Mompou studied piano at the Conservatorio del Liceo in Barcelona. However, his shy nature did not predestine him to be a virtuoso performer, and he decided to become a composer. With a letter of recommendation from Granados, he went to Paris to study harmony and piano, where he became influenced by the French impressionism of Debussy and Satie. At the outbreak of the First World War he returned to Barcelona for a period of seven years and began composing his earliest works for piano. In 1921 he moved back to Paris, living there until his return to Barcelona in 1941, where he remained until his death in June 1987.
Cançons i danses (Songs and dances, composed between 1921 and 1962) is a collection of Catalan popular pieces harmonized by Mompou for solo piano. His intention was to harmonize some of the more beautiful popular themes and melodies of the Catalan musical tradition, whilst adding his own personal and original language. Each of the 12 pieces (13 including the one composed for solo guitar in 1972) uses the combination of a song and the air of a dance, creating a form that contrasts a slow, melodic and evocative part, with a rhythmical and vital one.
Song and Dance n.7 (composed in 1944) is inspired by the traditional songs Muntanyes regalades and L’hereu Riera, while n.8 (composed in 1946) brings together the song El testament d’Amèlia with the dance La Fil.ladora.
On the arrangements from the original piano works, I have included the original lyrics of the songs he used for his compositions, keeping as much as possible his harmonizations, and bringing up the flavor of Traditional music.
Cantar del Alma (Song of the soul, composed in 1951) is based in the wonderful poem La Fonte by San Juan de la Cruz, the mystic poet who Mompou loved to read, and whose verses would inspire years later the masterpiece of Mompou, Música Callada.
In his original form, following a very peculiar structure, Cantar del Alma presents a recitative voice (inspired by Gregorian chant) alternating with a chorus played with solo piano, voice and instrument never matching in any occasion.
Although the arrangement involves the full quintet playing, it keeps in essence the original structure of the piece, alternating always between voice and instrumental interludes.
Traditional Song: La presó de lleida
This traditional song has its origins in the late medieval secular music. Catalonia and adjacent areas were the home for several troubadours, the itinerant composer-musicians whose influence and aesthetics were decisive on the formation of this and many other well-known catalan traditional songs – the same traditional songs that were the inspiration for Mompou to compose his cycle Songs and Dances.
The dramatism of its lyrics, and its sad and melancholy melody in minor mode, made of La presó de Lleida one of the most moving songs of its kind.
Nowadays exist many different versions of this traditional song, in many different instrumentations and musical genres.
This particular arrangement for voice and guitar was composed in 2014 for the catalan celebration of St George’s Day in London.
Eduard Toldrà: Canticel
Eduard Toldrà Soler (1895 – 1962) was a catalan violinist, conductor and composer who played an important role in the culture of the city of Barcelona. After a few successful years as the founder and leader of a string quartet called Renaixement, in 1921 he embraced a career as composer, only interrupted during the years of the Spanish Civil War. Some of his major works from this period include Vistes al mar (1921), Sis sonets (1922 – for violin and piano), El giravolt de maig (1928 – opera), La rosa als llavis (1936 – a collection of songs with orchestra), and an extensive collection of lieder.
In 1941 he founded the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra at the Palau de la Música Catalana, and from that moment until his last day, he dedicated himself entirely to conduct and lead the first professional orchestra of Catalonia.
Eduard Toldrà became the composer who best translated into music the Mediterraneanism, vigorous conciseness and luminosity values from the aesthetics of the Noucentisme, a Catalan cultural movement originated in the early 20th century, and whose main representative were the grammarian Pompeu Fabra, the politician Enric Prat de la Riba and the writer Josep Carner.
Precisely by Josep Carner is the poem that inspired Toldrà to write in 1923 Canticel, one of his most well-known songs for voice and piano. As the lyrics written by Carner portray maritime scenes (the poem starts with the words “For a sail in the blue sea…”), Toldrà created for this song an ambiance reminiscent of the Barcarole, with an affable, meditative and peaceful rhythm. With its moderated tempo, the calmed velocity evokes the motion of the ships moving with the waves.
This arrangement for voice, violin and guitar was especially written for this recording, and creates a clear contrast with La presó de Lleida; contrast especially present in the treatment that Laura Ruhí-Vidal gives to her beautiful voice in each of the two songs.
Feliu Gasull: Suite for cello and guitar, Lullaby
Feliu Gasull (1959-), one of Spain’s leading composers and guitarists, lives in Barcelona, where he holds a chair in composition at the Escola Superior de Música de Catalunya. Gasull has developed a language in which he combines the complexities of contemporary music and variety of Spanish folk idioms, including flamenco. Many of his chamber and symphonic works include the guitar either as a solo instrument or as part of the ensemble. Feliu’s idiomatic style incorporates techniques clearly derived from Flamenco, such as the rasgueado or the concept of compàs (strong sense of pulse), however the complexity of his writing situates his works at the avant-garde of the guitar repertoire.
Bosc and Fe (Woods and Faith) are two of the six movements from Feliu Gasull’s Suite for cello and guitar. This Suite comes from his previous work 6 cancons per bariton i guitarra (1989) a collection of songs which lyrics are poetry from the catalan writer Gabriel Ferrater (particularly from his work Les dones i els dies).
Bosc was recorded performing its original score. In Fe, the lyrics that inspired Feliu Gasull’s writing have been added to the original score through Violeta’s voice.
Lullaby (1999), original for guitar quartet and mezzo-soprano, is a wonderful song which lyrics comes from a poem under the same name by the catalan writer Josep Palau i Fabra. This version for two voices, violin, cello and two guitars is one of the most challenging arrangements of the cd.
Chano Domínguez: Pa mi niño
Chano Domínguez is one of the most celebrated jazz musicians recruited by flamenco. Chano has achieved an unusual integration between rhythms and languages of jazz and flamenco: he plays tangos, alegrías, bulerías, soleás, etc. on his piano within a traditional jazz structure. Nowadays Chano Domínguez is one of the most demanded musicians on the entire Spanish music scene. He has worked with an extensive range of artists including Enrique Morente, Paco de Lucía, Joe Lovano, Herbie Hancock, Jack DeJohnette and Wynton Marsalis with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra.
Pa mi niño (To my child) is a tune dedicated to his son Pablo Domínguez (our percussionist and guitarist), first released in the album Chano (1993), with Carles Benavent (electric bass), Guillermo McGill (percussion and drums), Javier Colina (bass) and Jorge Pardo (flute). The original song is formed by two parts: the first part presents a sweet tune that keeps adapting through different key changes, while the second part it’s a development of the first, and it’s played with a stronger groove and a much more improvised feeling.
This arrangement includes only the first part of the song, respecting the different melodies created by Chano in his original tune, but also including new voices and played with a slightly different feel.
Maria Camahort: Poema de la soleá & La cogida y la muerte
These two compositions with poetry by Federico García-Lorca were created for a collaboration with flamenco singer Lina León. I met Lina for the first time years ago in Barcelona, during a project held at Escola Superior de Música de Catalunya, and we had the opportunity to work again together in London in different occasions. Lina also enjoys a succesful career as a flutist, and her strong musicianship allows her to collaborate either in many different projects related with classical music, flamenco, Cuban music, jazz, etc.
I was asked to write these two songs with poetry by Lorca in a style that could recreate in some way flamenco music. This represented a great challenge for me, as I deeply respect this music. To collaborate with Lina gave me plenty of ideas to develop, until I managed to compose something that I was happy with. The rest was just a matter of recreating musically the powerful images that Lorca describes in two of his most well-known poems: La Cogida y la muerte and Poema de la Soleá – ¡Ay!.
In this recording the voice is Violeta García (our violinist and singer). Violeta and I have worked during years on a different project about Spanish traditional songs (the genre of Coplas), and her way of finding relationships between text and music has been always a strong influence for me. Violeta’s voice gave to the compositions a different tone, more intimate on one side although very rich in contrasts and details.
Manuel De Falla: Homenaje pour le tombeau De Debussy
Manuel de Falla (1876 –1946), began to be interested about traditional Spanish music when he became a student of Felipe Pedrell in late 1890s (Felipe Pedrell, musicologist and composer, was the man who inspired Granados, Albéniz, Falla and other composers to take their clue from native Spanish music). The influence of traditional music, particularly Andalusian flamenco, can be strongly felt in many of his works.
A few years after meeting Felipe Pedrell, De Falla moved to Paris, where he met a number of composers who had also an important influence on his style, including the impressionists Maurice Ravel, Claude Debussy and Paul Dukas.
Ommagio, also called Homenaje pour le tombeau de Debussy, is De Falla’s only composition for solo guitar. This work was published for the first time in the music supplement to the special issue of La Revue Musicale dedicated to the memory of Claude Debussy, in which Falla wrote about the influence of Spanish music on this composer. Falla continued his homage with this three-minute work in the rhythm of a slow habanera. At the end of the composition, Falla briefly quotes Debussy’s piano work Soirée dans Grenade, honoring Debussy directly and also the city of Granada, which is where Falla composed the piece.
Enrique Granados: Danza Española n.2 – Oriental
Enrique Granados (1867 – 1916) was a Spanish pianist and composer. Influenced by the work of the musicologist Felipe Pedrell, Granados’ music is in a uniquely Spanish style and, as such, representative of musical nationalism.
Enrique Granados studied the piano and composition in Barcelona with Felipe Pedrell, and in 1887 moved to Paris to continue his studies with Bériot. Returning to Barcelona in 1889, he established himself as a pianist of the front rank, and his 12 Danzas españolas achieved great popularity. He won popularity in Spain with his contributions to the zarzuela, a Spanish lyric-dramatic genre that alternates between spoken and sung scenes. Granados also wrote piano music, chamber music, songs, and an orchestral tone poem based on Dante’s Divine Comedy. He wrote extensively and fluently for the piano, in a somewhat diffuse, Romantic style. His masterpieces, the Goyescas (1911–13), are reflections on Francisco de Goya’s paintings and tapestries. They were adapted into an opera that received its premiere in New York City in 1916. Returning home from this performance, Granados drowned when a German submarine torpedoed his ship, the Sussex.
Probably one of Granados’ most popular works, 12 Danzas españolas para piano (1980) is a collection of pieces in a dance form that take inspiration from different Spanish regions and traditions. Granados melodies don’t quote folk melodies, as it’s the case of Mompou’s Songs and Dances. However, in their rhythms and scale-types, many of these dances exude a Spanish fragance, sometime of an Arabesque kind suggestive of Andalusia, as it’s the case of Danza Oriental.
Many of Enrique Granados’ piano compositions have been transcribed for the classical guitar, becoming very popular within the guitar repertoire; examples are Dedicatoria, Danza n.5, Goyescas, Tonadillas en estilo antiguo,… and Danza Oriental.
This particular arrangement of Danza Oriental for violin and guitar comes from an earlier version for flute that was written for a duo project with wonderful flutist Lucy Driver.
Traditional: Spanish popular songs – Transcribed and collected by Federico García-Lorca
Federico García-Lorca, is one of Spain’s most deeply appreciated and highly revered poets and dramatists of all times. As well as his friend Manuel de Falla, Lorca had a great passion for traditional Spanish music, especially for flamenco. One of his best poems, Cante Jondo, is a personal tribute from the writer to this particular form of music.
Lorca was a pianist himself, and he collected and harmonized a cycle of Spanish Traditional Songs, cycle that he also recorded accompanying flamenco singer La Argentinita. Nowadays this collection of songs forms part of the Spanish classical repertoire for voice and piano, at the same time that has been recreated in many different ways by talented flamenco musicians, as it’s the case of Carmen Linares o Paco de Lucía.
The last songs of the CD, Las Morillas de Jaén, and El Café de Chinitas, are included in this collection.
Las Morillas de Jaén comes originally from a Spanish manuscript of Renaissance Music known as Cancionero de Palacio. The works in it were compiled during a time span of around 40 years, from the mid-1470s until the beginning of the 16th century, and it constitutes an anthology of the polyphonic music performed during the reign of the Catholic Monarchs. The themes found in the songs are the most varied: romantic, religious, festive, pastoral, burlesque, historical… accompanied by music of all styles: from popular folk songs to elaborate compositions. Las morillas de Jaén is a zéjel or zaŷal, a form originated from a mixture between the traditional poetry from the andalusian pre-arabic period, and the poetry brought by the Arabs to Al-Andalus.
This arrangement of Las morillas de Jaén is inspired by the recordings recreating the song as included at Cancionero de Palacio and by the version Lorca recorded with the flamenco singer La Argentinita.
El Café de Chinitas is a popular song in the form of a Petenera (a flamenco palo, or type of song). The song tells a story from the nineteenth century, a fight between a famous bullfighter called Francisco Montes Cádiz (known as Paquiro) and a Germano (a low-class criminal) in the prestigious Tablao flamenco El Café de Chinitas, in the city of Málaga.
This arrangement of “El Café de Chinitas” is inspired by the version recorded by Lorca, and the orchestration by Feliu Gasull created for a project with the Chamber Orchestra of Teatre Lliure (Barcelona) and flamenco singer Ginesa Ortega.
(Maria Camahort, 2015)