Viva España! This Sunday, March 17 at 1 PM on 90.1, and Monday, March 18 at 7 PM on WRTI HD-2, our Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert broadcast pulsates with the rhythms and evocative harmonies of Spain.
Guest conductor Cristian Măcelaru conducts the Philadelphians in Emmanuel Chabrier’s España, a brief and brilliant orchestral showpiece; Joaquín Rodrigo’s Concierto Andaluz (Andalusian Concerto), played by the Grammy Award-winning Los Angeles Guitar Quartet; Manuel de Falla’s El Amor Brujo (Love, the Magician), the ballet brimming with Andalusian colors and rhythms; and Maurice Ravel’s brilliantly orchestrated Rapsodie espagnole!
Emmanuel Chabrier composed España after a trip to Spain, a country that fascinated the French in the 19th century. In our days of easy travel, of course, it’s hard for us to imagine how a mere journey to a neighboring country could have left such a deep impact on a 19th-century composer! And the instant popularity of the piece that opens this concert by the Philadelphia Orchestra underscores the pivotal role French composers had in creating many of the images of "Spanishness" that have become central to the classical repertoire.
España’s single movement is in the shape of a Spanish dance in three beats, with a rhythm suggesting the strumming of a guitar. It was originally written as a piano piece, and in later years Chabrier made something of a specialty out of it, playing it in cafes, and anywhere else he could find a piano!
It was the Romero Quartet, also known as Los Romeros or “The Royal Family of the Guitar,” the first ensemble of its kind in the world, that gave The Philadelphia Orchestra premiere of Joaquin Rodrigo's Concierto Andaluz.
This work was a commission from the Romeros, and by that time Rodrigo was in his 60s, and a much-revered figure in Spain. Performing it in Sunday's concert are the members of the LAGQ – The Los Angeles Guitar Quartet. William Kanengiser, Scott Tennant, Matthew Greif, and John Dearman have been together for over thirty years, having met while studying guitar with Pepe Romero at USC. This Grammy-winning quartet is extraordinary, and their playing is even reminiscent of the Romeros. This is a performance you won’t want to miss!
There has been a lot of confusion about the many versions of Manuel de Falla's ballet El amor brujo, even down to the translation of the title, which properly is "Love the Magician." Falla composed the work in 1914-1915, using a story by María and Gregorio Martinez-Sierra about a young Gypsy woman, Candelas, who wins back her indifferent lover's affections, not with magic (which she tries), but with the magic of love. Hence, "Love the Magician."
In 1916, Falla arranged a rendition of the work for sextet and small orchestra, and the following year, he made a concert version of the work, also for small orchestra. Later, he fashioned a piano suite from it and finally, a second ballet version (1925) that features expanded orchestration, elimination of the narration, small cuts and plot changes, and a different order to the numbers.
It is this second version of El Amor Brujo that is the most popular today, both in concert halls and recording studios, and the version we’ll hear excerpts from in Sunday’s concert. And although the strong sense of story is not maintained in the orchestral version, the “Apparition” and “Dance of Terror” do effectively convey the appearance of the husband’s spirit, which is then driven away in the “Ritual Fire Dance.” The “Pantomime” portrays the burdened lovers, who finally lock in embrace.
This exciting concert concludes with Ravel’s Rapsodie Espangole, one of many Ravel works inspired by Spain. Let’s not forget that Ravel wasn’t completely French: his father was a descendant of an old Swiss family, and his mother was Basque. Spanish was spoken and sung in his home throughout his childhood, and, when the family moved to Paris, his closest friend among his classmates at the Conservatoire was the Spanish pianist Ricardo Viñes, whose mother was a frequent visitor to the Ravel home. Ravel was so attracted to Spain that he sometimes took to composing in the Spanish manner during the course of a page of pure music when his subject didn’t even demand it!
During intermission, WRTI’s Susan Lewis speaks with both the LAGQ and Maestro Măcelaru backstage at Verizon Hall. This is a concert you won’t want to miss!
That’s Sunday, March 17th, from 1 to 3 PM, on WRTI 90.1, and streaming at wrti.org. Repeat broadcast on Monday, March 18th at 7 PM pn WRTI HD-2.
Rodrigo: Concierto Andaluz
Los Angeles Guitar Quartet
Falla: El Amor Brujo excerpts
Ravel: Rapsodie Espanole
The Philadelphia Orchestra; Cristian Măcelaru, conductor
Gregg Whiteside is producer and host of The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert broadcasts, every Sunday at 1 pm on WRTI 90.1, streaming online at WRTI.org, and on the WRTI mobile app! Listen again on Mondays at 7 pm on WRTI HD-2.