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Anonymus portrait of Luigi Boccherini (1743-1805)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Variaciones y Desavenencias sobre temas de Boccherini / Variations and Variances on Themes by Boccherini

Concerto for Harpsichord and Orchestra

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The coexistence in today's music of elements from the past and current language constitutes, in my opinion, a scarcely studied phenomenon, especially if one takes into account that said coexistence affects works composed -at least, in Spain- for no less than four generations of composers: those that go from the time Falla started the "genre" with Master Peter's puppet show to the present moment, going through Rodrigo, Ernesto and Rodolfo Halffter, and Bernaola and Cristóbal Halffter, to name only a few of the many authors who have felt attracted by this curious and urgent need to relate or derive their music from the classical music from the repertoire of previous centuries, perhaps as a logical continuation of the previous school (that of Albéniz, Granados, Turina...), whose source of inspiration came from popular music.
As far as my music is concerned, not only I have not shunned when composing my own connection with tradition, but this is the basis of a good part of my production. In some works, this presence of the past occurs implicitly, without its "quotation" being something necessary (as in my Fantasy on "Don Giovanni", for four hands piano, or in my Piano Quartet). In others, like the one we are dealing with here, placing my music on the same plane along with the one that serves as a reference is, so to speak, the formal and conceptual essence of the composition; and perhaps it is the form of the "varied theme" which, by its own tradition, best suits these purposes.
Originally, this concerto for harpsichord and orchestra entitled Variations and Variances on Themes by Boccherini had a series of conditioning factors that gradually determined its nature: commissioned by the 5th Autumn Festival of the Community of Madrid to be premiered at his inaugural concert, had to adjust, for budgetary reasons, to a concise instrumental template: in addition to the soloist, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 bassoons, 2 horns and reduced strings. This template was not capriciously imposed by the organization of the Festival, but was the same as the work that was to configure the second part of the concert: a selection of the zarzuela La Clementina, by Luigi Boccherini, whose full version had been premiered in one of the previous editions of the Autumn Festival of Madrid. Nor had Boccherini's music been chosen capriciously, since the concert was part of the commemorative events for the bicentenary of the death of Charles III, whose court Boccherini was the most important figure... So, on one side or another, my work had to relate to all of this.
Boccherini's music, in the form of broad quotes, less broad and simple "winks" or suggestions, sprinkles everywhere the two movements which these Variations and Variances consist of. The first movement recreates in its central part a short fragment (unrecognizable on hearing) from the Quintet in E major.

Main theme of the first movement (Amoroso) of the
Quintet in E major, G. 275, by Luigi Boccherini

Fragment of the middle section of
Variations and Variances on Themes by Boccherini

For its part, the second movement adopts the classic form of "theme with variations". The theme comes from the andante of a Sonata for fortepiano, and is exposed, instrumented, by the orchestra.

First measures of the Andante of the Sonata in F major for pianoforte by Luigi Boccherini

Six variations then follow, in which various materials from the theme are developed, elaborated in such a way that their origin becomes unrecognizable (except for a few "winks", in which an element derived from some other work appears), and that after a brief cadenza of the soloist, give way to a coda, gradually configured on thematic elements based on the Fandango of the Guitar Quintet in D major, G. 448, in which the listener will be able to recognize the initial notes of the famous Minuet of the Quintet in E major, G. 275 and of the rondo of the Cello Concerto in B♭ major, G. 482, all conveniently "cooked" and "served" by means of an almost repetitive structure, with which the work closes.

Main theme of the third movement (Menuetto) of the
Quintet in E major, G. 275, by Luigi Boccherini

Main theme of the third movement (Rondó) of the
Cello Concerto in B♭ major, G. 482, by Luigi Boccherini

Fragment of the Fandango of the Guitar Quintet
in D major, G. 448, by Luigi Boccherini

Fragment of the final coda of Variations and Variances on Themes by Boccherini

Fragment of the Fandango of the Guitar Quintet
in D major, G. 448, by Luigi Boccherini

Last measures of Variations and Variances on Themes by Boccherini

Composed between the months of February and May 1988 and dedicated to my son Luis, this concerto was premiered at the Teatro Real in Madrid on September 27 of that year, with the harpsichordist Pablo Cano as soloist, accompanied by the Madrid Symphony Orchestra under the direction of José Ramón Encinar. It was the last work premiered at the Teatro Real before it closed for conversion into an opera house.

Program of the premiere

With José Ramón Encinar and Pablo Cano, during a rehearsal of
Variations and Variances on Themes by Boccherini
(Madrid, Royal Theater, September 1988)

Advertisement of the concert in Madrid press

First page of the first movement of
Variations and Variances on Themes by Boccherini

First page of the second movement of
Variations and Variances on Themes by Boccherini


Two important Turina works in Alicante and Madrid
By Enrique Franco
(Review published in the newspaper "El País". Madrid, September 29, 1988)

The fifth edition of the Autumn Festival of the Community of Madrid began at the Royal Theater on Tuesday 26th. On stage, the Madrid Symphony Orchestra, conducted by José Ramón Encinar. On the program, a tribute to Carlos III, whose bicentenary of his death is celebrated this year, through music by Boccherini and two commentators: the Italian Berio and the Spanish Turina. Rarely heard works, such as La Clementina, in concert version, or the Variaciones sobre la ritirata, accompanied an absolute premiere of the young Turina: Variations and Variances on Themes by Boccherini, a concerto for harpsichord and orchestra commissioned by the Festival.
Coincidentally, at the closing ceremony of the Alicante Festival, last Sunday, another premiere/commission by the Madrid composer was held, also in the form of a concerto, this time for violin and orchestra: that of Tenerife, and its main conductor, Víctor Pablo Pérez, and the soloist Víctor Martín, gave a clear, expressive and mature version of an excellent page full of interest. In it, many features that we know about Turina appear at the service of a quite diverse idea.
The concerto, in its traditional three-part scheme, unfolds as images, rather than through an organic development, without this preventing a dialectical logic full of expectations, changing and unitary in its rich play of sonorities and structured by from the nature of the solo instrument.
In the Variations and Variancests, a suggestive and almost descriptive title, the Turina invention, always full of freshness and substantial -unconventional- novelties, the transfiguration of the Boccherinian gives rise to a brilliant and highly personal page that from the beginning, with echoes of the great example, the Concerto by Falla, holds the listener's interest.

Evocative serenade
Unlike Berio's work in his Four versions of the Madrid Ritirata, written by Boccherini in 1780 in the form of a quintet in a sort of evocative serenade, Turina has composed in spirit rather than in letter. The Italian superimposes his ideas on those of his eighteenth-century compatriot; the Spanish reinvents from a Boccherinian feeling and only occasionally, as in the form of turns, direct allusions appear, the most obvious being the end of the Fandango (from another quintet), so deliciously treated that we would have liked it to last a little longer. If Rodrigo, in his Gallant Cello Concerto, evokes Boccherini, without quotations, to find his neoclassicist solution, Turina takes the composer from Lucca as a traditional heritage to speak to us in fully current language. Harpsichordist Pablo Cano displayed imagination in the solo part and took part in La Clementina with Enedina Lloris -always splendid-, Paloma Pérez Íñigo, Luis Álvarez and the less fortunate Douglas Nasrawi.
The V Festival opened intelligently and without trumpets with this double tribute to the king of illustration and the Italian master, adopted by Madrid as Domenico Scarlatti was before him, and more entertained by the court than by Carlos III himself.

Boccherini's music, seen from today by José Luis Turina
By Fernando Ruiz Coca
(Review published in the newspaper Ya. Madrid, September 29, 1988)

Luigi Boccherini (Luca, 1743-Madrid, 1805) is one of the most notable Italian musicians closely related to Spain and particularly to Madrid, a city where he lived for long periods of his life working as a cellist and chamber composer for the infante Don Luis and as director of the brief chamber orchestra of the Countess of Benavente Osuna. He was one of the first cellists of his years -those of Carlos III, whose bicentennial is being commemorated- and a prolific composer with a large catalog of works, of which a good part are of a chamber music nature, a genre in which the quintet form acquired with him special relevance.
But perhaps the most attractive thing for us is the permeability of his inspiration before themes, ways and manners of Goya's Madrid, the same thing that had happened to another earlier Italian composer, Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757), also spiritually linked to the capital of Spain. These characteristic definitions make it particularly apt that the opening concert of the Autumn Festival is dedicated to Boccherinian works or to a gloss on them.
Then came the absolute premiere of a work that Madrid-born José Luis Turina (1952), heir -albeit through different aesthetic paths- to the talent of his grandfather Joaquín, has written by commission of the Festival: Variations and Varianes on Themes by Boccherini in a concerto for harpsichord and orchestra.
The young Turina, who in his brilliant curriculum has, among other awards, the Reina Sofía composition prize, and who has recently premiered a very interesting Concerto for violin and orchestra at Alicante's Contemporary Music Festival, glosses and comments on several themes used by Boccherini, developing them timbral and rhythmically in beautiful sonorities and resonances. In the well-crafted page, lasting about twenty-two minutes, it is worth noting how the young Turina and the old Boccherini coexist, each one in its essence: the 18th century viewed from the strictest actuality, assembling the weak voice of the harpsichord, very discreetly amplified, with a chamber orchestra. Pablo Cano was an excellent soloist, so together with Encinar, the teachers and the author, present in the room, he heard repeated applause.

Carlos III concert
By Tomás Marco
(Review published in the newspaper Diario 16. Madrid, September 29, 1988)

The musical opening of the Autumn Festival was dedicated to Carlos III, with works by or about his time, especially Boccherini, with whose Ritirata notturna de Madrid, in the magnificent orchestration of Berio, José Ramón Encinar opened his brilliant direction to the stupendous Symphony of Madrid.
Then, the premiere of the festival commission, Variations and Variances on Themes by Boccerini, by José Luis Turina from Madrid (1952), already one of the greatest figures of our creation.
Two days after the great impact caused at the Alicante Festival by his Concerto for violin and orchestra, comes this work which is a harpsichord concerto.
They should not be compared, since their field is different, but they abound in the splendid skill and ease of writing of the author, skill and ease that have already given us great works, but that, in the long run, must be vigilant so that they do not supplant the ideation.
For the moment, they have given us a new work of great appeal, with a good solo performance by Pablo Cano and a great direction by Encinar.

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(Complete scores and parts without watermarks available at www.asesores-musicales.com )

Score of Variations and Variances on Themes by Boccerini

Score of Harpsichord and reduction of Variations and Variances on Themes by Boccerini