Joaquín Turina ca. 1925, year of composition of
La Oración del Torero

La música para cuarteto de laúdes de Joaquín Turina / Joaquín Turina's music for lute quartet

(Introduction to the critical edition of Turina Ediciones. Madrid, February 2022)

In 1923 the sister and brothers Elisa, Ezequiel, Paco and Pepe Aguilar, born in Murcia, formed a unique group on the Spanish and international music scene: a quartet made up of four bandurrias (or Spanish lutes) of different sizes, with the intention of bringing out that instrumental family of the popular environment (tunas and rondallas, mainly) and take it to the music of cultured tradition. An obligatory step for this was the creation of a non-existent repertoire for the range of the quartet thus created, both originally composed for it and based on transcriptions or arrangements of works initially written for one or more other instruments.
To do so, they enlisted the collaboration of the most important composers of the moment: Antonio José, Germán Álvarez Beigbeder, María Rodrigo, Ernesto Halffter... compose or adapt previous works for them, generating a very interesting repertoire in which the various works written for the group by Joaquín Turina (1882-1949) shine with their own light, whom they know at the height of his creative maturity (he had already given birth to the Danzas Fantásticas (1919), the Sinfonía sevillana (1920), the sonata Sanlúcar de Barrameda (1921) and El poema de una sanluqueña (1923), among many others composed between Paris and Madrid, where he had been living from 1914).

Photo of the Aguilar Quartet dedicated to Joaquín Turina in 1931

Joaquín Turina's first collaboration with the Aguilar Quartet is an arrangement of the "Fiesta mora en Tánger", the last number of the piano suite entitled Álbum de viaje (1915). Performed in June 1924, the result so much satisfied the composer that it served as a stimulus to tackle the following year an original work, conceived entirely for the lute quartet: La oración tel torero (The bullfighter's prayer), which has undergone the reverse process, since given its success and the few chances of hearing it with the template for which it was initially composed led its author to transcribe it for string quartet, and to many later composers to adapt it in a large number of versions for different instrumental ensembles.
From that date until the quartet's dissolution in 1939, Turina transcribed 9 more pieces, all of them from his piano catalogue. Seven of them correspond to individual numbers of previous works ("El camino de la Alhambra" -from the first series of Cuentos de España op. 20-; "Desfile de los soldados de plomo" and "Danza de las muñecas" -from the first series of Niñerías op.21-, "Orgía" -from Danzas fantásticas op.22-, and "La eterna Carmen", "Habanera" and "Estudiantina" -from Recuerdos de la Antigua España op.48 -), while the remaining two ("Cadena de seguidillas" and "El árbol de Guernica") are the complete transcription of the Dos danzas sobre tems populares españoles op. 41.
After a lethargy of almost five decades since the dissolution of the quartet in 1939, the baton of the Aguilar brothers was taken up again in 1986 by the current members of the new group, which not only maintains the same name, but also play the same instruments. that between 1922 and 1929 Domingo Esteso built for them (with the sole exception of the lute played by Elisa Aguilar, which after its loss has been replaced by another instrument built by the same luthier in 1941), and they put on their music stands the same parts that used in their day by the founders of the group when interpreting the repertoire that they collected from the composers of the moment, and whose example has been followed by the current Quartet, to whom, without going any further, I dedicated in 1993 my Cinco estudios (d 'aprés Valery).
This edition includes all the works written by Joaquín Turina for the Aguilar Quartet, arranged in chronological order of composition of the original work, in the case of both La oración del torero and the ten transcriptions of previous piano pieces. Since the original handwritten scores of the composer are not preserved, for their elaboration they have been reconstructed from the parts made for their interpretation by the original Aguilar Quartet, in which there are frequent copy errors that in many cases have been detected by comparing them with the piano works from which the transcriptions come.

With the Aguilar Quartet in front of Joaquín Turina’s Madrid house
(August 28, 1999)

The edition is dedicated to the Aguilar Quartet, both as a homage to Elisa, Ezequiel, Paco and Pepe Aguilar, as well as a tribute of admiration to Antonio Navarro (small lute), Luis Miguel Lara (alto lute), Pilar Barón (lute) and Esther Casado (bass lute), both for his commendable effort to revive a group that was considered lost, and for his invaluable work to reactivate it with the same enthusiasm and dedication.