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Elías Arizcuren and the Cello Octet Conjunto Ibérico (ca. 1994)

Paráfrasis sobre "Don Giovanni" / Paraphrase on "Don Giovanni"

Cello octet / String orchestra

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Nineteen years after the composition of my Fantasia on "Don Giovanni", for piano four hands, based on the enigmatic series of twelve notes (for some, the first twelve-tone series in the History of Music) that appears in the scene of the second act in which the Commander makes his entrance at the banquet ("Non si pasce di cibo celeste / chi si pasce di cibo mortale"), and after having adapted for eight cellos my Divertimento, Aria and Serenade, originally written for eight violas in 1987, I turned my attention to Mozart’s opera to respond to Elías Arizcuren's invitation to write an original work for cello octet for his group, the Cello Octet Conjunto Ibérico, which at that time enjoyed great international projection and intense concert activity.
The result was this Paraphrase on "Don Giovanni", whose composition I began in Madrid in mid-September 1998 to interrupt it a few days later, in order to continue the sketch for the opera D.Q. (Don Quixote in Barcelona), on which I had worked feverishly since February of that same year and for which he served me, for a couple of weeks, as a necessary change of scenery. Returning to operatic work, I spent a year and a half more, finishing the sketch and the orchestration of the opera, and then preparing the score, the parts, and everything that was necessary so that, on September 30, 2000, I came up with all honors to the stage of the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, and it was not until August of that year that, in Puerto de Mazarrón, I resumed the composition of the Paraphrase, on which I also worked in Barcelona, between rehearsals of D.Q. , until finishing it in Madrid, in mid-October.
As happened to me in the Divertimento, Aria and Serenade with the viola octet, the complexity of writing again for eight equal instruments led me once again to the same solution: the difficulty is identical for all eight, and therefore none has greater prominence. within the whole, which invites to a writing that is often fragmented and equally distributed. And the low register of the violoncello evoked me what for me is the best scene in Don Giovanni, that of the Commander's death, in which three male bass voices (those of Don Giovanní, the Commander and Leporello), sing a trio in which none of them is more important than the others.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Don Giovanni, 1st act
Samuel Ramey (Don Giovanni), Paata Burchuladze (Commander) y Ferruccio Furlanetto
(Leporello). Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Dir.: Herbert von Karajan (1987)

Following the formal scheme of Mozart's scene, my Paraphrase is divided into three sections: the first, "Challenge", which begins with a direct quote from the opera and in which energetic passages abound; a second, "Fight", a moment that in Don Giovanni is purely instrumental, and from which the same Mozartian design is taken as thematic element here, in a totally fragmented writing of extreme difficulty; and finally "Death", which begins with the same C major arpeggio triplets as in the original opera, and which serves as the beginning of a long section in which the thematic material is totally deconstructed, but in which they are recognizable at the same time melodic elements from the vocal part of the three protagonists, and in which, near the end, appears, as the last quote, the coda with which the scene ends.
The Paraphrase on "Don Giovanni" is naturally dedicated to the Cello Octet Conjunto Ibérico, which was responsible for the premiere at the Arniches Theater in Alicante, within the 17th International Festival of Contemporary Music, on October 6, 2001, under the direction of Elías Arizcuren.

Greeting the Octeto Ibérico and Elías Arizcuren after the premiere of the
Paraphrase on "Don Giovanni" (Alicante, October 6, 2001)

Between the months of March and July 2019 I made a version for string orchestra of the work, which was premiered on October 16 of that same year at the Staatstheater in Augsburg under the direction of its Kapellmeister, Ivan Demidov. The Spanish premiere of this orchestral version took place at the National Music Auditorium in Madrid on February 5, 2021, by the string section of the Spanish National Orchestra conducted by David Afkham.

Program of the premiere of the string orchestra version of the
Paraphrase on "Don Giovanni" (Augsburg, October 16, 2019)

Cover of the program of the Spanish premiere of the string orchestra version
of the Paraphrase on "Don Giovanni" (Madrid, February 5, 2021)

First page of the cello octet Paraphrase on "Don Giovanni"

First page of the string orchestra version of the Paraphrase on "Don Giovanni"


1. Recording (original version): Cello octet of the Spanish National Orchestra
Music National Auditorium, Chamber Hall. Madrid, February 7, 2015

2. Recording (string orchestra): Spanish National Orchestra (Dir.: David Afkham)
Music National Auditorium, Chamber Hall. Madrid, February 7, 2021

I. Challenge
II. Fight
III. Death

Fragment of the video Bienvenida 2.0 of the Spanish National Orchestra
Program n. 14 of the 2020-2021 season. Commentaries: Irene de Juan
Madrid, February 5, 6 and 7, 2021


Premieres by Torá, Turina, Lazkano and Pilar Jurado in Alicante
By Leopoldo Hontañón
(Review published in the newspaper ABC. Madrid, October 9, 2001)

Quite the opposite of what happened the next day with that "Iberian Cello Octet" that Elías Arizcuren pulled out of his sleeve twelve years ago in Amsterdam and whose new performance surprises for its unwavering enthusiasm and its increasing ability to convert such unitary sound source in permanent demonstration of timbre and intervallic richness, which "a priori" could seem unattainable for the vehicle. The success was round.
The splendid demonstration of the translation team was helped by the success shown in their works by the three composers who made their first appearances with an absolute character. With very diverse proposals, both the creative teaching of José Luis Turina was confirmed in his "Paraphrase about Don Giovanni", as well as the splendid realities with things to say that Ramón Lazkano is becoming -with his "Four songs about poems by Luis Cernuda"- and perhaps especially Pilar Jurado, a formidable transmitter herself with her very clean soprano voice, of the four uninterrupted sections of her "De todo al infinito", about poems, stupendously understood and dissected, by Antonio Maura. Franco Donatoni and Iannis Xenakis completed an exemplary program, exemplarily offered.

Madrid (OCNE) / Vitality of three eras
By Tomás Marco
(Review published in the Internet magazine Scherzo. Madrid, February 6, 2021)
The OCNE subscription concert this week has been marked by vitality as a creative impulse in three eras: modern, classical and romantic. And that is appreciated, because it is a lesson in these murky moments where joy can come to us from the hand of music. The modern part corresponded to José Luis Turina, undoubtedly one of the great masters of contemporary Spanish music, who has glossed the music of Mozart's Don Giovanni on three occasions, one for piano four hands years ago, another for cello octet in 2000 and the 2019 version of the latter for string orchestra. Tripartite work mounted on the material of the death of the Commander, which, however, is not sinister but rather expressive, with an astonishing instrumental balance and an extremely positive impression that had a magnificent delivery by the professors of the ONE and its main conductor David Afkham.

Classicism and its paraphrases: Turina, Haydn and Schumann
By Leonardo Mattana Ereño
(Review published in the Internet magazine Bachtrack. Madrid, February 7, 2021)
The initial work was the most recent, the Paraphrase on «Don Giovanni» by José Luis Turina, written for cello octet and later adapted for string orchestra. It was this latest version the one performed on this occasion. It is a composition that encompasses the Mozartian universe of the homonymous musical drama, and more specifically, the opening scene of the duel and death of the Commander. In it, the original motifs are wisely intertwined with the variations that result from the subtext and show the depth of the origin of the fall of Don Giovanni. In his performance, Afkham knew how to take advantage of this orchestral version, emphasizing the entire extension of the string, from the gravity of the double basses to the almost imperceptible high notes of the violins. With a clear profile, the counterpoint was threshed, the dynamic contrasts were emphasized and a forceful sound, never waning, was portrayed. The work, with the composer present in the room, was warmly received.

Death and resurrection
By Mario Muñoz Carrasco
(Review published in the Internet magazine Beckmesser. Madrid, February 7, 2021)
In Mozart there is always a subtext under the surface that magnificently enriches his works, the daughter of a whole series of rhetorical codes typical of the time that, to put it in some way, explored the elements that the text only sketched. The death of the Commander is one of those moments. When Don Giovanni runs the old man through with his sword, he begins to descend in the score by a chromatic ladder that some composers have used before for death, and which, surprisingly, leads him to a kind of musical purgatory. And it surprises because the Commander's act has been heroic, and if his reward is Purgatory, as the music tells us, it is because his previous sins were gigantic. This is how subtle Mozart was when it came to criticizing the nobility: a descending melodic line was enough for him. This fragment and the immediately preceding ones serve as a starting point for Joaquín [sic] Turina to compose his Paraphrase on "Don Giovanni", a flexible piece, structured with great skill and which offers some timbre moments of honest lucidity. The motivic fragmentation as a resource of expression has worked very well during the last century of composition, and here, too, in his dissection, he is capable of exploring new atmospheres and that arid and tumultuous landscape that the Commander must have observed upon arriving in Purgatory.

Allegro animato e grazioso (Spanish National Orchestra)
By Luis Mazorra
(Review published in the Internet magazine Ritmo. Madrid, February 8, 2021)
Initially, the Paraphrase on "Don Giovanni" in a version for string orchestra by José Luis Turina, unfolded in turns with quotes from this famous Mozartian opera. A complete exercise in agile counterpoint that is not at all easy to carry out in its first two movements -Challenge and Fight- to lead to a Death, announced here by a last, brief and vigorous rattle, in line with the previous movements.

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

Original version for cello octet of the Paraphrase on "Don Giovanni"

String orchestra version of the Paraphrase on "Don Giovanni"