Colin Davin, guitar (USA) - Sunday, June 5 at 7:30 p.m.


Francisco Tárrega (1852-1909)

    Prelude no. 2 in A minor                       

Joaquín Turina (1882-1949)

    Hommage à Tárrega, op. 69
        - Garrotín
        - Soleares

Hans Haug (1900-1967)

    Three Pieces:
        - Prélude
        - Tiento
        - Toccata        

Federico Mompou (1893-1987)
    Suite Compostelana                                 
        - Preludio
        - Coral
        - Cuna
        - Recitativo
        - Cancion
        - Muiñeira


Francisco Tárrega

    Prelude no. 5 in E major                                   

Manuel de Falla (1876-1946)
    Homenaje “Le Tombeau de Debussy”                      

Federico Moreno Torroba (1891-1982)


Antonio José (1902-1936)

    Sonata for Guitar                                  
        - Allegro moderato
        - Minuetto
        - Pavana triste
        - Final

Colin Davin performs on a Coclea Thucea guitar built by Andrea Tacchi, Italy.


In 711, army general Tariq Ibn-Ziyad and 7000 soldiers landed on the shores of Gibraltar. Burning the boats that brought them, he shouted to his army: “Where can you flee? Behind you is the sea—before you, the enemy!” So began the Moorish occupation of Spain, which lasted until 1491. Its profound influence also touched on musical instruments hitherto unknown in Spain: the lute and guitar. These musical expats thrived in their new environs, the guitar in particular. Even today, the classical guitar is occasionally called the “Spanish guitar,” its Moorish roots all but forgotten in the popular mind. Tradition minded guitar makers, however, still pay homage to the guitar’s remote past. The intricate and beautiful inlaid patterns of the traditional rosette surrounding the soundhole are a nod to Islamic art and the guitar’s Moorish genesis. All the works on this program, save one, were written by Spaniards.

A modest man of modest means, Francisco Tárrega (1852-1909) got off to a harrowing start in life. At the tender age of three, left in the care of a neighbor by his hardworking parents, he was flung headfirst into a ditch after wetting his bed. Horrified witnesses rescued him, but he subsequently contracted an illness that left him sight-impaired for the rest of his life. The vicious caretaker discretely vanished, never to be seen again. Curiously, impaired vision seemed a leitmotiv in Tárrega’s youth. Two of his early music teachers had the nickname “El Ciego” (the blind man), one being completely blind, the other nearly so. Blindness also figures into a revealing anecdote. A teenaged Tárrega, roaming the streets of Madrid, encountered a blind beggar playing the guitar. The beggar wasn’t a good player, and had earned no money for his trouble. Tárrega borrowed the beggar’s guitar and began playing, attracting a throng of admirers with his beautiful performance. He then passed the hat, collected a large sum, and handed it and the guitar to the beggar. He then went home, too penniless to afford a meal for himself. 

At age four, Joaquín Turina Pérez (1882-1949) astonished his middle-class family by skillfully improvising on an accordion given to him by a housemaid. His artistically inclined father, a fine painter himself, recognized his son’s talent and cultivated it. Like many Spanish composers of his day, Turina was at first strongly influenced by French music, and studied composition with Vincent d’Indy. But a 1907 conversation in a Paris café with Isaac Albéniz and Manuel de Falla inspired him to change his tune, and he became one of Spain’s most ardently nationalist composers. Writing of this meeting four years later, Turina declared: “I realized that music should be an art, and not a diversion for the frivolity of women and the dissipation of men. 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.” So perhaps it was inevitable that eventually he would compose for Spain’s most famous guitar virtuoso, Andrés Segovia. His 1932 Hommage à Tárrega is comprised of two brief but vigorous movements. Oddly, it sounds nothing like Tárrega, and its obvious reference to flamenco is surprising, considering Segovia’s studied avoidance of the guitar’s flamenco heritage. But maybe Turina knew his dedicatee well. It’s rumored that Segovia in private could do some pretty mean flamenco playing—indeed, his first guitar lessons were with a flamenco player. 

Swiss composer Hans Haug (1900-1967), though closely associated with Segovia at various times, seldom caught a break in finding a champion for his guitar works. His first work for the guitar was his Concertino for Guitar and Chamber Orchestra, written for the 1950 guitar composition competition at the “Accademia Musicale Chigiana” in Italy. Among the judges was Segovia, and Haug’s Concertino won first prize in its category. Although it was promised that Segovia would premiere it and assist in its publication, he never performed it, and Concertino wasn’t published until three years after Haug’s death. Segovia, however, thought well enough of Haug to record his first solo guitar work, Alba. He also invited Haug in 1961 to teach composition courses at the summer music academy in Santiago de Compostella. There Haug composed his Prélude, Tiento et Toccata. Once again, the work didn’t appeal to Segovia. Yet Segovia carefully preserved the manuscript, as he did with many other works written for him that he didn’t play. That he never performed these works might have boiled down to time—so much music was dedicated to Segovia that perhaps he simply didn’t have time to get to it all. In  a conversation with a fellow guitarist, Segovia seemed almost contrite about this huge backlog of unperformed music: “I did nothing with this, but I have no reason to prevent you from doing something, if you like it, and if you have the time, skill, and patience that I did not find in myself.” Prélude, Tiento et Toccata was eventually published in 2003, resurrected in “The Andrés Segovia Archive,” a collection of unpublished works dedicated to Segovia and edited by the indefatigable Angelo Gilardino.

Trained mainly as a pianist, Frederic Mompou i Dencausse (1893-1987) at first didn’t consider composition as a possible career. But his profound shyness poisoned his attitude toward performing, and he increasingly drifted into composing. Known mainly for short piano works, Mompou became a connoisseur’s choice among Spanish composers. Biographer Wilfrid Meller wrote: “Federico Mompou is almost the only living composer known to me who reveals what I have called the reality of Spain, as opposed to the picture-post-card version.” His 1962 Suite compostelana is in six movements of exquisite delicacy. What Mompou said of himself is also apt to this inward looking music: “I hate bravura music, the big things. I am a simple person. I compose on the moment, when I feel the inspiration. I don’t think of being listened to by thousands of people or just one person. I just compose because I have the inspiration and the need to compose.” 

Manuel de Falla (1876-1946) had a lifelong love for the sound of the guitar. “The harmonic effects produced unconsciously by our guitarists,” he wrote, “are one of the miracles of natural art.” Yet he never was entirely comfortable writing for such a dauntingly idiomatic instrument. Nonetheless, few Spanish works in the guitar’s twentieth century repertoire are more justly admired than his sole composition for the guitar: Homenaje. Written in 1920, it’s an anguished and profound lament on the death of Claude Debussy. The piece is brief—only seventy measures—and if one heeds Falla’s curious suggested tempo (quarter note=60), it clocks in at a brisk two and a half minutes. Understandably, almost no one plays it that fast. One might argue that Homenaje says as much about its creator as it does its subject. Pianist Artur Rubinstein said of Falla: “He looked like an ascetic monk in civilian clothes. Always dressed in black, there was something melancholy about his bald head, his penetrating dark eyes and bushy eyebrows, even his smile was sad.” Characteristically, Igor Stravinsky was more laconic, describing Falla as “modest and withdrawn as an oyster.” 

During his long life, Federico Moreno Torroba (1891-1982) was more than a composer, and for many years served as president of the Sociedad General de Autores de España. In this capacity, one of his duties was to enforce royalty payments, something that didn’t endear him to those who preferred to perform without paying. At one point, he felt he needed to hire bodyguards to protect himself. In spite of this, Torroba maintained his equanimity, and even could tweak the noses of those whose rights he zealously protected: “The composer is a very strange being. He always believes that his work is not sufficiently accepted, rewarded, or promoted.” Torroba was among the first Spanish composers to write for Segovia, beginning with his 1924 Suite Castellana. From there, he contributed enormously to the guitar repertoire, including ten concertos with guitar.Composed in 1928, Burgalesa is a lyrical and evocative miniature.

Antonio José Martínez Palacios (1902-1936) was a young composer of whom much was expected. Maurice Ravel said of him: “He will become the Spanish composer of our century.” But Spain in the 1930s was a dangerous place to be an artist, especially a liberal one. José was loosely associated with the “Generation of '27," an artistic movement that championed the avante- garde. It also didn’t help that José and other scholars founded a liberal magazine in 1935. It was probably for this reason that he was rounded up and executed by a Falangist firing squad. (In a bitter irony, the Falange party’s early manifesto was entitled the "27 Points.") José’s 1933 Sonata para Guitarra is his only major work for guitar. He dedicated it to his friend, guitarist Regino Sainz de la Maza, who gave a partial premiere 1934. But the sonata faded into obscurity until its full premiere by Ricardo Iznaola in a 1981 radio broadcast. Iznaola calls it “perhaps the greatest piece for solo guitar ever written in Spain.”

- Tom Poore

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