"Sonata española" (1907-1908), para violín y piano, de Joaquín Turina / "Spanish Sonata" (1907-1908), for violin and piano, by Joaquín Turina
Preface to the edition of the Schott - Mainz Publishing House. April 1991
1907 was undoubtedly a year of capital importance for Joaquín Turina. Since 1905 he had been living in Paris, where he attended Vincent D'Indy's composition classes at the Schola Cantorum. On October 3rd, 1907, at the Salon d'Automne in the French capital, he premiered his Quintet for piano and strings, his most important work of this period of intense technical training, and the only one that, with opus number 1, survived in his definitive later catalogue. Turina himself recounts that, after hearing the work and its success, a conversation with Isaac Albéniz and Manuel de Falla, both attending the event, meant for him the most complete metamorphosis of his life, as Albéniz instilled in him the need to change the ideas he had recently acquired at the Schola (home, as is well known, of the cult of César Franck and his music), and replace them with a music with distinctly Spanish roots, with a nationalism "with a view to Europe".
Turina's next important work, which appears in his catalogue as opus number 2, is none other than the piano suite Sevilla, from 1908. From then until his last work, opus number 104, Seville, the Sevillian and, with it, the Andalusian and, by extension, the Spanish, will be openly and explicitly present throughout his entire production. However, this opus number 2 was not reserved, in Turina's initial project, for the Seville suite, but for this Spanish Sonata for violin and piano, which the reader of these lines holds in his hands. The abundant correspondence that Turina maintained during those Parisian years with his then girlfriend, and later wife, Obdulia Garzón, allows us to reconstruct almost step by step the process both of the composer's aesthetic metamorphosis and of the project and creation of this Sonata (1). Thus, we know that on November 4th (only a month after the conversation with Albéniz and Falla) the Sonata is not yet finished, but it is projected, and that "it is going to be Andalusian". We also know that on the 19th of the same month the composer had already begun the work, and that on 28 January 1908 he considered it finished. Turina's doubts about his recently completed work are continuous: "... I have finished the "Sonata Española" for violin and piano. Is it Spanish? Is it worth anything? This is precisely what I don't know", he wrote to Albéniz.
The Spanish Sonata was premiered in Paris on May 19th 1908 by the violinist Armand Parent and the composer himself at the piano. After an audition in Seville on October 24th of the same year, Turina decided to shelve the work, which was not performed again until seventy-three years later, on September 12th 1981, by the violinist Víctor Martín and the pianist Miguel Zanetti, at the Teatro "Leal" in La Laguna (Tenerife). Later, Turina would write: "... This Sonata turned out to be a complete mistake, because, carrying popular and scholistic elements, it was in reality neither one thing nor the other". There is no other reason for the piece's being pushed into a corner, as seems to be clear from this statement, than the author's lack of conviction about an otherwise excellent work, but which undoubtedly did not satisfy the hopes that the composer had placed in it, in the sense of finding the aesthetic path that he intuited, evidently, but which the burden of the excess of academicism and scholastic rigour acquired at the Schola prevented him from finding as quickly as he had wished. This Sonata represents, from a historical point of view, the "missing link" between op. 1 (with a marked Frankist influence) and op. 2 (already personal in its language); it serves as an experimental laboratory for Turina to achieve that peculiar product which is the personal imprint that, from then on, none of his works will lack: the very acute synthesis between Spanish popular music and Central European classical forms, which laid the foundations for a solid school of composition to begin in Spain, similar to that of the rest of Europe, but with the unmistakable mark of "nationalism". His value, in that sense, is incalculable.
Despite the author's disdain, we believe that this Spanish Sonata must be seen today with eyes other than those of an author voracious to find his aesthetic path, in order to be valued in its right measure according to its purely musical content. This is so considerable that it manages to overcome the strong pressure of the enormous formal academicism to which Turina indulges, undoubtedly overwhelmed by the Franckist influence of the Schola: a cyclical hyperscholastic sonata in three movements.
The first of these is in the form of a bitematic sonata, in the key of A minor, preceded and concluded, respectively, by an introduction and a coda. In the introduction, in which the Spanish character is evident from the very beginning, evoking through the pedal on E the Phrygian mode, characteristic of all Andalusian music, the violin exposes a melodic cell made up of the intervals that will later serve as an incipit to the main thematic ideas: the minor third (measures 5-6) and the movement of three ascending joint degrees (m. 8-9). Thus, the first element of Theme A begins with the latter pattern (m. 40), while the second element (m. 78) begins with the minor third. Despite having disowned it (the composer returned to the title Sonata Española twenty-six years later, for his Sonata nš 2, also for violin and piano), Turina used some melodic ideas from this Sonata in later works: in particular, this second element of Theme A will appear with great prominence, treated in the form of a popular guajira, in the fourth movement of his String Quartet, op. 4, of 1911. The minor third and the ascending line are also the basis of Theme B (m. 100) and of the development, which goes from m. 186 to 244, in which the recapitulation takes place.
The second movement, meanwhile, is an Andante based on the no less classical Lied form in five sections: the first of these (or refrain) unfolds a phrase on double strings of the violin, building on the ascending line we saw in the introduction to the first movement. The second section (or 1st couplet) appears in m. 29, reproducing the second element of Theme A of the previous movement, thus acting in a cyclical manner. In m. 47 the third section (2nd refrain) begins, in m. 71 the fourth, made up of a second couplet which reproduces the thematic ideas of the first in very different keys (there, C major; here, F# major). The fifth and last section (or third refrain) comes in m. 95. Finally, a brief reminiscence of the couplet serves as a coda to the movement.
Also derived from the rondo is the form of the last movement: a rondo-sonata. The refrain is therefore bitematic, consisting of a first idea coming from the ascending line already mentioned in the previous movements (m. 4), and a second that cyclically recreates the second theme of the first movement (m. 34). Throughout this finale there is a constant alternation between 6/8 and 3/4 metres, characteristic of a good number of flamenco dances (such as the petenera or the guajira). A first copla (which serves as Theme B of the sonata) arrives in m. 52, initiated with the tracing of joint degrees, but this time in descending form. This is immediately subjected to a development (m. 62 and following), to give way in m. 114 to the return of the remarkably abbreviated refrain. In the second couplet (m. 159) there is a new cyclical treatment -the appearance of thematic ideas from both the second movement (m. 161) and the first (m. 168), as a cyclical summary of the work- which precedes the re-exposition of Themes A and B, in the form of the third refrain (m. 222) and third couplet (m. 269) respectively. The work closes with a coda, which begins with a brief recollection of the introduction to the first movement.
(1) The interested reader can find an abundant compilation of the aforementioned correspondence in the book Joaquín Turina a través de sus escritos (Joaquín Turina through his writings) by Alfredo Morán, the composer's son-in-law, published by the Seville City Council in 1982, the year of the first centenary of the musician's birth, and republished in 1997 by Alianza Editorial as vol. 74 of the "Alianza Música" collection.