La Oración del Torero [The Prayer of the Bullfighter], Op. 34

“One afternoon of bullfighting in the Madrid arena…I saw my work. I was in the court of horses. Behind a small door, there was a chapel, filled with incense, where toreadors went right before facing death. It was then there appeared, in front of my eyes, in all its plenitude, this subjectively musical and expressive contrast between the hubbub of the arena, the public that awaited the fiesta, and the devotion of those who, in front of this poor altar, filled with touching poetry, prayed to God to protect their lives.”

Joaquín Turina

Joaquín Turina was regarded as one of Spain’s most prolific 20th century composers, amongst Isaac Albeniz, Manuel De Falla, and Enrique Granados. These modern masters were able to universalize Spanish music and bring it to international attention by rescuing its Andalusian and many other folk elements and roots.

Turina was born on December 9, 1882, in Seville, where he studied music, performed his first concerts as pianist, and premiered his first compositions before traveling to Madrid in 1902 to perfect his piano studies with Jose Tragó at the Conservatorio Superior de Música. Turina gradually became well known in artistic circles, and his friendship with Falla influenced his ideas on the proper character of Spanish music. Like many of his colleagues, Turina was drawn to Paris, the Paris of the turn of the century that was alive with music of Debussy and Ravel, among other French personalities. It was in Paris of 1905 that he studied piano with the Russian composer Moritz Moszkowski and had composition lessons at the Schola Cantorum with Vincent D’Indy, to whom he owed much of the French influence that shaped his musical style. Turina’s friendship with Falla continued, and in 1907, Albéniz joined Falla in advising Turina to seek musical material in Spanish popular music.

Thus, the flavor of La Oración del Torero is thoroughly Spanish but with a strong impressionistic influence, by-product of the composer’s eight-year French stay. Turina composed the single-movement in 1924, ten years after he had returned to Spain. Originally scored for a quartet of lauds (a guitar-like Spanish folk instrument), he produced new versions for string quartet and string orchestra after the international success the touring laud quartet had achieved.

Scintillating atmospheres of “impressionist” harmonies sprinkled with pizzicato and guitar-derived ornaments, as well as melancholic melodies, are some of the quintessential Spanish musical elements that weave into this fantastic work, as the toreador tries to find inner peace before becoming a brave fighter in the drama of the bullring.

Program Notes written by Silvia Santinelli, DMA (co-founder)

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