Soloists: Leticia Moreno (violin)
The Mariinsky Orchestra
Conductor: Alexis Soriano
Ruperto Chapí y Lorente
Prelude from the opera El tambor
Prelude from the opera La revoltosa
Violin Concerto No 2 in G Minor, Op. 63
David Del Puerto
Symphony No 4 (world premiere)
A graduate of the Conservatorio in Madrid, Ruperto Chapí y Lorente (1851–1909) composed over a hundred operas and zarzuelas (a music and drama genre that combines vocal numbers, spoken dialogues and dances). Zarzuelas, a genre somewhere between serious music and easy-listening, are still incredibly popular in Spanish-speaking countries. It would appear that Chapí’s symphonies, symphonic poems and string quartets might have had greater chances of expanding beyond the Spanish-speaking world, though this was not to be. But his preludes to zarzuelas are gradually entering the concert repertoire. As a rule, these are short “potpourri compositions” that traditionally begin with fanfares.
The plot of the one-act zarzuela El tambor de granaderos (1894) takes place at the time when Joseph Bonaparte was the King of Spain. The story, however, is lyrical rather than poetic. La revoltosa (1897), a one-act zarzuela from contemporary life, is also about love and only about love, with no hints of any kind whatsoever at political struggles.
Chapí lived and worked in Madrid at a time when Bizet was composing Carmen and Rimsky-Korsakov was writing his Capriccio espagnol. His music did not win him as much fame, although it is indeed truly Spanish music of its time.
Sergei Prokofiev wrote his Second Violin Concerto for the French violinist Robert Soetens, who lived to the age of one hundred years, during eighty-eight of which he performed as a concert musician. In his Autobiography, Prokofiev recalled that “The concerto was composed in very different countries, thus reflecting my own nomadic life as a concert musician: the main part of the first movement was written in Paris, the first theme of the second movement in Voronezh and the instrumentation completed in Baku, the first performance taking place in December 1935 in Madrid.” Together, the composer and the violinist visited a great many countries, among them Portugal, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.
Prokofiev’s nomadic life had no effect on the integrity of the musical composition. The concerto was composed in the neoclassical style, then new for Prokofiev, with clearly expressed intentions for simplicity and clarity. The orchestration is transparent – ascetic, even: the first movement opens with the melody of the violin to no accompaniment whatsoever. The romantic second movement is reminiscent of Prokofiev’s magical ballet adagios. The virtuoso finale stands apart for its energy and humour: in the coda, the violin solo is accompanied by... double basses and a bass drum. At the end of this movement, Prokofiev introduced the castanets – in all probability in contemplation of the impending premiere in Madrid.
Composer and guitarist David del Puerto was born in Madrid in 1964. He frequently performs, including with his own ensemble rejoice! and teaches composition and music theory; his music has been awarded several international prizes. To date, del Puerto has composed two operas, a ballet, numerous solo, chamber and choral works, electronic music and three symphonies – Boreas (2004), Nusantara (Indonesia) for piano and orchestra (2005) and the symphony for narrator, soprano, mezzo-soprano and orchestra En la melancolía de tu recuerdo, Soria (to verse by Antonio Machado, 2007).
Of his new work the composer himself says that “I completed my Fourth Symphony in 2012. It is intended for a relatively small orchestra: ten woodwind instruments (including two saxophones), three French horns, marimba, vibraphone and other percussion and string instruments and the piano, which plays a major role. The score was inspired by my opera Vacaguaré (to a libretto by the Spanish novelist and poet Fernando Delgado). I took material from the opera and developed it in such a way that it became an independent musical form with no need for literary explanations. But I did want to retain a link with the opera, and so as an epigraph the symphony has the lines from the libretto “Donde se baña el viento” (“Where the wind bathes”). Although there are many sections to the work that differ in tempo and character there are no separate movements. The entire score is like an uninterrupted though changing landscape. The symphony is dedicated to Alexis Soriano.”
It could be added that the plot of del Puerto’s opera unfolds on the Canary Islands during the Spanish conquest. “Vacaguaré” is one of few surviving words of the language of the Guanches, the aboriginal inhabitants of the Canary Islands, which means “I prefer to die”.