betrayal and – hate,” when one’s lips pronounce the curse of “malaya el amor, malaya!” He saw the seven songs as “a great arch of lament, as an arrested cry, noble, worthy of a Spaniard.”
∙ El paño moruno is an Andalusian solea, song of solitude, jeering and bitter. The songs asks unanswerable questions, the piano gives an impression of a guitar.
∙ Seguidilla murciana. This dance, akin to a bolero, comes from Murcia that borders on Andalusia. Condemnation and curses: “You are like money, going from hand to hand!”
∙ Asturiana is a subdued, lyrical lamento, based on a song from those parts: “the pine wept with me.”
∙ Jota. This dancing song, of Aragonian origin, is on the antipodes of canto hondo. “Farewell! Farewell… until tomorrow.”
∙ Naña. A new moment of lyrical musing: a lullaby weaves an arabesque of a melody over a piano ostinato. It borders on silence: „Sleep, my child, sleep.”
∙ Canción is a song of curse and contempt. “How treacherous are your eyes! Let them be buried!”
∙ Polo is a return to the point of departure, the canto hondo of Andalusia, a solea, a lonely man’s complaint of his fate, more cried out than sung.