Although few Spanish composers have managed to make a name for themselves in classical music, the fact remains that Spanish folklore has always been a great source of inspiration for all eras. In the Baroque era, we of course think of the Chaconne, which was originally a popular Hispanic dance and which has repeatedly served as a model for many great Italian and French masters. Among the moderns, we also think of Debussy, father of the Iberia suite (which I recommend you listen to, if only to enjoy a piece punctuated by tambourines and castanets!). And among the romantics? The obvious reference is obviously Bizet’s Carmen, an opera whose presentation has already been very well done on this blog.
But did you know that Bizet’s famous opera also somewhat overshadowed the work of one of our compatriots by the name of Edouard Lalo, who also surfed the wave of Spanish folklore to compose – I give it a thousand – the Spanish Symphony?
A work unknown to the general public today, the Spanish Symphony nevertheless demonstrates real musical erudition, and Lalo demonstrates with this piece his mastery of orchestration, while giving voice to his favorite instrument: the violin. Dedicated to the virtuoso Pablo de Sarasate, it was premiered in February 1875, barely a month before Carmen. It is therefore understandable why the enormous success met by Bizet will have, somewhat, got the better of this work.
Make no mistake about the title: the piece, made up of 5 movements, has a “Symphony” only in name. Rather, it is a violin concerto that takes up the dynamic themes and frenzied rhythms of Spanish dances, very popular at the time. For the record, Tchaikovsky had the idea for his famous Violin Concerto in D Major after hearing a performance of the Spanish Symphony. Surprising inspiration to go and draw this one from a colleague…
I put you below the version of Anne-Sophie Mutter, who has the gift of putting a lot of intensity in her phrases. The orchestra is conducted by Seiji Ozawa. You can listen to the 5 movements at your leisure, I will just admit that I have a soft spot for movement III “Intermezzo Allegretto non troppo”.
You will find below this movement III and just after, the link to the other movements.
NB: The last movement is not by Mutter, but still listenable.
I would advise you, if you have the opportunity to get your hands on it, to also listen to Perlman’s version, for me the most accomplished.
¡ Pasarlo Good!