Join us for a night in Madrid! Luigi Boccherini made his home in Spain, infusing his work with the sounds of Spanish and gypsy folk music. The Iberian flavour can be heard in Boccherini’s wild Fandango, G.341. And his La musica notturna delle strade di Madrid, G.324, evokes the hustle and bustle of Spain’s capital, recalling the sound of church bells, guitars, street singers and the night watchmen.
Featuring an appearance by Esmeralda Enrique and Paloma Cortés of the Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company. Olé!
Avison, Concerto no. 6 in D Major, after Domenico Scarlatti
Facco, Concerto for violin no. 7 in C Major,
from Concerti a cinque “Pensieri Adriarmonici”
Brunetti, Symphony no. 26 in B-flat Major
Boccherini, La musica notturna delle strade di Madrid, G.324
Boccherini, Concerto grande a più stromenti obbligati,G.491
Boccherini, Introduction & Fandango in D, G.341
A Night in Madrid
During the eighteenth century, Spain’s cultural, political, and familial ties with Italy increased, as those with France lessened. Under the rule of Bourbon kings, it also emerged from its isolation and began to be exposed to the ideals of the Enlightenment. A turning point may have been the marriage of King Philip V (a grandson of Louis XIV) to Elizabeth Farnese of Parma in 1714. Elizabeth was an avid lover of music and during her lifetime a steady stream of Italian musicians settled in Spain, notably the famous opera singer Farinelli and Domenico Scarlatti.
Scarlatti was born in Naples, where his famous father Alessandro held court as one of the great opera composers of his time. The son proved to be equally talented and distinguished himself as a keyboard player and composer. In Rome he participated in a friendly contest with Handel, who was considered the superior organist while Scarlatti ruled on the harpsichord. After successful stints in Venice and elsewhere, he was appointed mestre de capela to João V in Lisbon in 1719. Among his many activities there he taught harpsichord to the young Infanta Barbara, who a decade later would become queen of Spain. She brought Scarlatti with her to Madrid, where he spent the rest of his life. It is for Barbara that Scarlatti composed the Essercizi per gravicembalo (1738), one of the most popular and influential collections of keyboard music ever published.
Far to the north, in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, Charles Avison was writing the most important concertos by an Englishman in the eighteenth century. His works were inspired by the original concerti grossi of Geminiani as well as the latter’s successful expansion of Corelli’s sonatas into concertos. Scarlatti’s Essercizi and other keyboard works had been published and were widely known in England. Avison created twelve concerti grossi using Scarlatti’s pieces as a basis. These concertos, “Done from 2 Books of Lessons for the Harpsichord Composed by Sig. Domenico Scarlatti,” were published in 1743. The first movement of Concerto no. 6 in D Major has not been identified as being by Scarlatti; more likely it is an artful introduction provided by Avison himself, a liberty one can readily accept — along with many others taken — given its quality. The remaining three movements are settings of Scarlatti’s keyboard sonatas K29, K89c, and K21.
Another early participant in this Italian musical invasion was the violinist and opera composer Giacomo Facco, who was born near Parma. Little is known about his early years before entering the service of the Marquis de los Balbases, Carlo Filippo Spinola, a Spanish aristocrat active in the War of Spanish Succession. Facco followed Spinola to his posts in Naples and Sicily — composing cantatas, operas, and concertos — and finally accompanying him to Madrid, where he received a major operatic commission in 1720. Here he was also appointed as a violinist at the royal court and instructed Philip’s three sons (including the Infantes Carlos, the future Charles III, and Luis, future patron of Boccherini). Facco’s opera Júpiter y Amphitrión is the earliest opera in the Spanish language. His music was featured in the lavish wedding ceremonies of Barbara of Portugal and Ferdinand of Spain in 1729. Facco’s operatic career was eclipsed, however, by the arrival in Spain of Farinelli in 1737. He remained a violinist in the court chapel, however, and his son Paolo, also a violinist, probably encountered Brunetti and Boccherini.
Facco’s set of twelve violin concertos, op. 1, entitled Pensieri Adriarmonici, was dedicated to Spinola and published in 1716 and 1718 by Roger of Amsterdam. Just a few years earlier, Roger had published Vivaldi’s monumental L’Estro armonico, op. 3, a clear influence on this work.
The violinist Gaetano Brunetti (not to be confused with Antonio Brunetti, an associate of Mozart in Salzburg) was born in Fano, near Pesaro, but traveled to Spain at the age of eighteen, having studied with Nardini in Livorno. Appointed by Charles III, he started in the back of the section at the royal chapel but gradually rose to the front ranks. He also directed musical activities in Aranjuez and taught violin to Charles’ son, the Prince of Asturias (the future Charles IV). This would have an important impact on the musical life culture of Spain, since Charles IV, as an amateur violinist, would significantly revive the musical environment at court during his reign (1788–1808). Besides serving the king, Brunetti furnished music for the Infante Don Luis, Boccherini’s chief patron. Thus the music of Boccherini and Brunetti (as well as the universally popular Haydn) often appeared side by side in concerts at court. Brunetti published some of his chamber works in Paris, but nothing like the prodigious output of Boccherini, and so he never enjoyed the widespread fame of the latter.
Only in recent times has Brunetti’s music begun to emerge from obscurity. His symphonies would seem to merit much more attention. If the Symphony no. 26 from 1782 is any indication, Brunetti was a composer of great skill and imagination possessed with originality and an awareness of the diverse stylistic trends from Vienna, Mannheim, and Paris. This work fully exploits the resources of the orchestra and makes a point of featuring the wind instruments. The third movement, Quintetto, charmingly contrasts the string and wind groups.
A chance encounter may have instigated Luigi Boccherini's long association with Spain. As a virtuoso cellist travelling from his native Lucca, he first set his sights on Paris, which was then the music publishing centre of the world, and then possibly London, where fortunes could be made. In Paris he was already known for his published trios and quartets, and he performed at the Concert Spirituel. At the invitation of the Spanish ambassador, Boccherini and his violinist partner Manfredi came first to Aranjuez in 1768 to perform in the opera company there. Besides playing cello, he contributed arias and overtures to the various productions and travelled among the different estates, one time dining with Casanova. The circumstances of Boccherini’s career, however, led him to concentrate on chamber music. Eventually appointed Compositore e virtuoso di camera to the Infante Don Luis of Spain (brother of King Charles III), he spent many years in various semi-rural Spanish palaces, isolated from the major musical capitals where opera and ballet thrived, because his patron’s marriage to a commoner prevented his appearance at court in Madrid. Since this virtuoso cellist-composer co-existed in Don Luis’ entourage with an excellent string quartet, the combination of quartet plus second cello was inevitable and would become Boccherini’s trademark combination. Although Boccherini is most strongly identified with the quintet, he has also more recently been credited, along with Haydn, as the “co-creator” of the string quartet. Among his more than 120 quintets are several which reflect the musical character of his adopted Spain, one of which he doubted would please his publisher Pleyel:
In Op. 30…you will find one that has the title “The Night Music of the Streets of Madrid.” This piece is absolutely useless and even ridiculous outside Spain because the audience cannot hope to understand its significance nor the performers to play it as it should be played. For this reason I am sending in its place an extra symphony.
The manuscript of Boccherini’s La Musica Notturna della Strade di Madrid bears these instructions:
This quintettino describes the music that one hears, at night, in the streets of Madrid, beginning with the bell of the Ave Maria and ending with a military retreat. All that is not prescribed by the rigour of counterpoint must aim at the rendering of the truth that one has tried to represent.
Ave Maria of the parishes – Ave Maria of the quarters in the town.
Then Minuet of the Beggars. The violoncellists will hold their instrument across their knees and, using the nails of their hand, will imitate the sound of a guitar.
After a brief pause, the Minuet is repeated, and then it leads on into the Rosary, but without a strict time beaten.
Passacaglia of the street-singers. [“Los Manolos,” i.e. low-class Madrilenos. Also a nice play on words: the bass pattern is a passacaglia, while “Passe calle” — the street — was a local term for a type of street singing].
Retreat of Madrid with Variations. One will imagine that the retreat begins to be heard in the distance, so that it must be played piano, so softly that it is scarcely audible; the indications crescendo and marcando must be strictly observed.
The composer apparently overcame his original misgivings, at least concerning the final movement. He subsequently arranged the Ritirata variations for quintets featuring either guitar or fortepiano. Throughout Boccherini’s oeuvre there are examples of such adaptations that reflect the performance options at the moment. In this spirit, we expand the original quintet forces to our full string ensemble where appropriate in this work and the Fandago, and proudly feature the irresistible adornment of dancers. In today’s world, the sight of buskers, beggars and other forms of street life may be commonplace, but this does not diminish the feeling of nostalgia evoked by Boccherini in this beguiling tableau of bygone Madrid.
The Concerto grande a più stromenti obbligati is one of Boccherini’s earliest orchestral compositions and his only essay in this form. It was written in 1769 for an accademie taking place during Lent in Madrid with Boccherini himself on the cello part. Freshly arrived from Paris, where the symphonie concertante was all the rage, Boccherini chose to publish this hybrid of symphony and concerto first instead of his solo cello concertos. As a fashionable genre, this type of sinfonia was a wise choice for the publishing market. But also as a newcomer to the country and to the ensemble, Boccherini was wise to provide numerous solos for his colleagues. Although often listed as a sinfonia concertante for two violins and cello, many other solo instruments are featured: interesting pairings among the instruments reflect Boccherini’s chamber music sensibility, such as cello and oboe, or principal violin with cello, but with the latter playing above the former. In this as well as in subsequent symphonies, Boccherini drew on a variety of imaginative orchestral colours. The Allegro finale suggests a gracious minuet without strictly adhering to its form.
Boccherini was no stranger to the world of dance. His brother Giovanne Gastone started out as a ballet dancer before developing his talents as a poet, eventually working on librettos for the likes of Salieri and Haydn. His sisters Anna Matilde and Maria Ester worked with Gluck at the Burgtheater in Vienna, the latter going on to appear as prima ballerina in Venice, Bologna, and Florence. The fandango may have had its roots in the New World, imported to Europe by way of the Iberian peninsula. Traditionally a sensual couple’s dance in triple meter and related to flamenco, it reached a peak of popularity in Spain in the eighteenth century, but was also known in other parts of Europe and the Americas. Harmonically, it is simpler than the folia, with a bass that mostly alternates between tonic and dominant and a characteristic descent at the end of phrases (in D Minor: D-C-B-flat-A.) As a sign of its enduring appeal, consider the fact that Ravel’s Bolero was originally titled Fandango.
A musical form that features a repeated bass pattern over which variations are spun would seem a logical medium for Boccherini; he specialized in instrumental virtuosity, had a highly developed sense of texture and colour, and was less concerned with formal constraints than the Viennese composers. Boccherini’s fandango setting was published in 1788 as a Quintet, op. 40, no. 2, with an introduction and a concluding minuet. (To a genteel audience, the more conventional minuet may have been intended as a cooling-off piece, an opportunity for lace handkerchiefs to dab aristocratic brows.) He described it as a “Quintettino that imitates the fandango that Padre Basilio played on his guitar for his royal highness Don Luis.” Some years later, Boccherini re-arranged his Fandango for guitar and string quartet as the climax of a multi-movement work, probably the better-known version today.
In our performance, the Fandango is preceded by a brief introduction that is not so much Spanish in flavor but quintessential Boccherini: a quiet, ethereal atmosphere of static harmony, carefully voiced strings — sotto voce and soave — building anticipation as an imagined curtain opens. As the dance develops, Boccherini builds in an opportunity for one of the cellists to play the castanets, an arrangement necessary only in the absence of dancers!
© Allen Whear January 2013
A NOTE FROM THE DANCERS
Classical Spanish Dance and Boccherini
The subtle drama of Boccherini’s Spanish works echoes with the majesty and elegance of eighteenth-century court life in Madrid. His sweeping compositions, with long and repetitive phrasing, suits the expansive, balletic movements of Spanish classical dance. The lyrical melodies and flowing passages suggest spacious and graceful choreography. Spanish classical dance is beginning to enjoy a long-awaited renaissance. Its deceptive technical demands, balletic style and extreme instrumental facility of castanet accompaniment, requires intensive study and training. A good Spanish classical artist must be an accomplished dancer and a nuanced musician.
The challenge of setting these works, as with any Spanish classical dance, is twofold. The choreography must focus and highlight the baroque style of dance, and the dancer must then develop and integrate a seamless musical score for the castanets. The deception lies in how easy it seems to dance and play simultaneously, while often incorporating the percussive sounds of footwork to punctuate the score, adding dynamics and drama. As dancers, the musical score of castanets and feet is created as we dance, listening closely to the music and experimenting in an organic way to create a harmonious whole. This is the slow, thoughtful, mysterious and unexpected thrill of creation. The chance to choreograph these new works of Spanish classical dance is a wonderful opportunity, and we are so excited to be involved with Tafelmusik as they promote the unique beauty of Spanish classical music and dance.
-Esmeralda Enrique and Paloma Cortés