Presentación del estreno del "Cuarteto con piano" / Presentation of the premiere of "Piano Quartet"
Full text read at the Juan March Foundation in Madrid, on February 27th, 1991
Ladies and gentlemen:
I would not like to start the presentation of my work Piano Quartet, the nucleus of this act, without first thanking this institution for the deference of having honored me with one of its usual commissions, as well as Antonio Gallego for his kind and courteous words.
Along with the always interesting monographic programs dedicated to a same composer, the Juan March Foundation also regularly offers us concert series dedicated to a specific instrument, such as the recent "Música para la Viola", or a genre or a form musical, such as the one that in April 1990 was dedicated to "Chamber Songs Romances". I do not remember now if any of the cycles referred to had the epigraph "The Piano Quartet", and if it has not been so, I suggest the idea from here to those responsible for the musical programming of this institution. In any case, the commission that this Foundation saw fit to do with me last year for today's event was reflected in the reality of the work that we will hear later, influencing the choice of the instrumental "little habitual" ensemble the type of ense to which the concerts that are celebrated in this house have so much attachment.
The instrumental combination traditionally known as "piano quartet" (that is: a string trio composed of a violin, a viola and a cello, to which an "obbligato" piano is added) is so recent in the history of music as scarce is the production that musicians currently dispose of for its performance. A quick review of his brief and concise history will not hurt, which also serves as an introduction to the analysis (or, if you like, an illustrated commentary) that I will later make of the work that we are going to listen to.
Tracing through the catalogs of composers of the past, we cannot go back beyond 1785 to find the pioneering work of the genre: the Quartet in G minor, K. 478, composed by Mozart when the composer was 29 years old. In earlier works with a similar template, the keyboard instrument is still subject to the needs imposed by the basso continuo. On the contrary, this work by Mozart is the first in which the piano part is totally written by the composer, unlike the basso continuo, in which it was the performer himself who was in charge of completing it. This quartet, a true gem, is followed by the Quartet in E flat major, K. 493, composed in 1786, a few months after the previous one was finished. Beethoven, for his part, does not pay special attention to this instrumental combination, writing for it only an arrangement of a youthful quintet for piano and wind instruments and a pair of Preludes and fugues in F major and C major, respectively. These works date from 1794, that is, they are only eight years more recent than those composed by Mozart, and are practically ignored today.
Later, we will have to wait until 1822, when Félix Mendelssohn composed the first of his three piano quartets, in C minor, and which constitutes his opus 1. The remaining two, opus 2 and 3 respectively, date from 1824 and 1825, being written in the keys of F minor and B minor. In 1842 Robert Schumann wrote his Quartet in E flat major, op. 47, in his time of sad maturity (he is rigorously contemporary with his First Symphony and his famous Concerto in A minor for piano and orchestra. Despite the renown of the last three authors reviewed, it would seem that none of them achieved with their works for piano quartet this round product, worthy of going down in history in the form of a regular repertoire piece, since the works mentioned are very rarely performed today. It was not until well into the second half of the 19th century, in 1861 to be exact, that a new jewel of the genre appears, curiously written in the same tonality as the one with which it originated. We are referring, of course, to the Quartet in G minor by Johannes Brahms, which is perhaps, along with that of Mozart, the work preferred by the interpreters, the brilliant orchestration carried out by Arnold Schoenberg in 1937 having helped its current diffusion a lot. Said quartet, which constitutes the 0p. 25 by its author, is immediately followed (op. 26, therefore) of a second written in the key of A major, also composed in 1861, undoubtedly under the protection of the success obtained with the first. Finally, in 1875 Brahms put an end to a third quartet, a reworking of a first approximation made between 1855 and 1856 and which, written in the key of C minor, constitutes his op. 60.
In the last quarter of the 19th century, some highly esteemed works were produced, although always isolated, such as the Quartet in B flat major, op 41, composed by Camille Saint-Saëns in 1875, or the two quartets by Gabriel Fauré: in C minor, op. 15, of 1879, and in G minor (note the preponderance of this tonality, together with that of E flat major, in the works written for this instrumental ensemble), op. 45, from 1886. Antonin Dvorák's Piano Quartet in E-flat major dates from 1893, and from 1987 the Piano and Bow Quartet, Op. 30 by Ernest Chausson.
In the first half of our century the genre fell into complete disuse, since the fingers of one hand are more than enough to count the production destined for this ensemble. We highlight the Piano Quartet composed by Sir William Walton in 1916, and the Quartet by the American Aaron Copland, written in 1950. The only quartets with piano composed by Spanish authors in this first half of the 20th century are owed to Joaquín Turina (Quartet in A minor, op. 67, from 1931), Ángel Martín Pompey (Quartet in F sharp minor, from 1932) and Fernando Remacha (Piano Quartet, also from 1932). As far as contemporary music is concerned, understanding globally that composed in the second half of the 20th century, one can speak of a relative boom or rebirth of this genre of chamber music. To cite only Spanish composers, since otherwise the list would become excessively long, Rafael Rodríguez Albert (who, almost two centuries later, takes up in his Quartet of 1955 the key of G minor with which Mozart started to the genre), Manuel Moreno Buendía (Quartet for piano and string instruments, also from 1955), Ángel Oliver (Psychogram No. 3), Jesús Villa-Rojo (Spaced-rhythmic), Rogelio Groba (Quartet No. 3, "Diabolus in music" ), these three works dating from the same year: 1975, Ángel Arteaga (Simplicissimus, from 1977), Tomás Marco (Torner, also from 1977), Enrique Macías (Polifonías II and Oda I, both from 1979), and Agustín González Acilu (AZ, 1981).
Unfortunately, the piano quartet experiences this relative boom, as we said before, only in what refers to compositions intended for it. As for the performers, the same cannot be said. To give just one example that is very relevant today, there is no stable ensemble in our country dedicated to the cultivation of its repertoire, running in this sense the same fate as its older brother -in size-, the piano quintet (two violins, viola, cello and piano), for which -incidentally- the existing repertoire is notably larger, as you all know, although without reaching the height, of course, of the little brother -equally in size-: the piano trio, or trio for violin, cello and piano, for which the repertoire is already immense (there has been no composer, with rare exceptions, who has not cultivated this ensemble of chamber music), counting in addition on the approval of the performers, since it is possible to speak of an important number of stable groups dedicated to their repertoire.
As far as the piano quartet (and, by extension, the piano quintet) is concerned, it is necessary, at least here and now, to bring together musicians from other groups, as in the case of today. The reasons for this lack of groups are undoubtedly complex, although of course excusable in a country like ours, in which the dedication of our interpreters to chamber music is certainly scarce (which is, on the other hand, inexcusable). I do not think I am wrong too much if I affirm that in this matter there is a curious paraphrase of the old story of the hen and the egg: on the one hand, musicians are not inclined to group together to cultivate such a meager repertoire, which is quite understandable; on the other, composers are not inclined to create new works for this ensembe, given the meager number of groups that could or would later be willing to perform them, which is no less understandable than the above. Nobody, of course, is guilty of this situation, but the situation is that, in any case, and I hereby hope that an act like this can serve as an incentive for a greater general interest, of interpreters and composers, towards such a neglected parcel of chamber music.
And after these vague generalities, I think it appropriate to proceed to make for all of you an analysis, necessarily superficial for reasons of time, of my work Piano Quartet, before we hear it. I propose with this analysis (or, if you prefer, description) of the work, to make your listening not only less arid than usual in a first audition of contemporary music, but also that they have, thanks to it, prior knowledge of the main elements put into play in the composition, trusting that thus listening to the work will be very different from how it would be without said knowledge. The description of the elements referred to will not necessarily be of a technical nature: indeed, I will try to avoid as much as possible the overwhelming technicalities, from which little could be made clear. Most of them will be of a formal or morphological type, in the style of a presentation or cast of characters. The invaluable collaboration of the performers, Menchu Mendizábal and the members of the "Arcana" string quartet; Francisco Romo, Pablo Riviere and Salvador Escrig, whose work of preparing this difficult quartet I would like to highlight beforehand, as it is worthy of the highest praise, will be very useful for this task, since they will be in charge of them as a "musical illustrations" that, interspersed between my words, will precede the entire audition of the work. (1)
In my music of recent years (since 1986, approximately) I have been concerned with a kind of elaboration of the musical material put into play based on a continuous contrast, the continuous opposition of its component elements, in a perpetual dialectic, through which I do not seek anything but unity (or, at least, a certain kind of unity) by means other than the usual ones. Naturally, it is not in my music (nor I think in that of any contemporary composer) about an old-fashioned concept of "unity", the kind that we still recommend so much in academic studies at conservatories, which raises as the main standard. the so-called "media economy", and whose main exponents were, without a doubt, Johann Sebastian Bach and, a few decades later, Beethoven. Quite the contrary, both for a composer with greater or lesser technical mastery, and for a simple music lover with a greater or lesser background of musical knowledge, the "unity" today must necessarily be something quite different.
The reason is clear to me: our way of understanding music allows us, those of us who have been lucky -or misfortune, depending on how you look at it- to live the end of this century, a receptive (not passive) globalizing attitude, in which all the aesthetic attitudes of the generations that have preceded us can be mentioned. Each of them had an attitude similar to ours, with respect to those that preceded them; but, of course, our aesthetic starting point is infinitely richer than that of our ancestors a century ago, for example. They included, among others, Johann Sebastian Bach, Viennese classicism and romanticism in all its climax and now in its decline. Ours, in addition to all this, has the cultural baggage supplied by the dissolution of the tonal system, the second Vienna School, Stravinsky and Bartók, integral serialism, random currents, electroacoustic techniques... to name just a few of the many trends that emerged throughout the century, and not including the most current, whose proximity does not allow us to see well the forest in which they will be located in the future.
Naturally, this is a truism truth, as it is that the fact that the sum of these very different aesthetic attitudes occurs in us globally does not allow us -or makes it very difficult for us- to approach any of them in the particularizing form in which they appeared throughout history. Thus, listening to a Gregorian melody for our ears cannot be the same as for ears from four centuries ago, not yet "damaged" by the tonal system, whose acceptance by human beings seems to demand the tribute of trivializing everything that it is perceived, wanting to constrain it by force to the basic tonal functions. Similarly, more recent systems based on a supposed "emancipation of dissonance" drag to penance, as a threatening sword of Damocles towards their own identity signs, that "certain dissonances are (for us) still dissonances, that is, we unconsciously refer to them, confront them and oppose them to the tonal world in which we have been musically educated, where they were constantly resolved." (2)
The history of 20th century music seems to me, for the moment, that of ninety "years of pilgrimage" in search of the land of promise represented by an alternative to the tonal system, built on a sufficiently solid syntactic and semantic foundation as to allow its substitution in the consciousness and sensitivity of the people. In the long search for this new system we have had the opportunity to glimpse other different territories, unthinkable under other assumptions, whose suggestion has made us momentarily forget the initial object of the search.
With regard to this situation, the aesthetic attitude of composers can adopt very different physiognomies. Faced with the most furiously iconoclastic and avant-garde positions, there may be others that are more respectful of the egregious past to which we are heirs. I prefer, for a matter of sensitivity and character, to place myself within the latter group, and I sincerely believe that, while this alternative system is found, we composers cannot, no matter how much we want some more, and others less, flee or even renounce the copious inheritance of a past as rich as ours. In this sense, I have to admit that practically all the music I have composed in recent years is nothing more than the result produced by the continuous dialectic between what has been called "tradition" and "modernity". And the result of that confrontation adopts most of the time, and of course in my case, a double baroquism: the one referred to the deep structure of the concept, the idea of the work to which we try to give shape, on the one hand, and the referring to the surface structure, the appearance or material realization of that idea, on the other. Later I will have the opportunity to expose in greater detail the application in my work -fundamentally metaphorical application, of course- of these two concepts directly taken from the linguistic theories of Noam Chomsky. For the moment, I think it is enough to say that both structures do not have to go hand in hand in terms of degree of complexity, since a simple deep structure can correspond to an enormously complex surface structure, and vice versa. The music of Johann Sebastian Bach would be a good example of the first scenario, while that of John Cage would be of the second. Anyway, I suppose you are well informed of what the adjective "conceptual" applied to any artistic manifestation represents, so as not to need to insist on what I have been exposing.
The balance between the degree of complexity of both structures is, to put it simply, what I seek with my music. And, as I said before, that double baroquism is always present in it, although the listener cannot go, in most cases, beyond the surface. Therefore, occasions like the one offered by this session are magnificent to take a step further to know and understand deeper areas of musical creation.
The ways in which the revival of the past can occur in each of us, the assumption of the so egregious inheritance just alluded to, are enormously varied, and even within the same individual they can take on very different aspects. In my specific case, I have not hesitated when I have considered it convenient -and I have already been duly admonished for it on several occasions- to use that past in its most direct way, using it in the form of a more or less covert or explicit "quote", depending on the case, throughout my works. Thus, I have sometimes chosen to gloss over the thematic material of the past without its presence or "quote" being clearly identifiable (as in my Fantasy on "Don Giovanni", from 1981, for four hands piano); at other times, and once it has been made patent in the form of a "theme", I have preferred to develop it and extract consequences from it through my own language (as in Variations on two themes by Scarlatti, from 1985, for sextet). On other occasions, finally, I have limited myself to juxtaposing both realities, past and present, alternating sections in which the "modernity" of language was gradually giving way to others governed by more "traditional" postulates (as in my orchestral work Fantasy on a Fantasy by Alonso Mudarra, 1989).
In this Piano Quartet, on the contrary, the dialectic between the new and the inherited is not produced by the presence of thematic material from the past, as happened in the works reviewed. There is, of course, a very clear reference to that past, but it comes from the formal element, on the one hand, and the timbral, on the other, so its presence is not entirely evident in a superficial approach.
As far as the form is concerned, I have used, as we will see in more detail later in the illustrated approach to the analysis of the work, two traditional formal procedures for the two extreme movements of the three that make up the quartet: the sonata form for the first movement, and the form rondo de sonata, for the third. The confrontation arises from the use of both within a non-tonal context, when both are forms that develop in a very close connection with the game produced by the hierarchical relationships, with their tensions and distensions, of the tonal system. This, together with a certain athematic character -if this is conceivable- of the work, forces to continually raise the validity of the structure, at the moment in which what in the traditional way would be a first sonata theme, based on the main tonality, here does not become a theme (in the conventional sense of the term), nor is of course based on a main tonality -it would be convenient to speak, if not of "atonality", then at least a certain type of "pantonality"-. As a consequence, neither is the second theme such a second theme, nor is development such a development. What, then, is left of the traditional sonata form? Simply its concise structure, its purely syntactic skeleton, and not its semanticity, necessarily linked to the tonal world in which it flourished. Thus, a series of sections follow one another, including those of transition or bridges, which suppose a very free interpretation of a classical form, in which certain almost thematic elements can be identified by the listener, taking their recurrence, their successive interventions, to the evocation of a coded form. The contradiction between the phantasy of that form and the real form (or resulting from those distortions between what would have been and what is, to which could well be added the one that each listener, in the last extreme, perceives or believes to perceive) is what I am interested in putting into play.
Regarding the aforementioned timbral aspect, the second of the inherited "traditional elements" on which a good part of the conceptual aspect of the work rests, this is none other than the instrumental "flavor" (and I use the term conscious of its vagueness) traditional of the ensemble in question. With this I do not want only to refer to the abstract amalgam of the more or less pure timbres of the instruments, but, in a more general sense, to a type of writing, which can acquire very different configurations, and which we would qualify as "conventional", for its references to the habitual treatment of instruments, and which is what, in short, refers us per se, above its tonal or atonal connotations, to a way of thinking and making music related to the past. This traditional instrumental "flavor" is constant in my quartet, but not as a unique "timbral" element, but rather confronted with a type of current structure that is also constant, arising from the dialectical struggle between the two, something that aims to go beyond the mere will of the contrast, to try to become an internal play of tensions applied, as in the case of the form, to the own surface writing of each and every one of the parts. The purpose of this dialectic is none other than the creation, in the listener's imagination, of antagonistic images that oscillate between identification and conflict, through a continuous alternative game between the various planes of the composition.
From the very beginning of the work, the desire for confrontation insistently alluded to is evident. The first measure of the first movement could symbolize that traditional instrumental "flavor" referred to. Note the compact treatment between the instruments, by means of duplications in unison and at the octave, with which an outline of a melodic idea takes shape, to which due to its character we could attribute thematic claims.
But the melodic idea, possible incipit of a long traditional phrase, does not go any further. In the next bar, the second of the score, it is sharply juxtaposed with an unconventional treatment. During the second and third measures, which we will now hear, the string trio opposes the compact treatment of the previous measure a disaggregated writing, by means of loose elements (which we could compare with atoms, such is their brevity), agglutinated in turn by a cantabile design in the high register.
The section corresponding to what we would call "Introduction" in a conventional sonata form, is based solely on the juxtaposition between the two types of writing. Behind it, and occupying the place of the exposition of the first theme, a new section takes place, in which a design of a persistent rhythmic character, almost ostinato, alternates with a melodic development of a three-note cell derived, in turn, from the beginning of the theme fragment presented in the introduction. I will not enter here, because it seems unnecessary to me, whether in view of the importance of said design, it should or should not be considered the section that I have been calling an introduction as such or, really, as an exposition of a first theme. It is enough for me to make the reference to the main sections of the traditional sonta form clear at all times. Let us now hear a fragment of this new section, in which the melodic cell is carried out by the piano.
A few bars later we will see how the roles are reversed, this melodic cell running by the string trio in a kind of development in the form of increasingly narrow contrapuntal imitations, and passing the rhythmic element to the piano.
In the area corresponding to the transition or bridge between the two themes in the exhibition, we find an agitated passage, with a marked rhythmic character.
The exposition of the second theme recreates again the unusual type of writing, in contrast to that of the first theme, more traditional in terms of its general "flavor". On a kind of ambient atmosphere of the strings, the piano exposes a form of development that will later be of crucial importance throughout the work. It is not a melodic or rhythmic idea, although its realization must necessarily take a form in which both dimensions meet. It must be considered as a form of development, as I have said, in which the same element takes shape through a progressive accumulation of cells or sounds. As you can see in the example that we will hear below, the first piano intervention consists of only two sounds; the second, one measure further, of three; the third will have one more, and so on until the element has acquired its final shape.
In the zone equivalent to the "Development" of the classical sonata, the traditional treatment meets its antagonist, in a passage of enormous tension, which could symbolize a first climax in the confrontation between the elements at stake. The melodic design, coming from the fragment of the theme of the introduction, and the "atomized" elements, of short duration, are subjected to an elaboration comparable to that which would have characterized a traditional sonata development, but devoid, of course, of the tonal instability characteristic of said section, instability that is tried here by other means, fundamentally dynamic and rhythmic. Let us hear a passage corresponding to the first bars of this "development".
This first movement ends with the zone corresponding to the "Recapitulation". The greatest distortion of the traditional form lies in the change of order between the first and second themes, which is not at all new, but it is suggestive, since it causes an absolutely symmetrical form (with "development" as the axis) when recapitulated. likewise, although in abbreviated form, the transition between both themes and the introduction, which here serves as a coda.
The second movement is usually in charge, in most of the piano quartets of the classical and romantic periods, especially, as well as in most of the works derived from the sonata form, both belonging to chamber music and to the symphonic, of a slow tempo (especially in those cases like the one that occupies us, in which said movement is situated in the center of a total of three). This movement can then take on the most varied forms, as if the expressive needs that are usually inherent in it force composers not to conform to rigid pre-established casts. Of course, on many occasions it usually takes the form of a ternary Lied (the famous ABA), or its more elaborate variant of Lied in sections (usually five), which is nothing more than a symbiosis between the Lied form and the Rondo form, but this is by no means compulsory, and throughout history we can find countless examples that do not fit either of the two.
As a sort of "wink" to that lack of formal rigor, the second movement of my Piano Quartet is, of the three, the freest in terms of form, or, to be more exact, the only one that does not fit to a conventional formal structure, since music, by the mere fact of sounding, presupposes an ineluctable formal dimension to which the qualifier "free" can only be applied in a relative way: in the last extreme, and as we have already explained before, the form is reconstructed in the mind of the listener, through memory, and that is the reason why the formal understanding of the same work can vary enormously from one individual to another. What does constitute a direct recreation of the heritage of the past in terms of the general formal aspect is the classic "slow tempo" character of this second movement.
Broadly speaking, its structure consists of two main sections, followed by a third which, due to its size and location, could well take on the role of "coda" of the movement. The first section is the most extensive and the most important, although its organization responds to the very simple procedure of constant accumulation, of which we had a first and timid sketch in the first movement. In this slow movement, said procedure is developed in extenso, constituting the base of the two main sections, until the practical exhaustion of the material to which it gives rise. The first section starts from a simple idea, in which a certain parallelism could be glimpsed with a kind of continuous transformations by means of which a simple deep structure gradually acquires an increasingly complex surface structure. The allusion to the basic procedure of Chomsky's generative grammar is by no means accidental, although at the moment I am not sure to what extent its presence in the analysis of a musical work like this is purely metaphorical or could imply something more.
The deep structure (I will allow myself to call the basic element that will be subjected to successive transformations, each time creating different surface structures, underneath which it always underlies), is a harmonic aggregate composed of three sounds separated from each other by respective major seconds: B flat, C and D. Said harmonic aggregate is exposed in the form of long, held notes, each note of which being assigned to each string instrument: C to the violin, B flat to the cello, and D to the viola. By means of a canonical type of writing, each of these notes is progressively divided into different sounds, which increase one by one in successive interventions. Thus, the first appearance of the structure -which will therefore be deep and superficial at the same time (or kernel sentence, in Chomsky's terminology)- will consist of a single sound; the second (which in turn will be the first surface structure different from the deep structure, which from now on will become underlying) will consist of two different sounds, which will be developed not by two, but by more notes; the third, of three, and so on until the completion of what we can call the definitive surface structure, or the end of this progressive accumulation of sounds. For its part, the piano develops its own element, independent of the harmonic aggregate of the string trio, but also generated by the procedure of continuous accumulation. Let's hear the first bars of this second movement.
The process of accumulation implies, by its own essence, a progressive increase in the melodic and rhythmic aspects of music, and this in turn entails, as a logical consequence, an increasing dynamic tension, which gradually leads to a first climax. This is also the result of the progressive narrowing of canonical imitations and the elimination of rhythmic-melodic elements. Thus, we can see how this climax (reached in a constantly progressive way) is produced as the result of the confrontation between two processes that, although antagonistic at first glance, are complementary: the accumulation of material, which ends up producing the different surface structures, and the elimination of those elements of the same suitable for its subsequent development, always progressive. This climax is resolved in a wide area, in fortissimo, which is quickly diluted to make way for the second section, whose protagonism is carried out by the piano, accompanied by a harmonic background, maintained in the form of a tremolo, carried by the string trio. As I said before, accumulation is once again the basic procedure of this section, shorter than the previous one. The piano alternates purely "colored" elements (such as clusters and tremolos) with the development of a melodic-rhythmic element, progressing its number of sounds from one to twelve in successive interventions, between each of which these coloristic elements alternate, in a number inversely proportional to the number of gradually accumulated elements. Let's hear an excerpt from this second section.
The element that little by little is being configured in the piano part is nothing else, as we saw before, than a succession of twelve sounds. However, to speak here of a twelve-tone series would be meaningless, since its later elaboration -nonexistent- would deny the serial treatment of this music. The strings, towards the middle of this section, leave the tremolo to develop fragments of the twelve-sound element that is developed on the piano. A climax serves as the center of this section, which could be divided into two clear subsections: in effect, after that climax there is a long passage in which, as in the first section, the accumulation proceeds in reverse: by element removal. This takes place in the string trio, where through a very free writing, without metric or temporal type attachments, the three string instruments proceed to eliminate the sounds of the supposed "series", in the opposite sense to how they were accumulated. Let us hear a fragment of this elimination, in which the string instruments are progressively replacing the sounds of the "series" by a note held longer and longer, which is precisely the one that will have to be eliminated in the next intervention.
The last section of the movement is inmediately approached, which, as we said before, could well serve as a coda, given its character and situation, and on which I do not consider any special comment necessary.
With the third and last movement there is a return to formal (that is to say) "normality", through the use of the syntactic structure -as happened in the first movement with the sonata form- of one of the favorite molds of the classical period -in Mozart and Beethoven, above all, it is where we find it most frequently- for the last movements of chamber and symphonic works derived from the sonata. I am referring to that curious symbiosis between the usual sonata form and the rondo form (or alternation of a recurring section, or refrain, with different "couplets" or sections independent of the former), which is commonly referred to as "rondo de sonata", which consists of the insertion in the rondo form of the sonata form through the substitution of the third couplet by a reexposition of the first one, with which it is configured as if it were a second sonata theme, and a fact that on the other hand provides a certain symmetry (the scheme would be like this: A-B-A-C-A-B-A) similar to that which occurred in the first movement when the second theme was exchanged with the first in the reexposition.
The movement begins with the presentation of the chorus, in which we can distinguish two complementary sections: in a very brief first, of little more than three measures, different elements of an atomized character are superimposed, similar to those that served, in the first movement , for the configuration of entire sections, in a kind of puzzle completely exempt from any thematic feature characteristic of a refrain in the classic way. Let's hear this first section:
Among the various overlapping elements that we have heard, it is worthwhile, due to the important role that it will have to play later, and especially in the last section or coda of the movement and, with it, of the work, that we look a little more closely at the one that exposes the viola in the first bar, and that was already introduced in the introduction of the first movement.
And that a couple of bars further is answered, somewhat abbreviated by the cello:
This same element is subjected to a first development by the piano, in the second section of the refrain, but instead of being presented in its entirety, it takes shape thanks to the cumulative procedure that is already familiar to us.
A first climax gives way, a little further, to the first couplet (which, as we have just seen, can also be considered a second theme, given its subsequent reexposition in the place corresponding to the third couplet), whose most characteristic feature is its character scherzante, achieved through a markedly rhythmic writing in which syncopations are continuous, and from which arises, again through accumulation, an element based on a wide ascending arpeggio. Let's hear a fragment of this first couplet:
After this first couplet the refrain reappears. The first section of it is repeated in its entirety, while the second is replaced by a double development of two of the brief exposed cells: a first one, of an imitative type:
The other development is carried out by the element that, originally exposed by the viola, we highlighted earlier as the protagonist, and that now appears accompanied by a tremolo from the rest of the strings:
After this, the second couplet makes its appearance, which constitutes the central section of this third and last movement, and whose character and treatment, by not bearing any relation to the previous or to the later, acquires a markedly contrasting accent. In essence, it consists of an almost repetitive fragment, in which a sequence of the piano is repeated a certain number of times, losing in each of these repetitions a series of melodic-rhythmic cells, which provides a kind of vertiginous sensation of narrowing and acceleration, to which the difficult marked tempo (Prestissimo) contributes greatly. On the other hand, the string trio proceeds in inverse proportion to the eliminative treatment of the piano, gradually accumulating in each repetition the cells that, in the end, will have to configure the total element of the strings, which will have its extension beyond the disappearance of the piano. Here, as can be seen, the two antagonistic technical procedures, the basis of this work, will coexist in divergent directions: accumulation and elimination. As a technical fact that may be curious, the piano sequence is made from six diatonic sounds (all of them corresponding to six white piano keys, the sol-mi hexachord), while te remanining six are used for the strings sequence, also in diatonic form. Let us hear a fragment corresponding to the beginning of this second couplet.
After a third intervention of the refrain and the recapitulation of the first couplet (moment in which the insertion of the sonata form into the rondo form takes place), a last appearance of the first section of the refrain gives way to the coda of the movement, based on a cell that, presented by the viola, we highlighted earlier for its leading role, and that here is developed through what we can designate as the "apotheosis" of the cumulative procedure, in a long passage of enormous complexity. As anecdotal data (and not without a certain black humor), the members of the quartet referred to this area of the work, during rehearsals, as "the mother of all passages", eloquently alluding to that "mother of all battles" in which Saddam Hussein seemed to trust from the beginning of the Persian Gulf War the final victory (or defeat) of his army, given that its strategic location at the end of the work means that on its execution may depend part of its success or failure. Hoping that the latter does not take place, and thanking you for your attention, I think it is time to go on to the complete audition of this Piano Quartet, commissioned by this institution and written during the summer of 1990.
Thank you very much.
Jose Luis Turina
(1) The examples that illustrate this page correspond to the recording made by the Plural Ensemble under the direction of Fabián Panisello, included in the CD "José Luis Turina. Chamber Music" (CD VRS 2131), published in the collection Spanish and Latin American contemporary composers from the BBVA Foundation.
Portada del CD del Plural Ensemble (2013)
(2) Enrico Fubini, Musica e linguaggio nell’estetica contemporánea, p. 68