Castles of Spain: Music of Federico Moreno Torroba
Castillos de España
5. Manzanares el Real
7. Montemayor (Romance de los Pinos)
12. Alba de Tormes
15. Alcázar de Segovia
At once elegant and strong, the history and culture display the beauty of Spain. It is that culture and nostalgia that is reflected in John Oeth’s latest album, Castles of Spain, a collection of works by Spanish composer Federico Moreno Torroba (1891-1982). Torroba met the legendary guitarist Andres Segovia in 1918, and Segovia convinced him to write for the guitar. Torroba rejected 20th-century avant-garde ideas in favor of tonal concert music that combines folk elements from Spain with the structure of classical music. His skill is shown in his ability to craft beautiful, lyrical melodies in the slow movements in addition to writing faster, rhythmic music that is undeniably Spanish. Sonatina, the album’s namesake Castillos de España, and Suite Castellana are featured on the album.
Sonatina, a three-movement work written in 1924, was the first full guitar work written by Torroba. It was premiered by Segovia in 1925 and recorded in 1927. The first movement Allegretto is a joyous, Spanish dance-like movement in a condensed sonata form. The slow second movement features a soaring melody over resonating strings giving a nostalgic aura, perhaps longing for a lost love. The agile rondo Allegro finished the set with strummed rasqueado chords appearing throughout. With this movement, Torroba transports the listener to the folk dances on the streets of Spain.
Castillos de España is a collection of 14 pieces, each inspired by a castle in Spain. The set reflects not only the magnificence and history of the castles but also the nostalgia for the past. The pieces run the gamut of moods, textures, and tempi. Castillos de España was written and published in two separate volumes. The first volume published in 1970 contains Turégano, Manzanares el Real, Alcañiz, Montemayor, Sigüenza, Alba de Tormes, Torija, and Alcázar de Segovia. Montemayor was added to the set after it had been previously recorded by Segovia in 1961 under the name “Romance de los Pinos.” The second set published in 1978 includes Olite, Redaba, Simancas, Zafra, Javier, and Calatrava. In the later set, Torroba favors more complexity, longer durations, as well as the tremolo technique. Torroba did not give a sequence for the pieces in the set, so they are arranged in an order pleasing to the player.
Suite Castellana finishes the album with Torroba’s further inspiration from his nationalism for Spain. The first movement Fandanguillo is a lively Spanish dance featuring a dramatic introduction, mysterious arpeggios, and a festive middle section. Arada translates to ‘”plowing,” which accurately describes this serene, pastoral music. Torroba employs colorful harmony as well as planing chords reminiscent of the French Impressionist style. The last movement of the suite and the album is the brisk Danza. This was not only the first guitar work written by Torroba, but also the first work written for the guitar by a non-guitarist. Despite Torroba not playing the guitar, his compositional instinct for the instrument was incomparable.
©2018 John Oeth
Mastered by Nathan James |
Album art by Vaughn Oeth