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Orchestra presents works of composers inspired by Spain

by Anne Bergstrom

Claude Debussy

Music to bring colour to our winter will be presented by the PEI Symphony at its next concert, Fiesta Espagñola, February 12th at 2:30 pm at the Confederation Centre. It will include music by Spanish composers, along with music by French and Broadway composers inspired by Spain.

PEI Symphony conductor James Mark is looking forward to it. He likes concerts with a theme other than all one composer, “because they shut people out who may not like (for example) Beethoven; it’s hard to believe, but some don’t!” Mark adds, “Some of the programme is quite challenging, especially the Debussy Iberia and the Chabrier España, so it will take some focused work, but it should be an enjoyable and varied concert.”

Manuel de Falla’s one-act ballet El Amor Brujo (Love, the Magician) was first performed in 1915. The story tells of a gypsy girl, Candelas, who is in love with Carmelo, but is tormented by the ghost of a man she had loved. The four movements of the ballet suite include Dance of Terror and the well-known Ritual Fire Dance.

De Falla observed of Claude Debussy that he “created spontaneously such Spanish music as might be envied him—who did not really know Spain—by many others who knew her only too well.” Debussy visited Spain only once, but it was enough to write Iberia (the second of his Images for orchestra). It is in three sections: In the Streets and Byways, The Fragrance of the Night, and The Morning of a Festival Day.

Enrique Granados, the other Spanish composer on the program, was known in his lifetime as an excellent pianist, unknown and ignored as a composer. Most of his works were published posthumously. The Tres Danzas Españolas are: Oriental, Andaluza, and Rondalla. He wrote many Spanish dances for the piano, and these three were orchestrated by Juan Lamote de Grignon. Granados and his wife died at sea in 1916 when the liner Sussex was torpedoed by a German U-boat.

España, Rhapsody for Orchestra, was completed by Emmanuel Chabrier in 1883. He had worked as a clerk for years before finally devoting himself to music, and this work brought him the recognition and popularity he had been seeking. Unlike Debussy’s Iberia, this work is not well-regarded in Spain. As French composer Francis Poulenc observed, “España for Spaniards is nothing but a poor relation of their zarazuelas…a portrait of Spanish music by a brilliant apprentice.” For outsiders it is an impressionistic, colourful portrait of Spain in the 19th century.

Cervantes’ literary character Don Quixote inspired a hugely popular Broadway musical. The suite from Man of La Mancha, with music by Mitch Leigh, arranged by Lang, will include such familiar tunes as Man of La Mancha, Dulcinea, and The Impossible Dream.

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