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Joaquín Turina (1882 - 1949)

Joaquín Turina Pérez, Spanish composer and pianist, was born in Sevilla in 1882 into a well-to-do middle class family. He grew up in a musically stimulating environment, and already at the age of 4 he surprised everyone by his natural facility on an accordeon he had been given. In 1894 he began his studies of harmony and counterpoint in Sevilla, and began composing short pieces soon after. He made his debut as a pianist in 1897 with a performance of Thalberg's Fantasy on a theme from Rossini's Moses.

In 1902, Turina moved to Madrid where he soon became involved in the musical scene. In 1905 he went to Paris, as most Spanish composers of the time did, to study at the Schola Cantorum. He studied theory with August Serieyx and Vincent d'Indy, and - briefly - piano with Moritz Moszkowsky. In Paris, he met Ravel and Debussy, and became good friends with Isaac Albéniz and Manuel de Falla. It was Albéniz who encouraged Turina to find his inspiration in the popular music of Spain, and paid for the publication of Turina's Quartet op.1 out of his own pocket. The Quintet was premiered in Paris, and was received much acclaim. It marked a lasting change in Turina's style - until now influenced by Franck and d'Indy, but from now on inspired by the music of Andalucía and Sevilla.

In 1914 Turina returned to Madrid, together with Falla, and worked as a performer, composer, teacher and critic. From 1931 onwards, he was professor of composition at the Madrid Royal Conservatory, and from 1943 on, he held the highest musical post in the Ministery of National Education. In 1945 he wrote a treaty called 'Las nueve musas" (The nine Muses) in which he demonstrated various methods of composing. Joaquín Turina died in Madrid on the 14th of January 1949.

Turina was a prolific composer, equally well at home in large and small forms. He produced music in nearly all musical genres, always colourful, well-crafted, and infused with native Spanish atmosphere. Among his large-scale works we mention his two operas, Margot (1914) and Jardín de Oriente (1923), the zarzuela La Sulamita, the Rapsodía Sinfonica for piano and orchestra, the Canto a Sevilla for soprano and orchestra, and the popular Processión del Rocío (1913), vividly depicting the tumult of the yearly Maria procession in Sevilla. His chamber music works include two piano trios, a quartet, a quintet, and two sonatas for violin and piano. He also composed songs, some works for guitar, and a large body of piano works.

Turina's facility in composing often produced pretty picture-postcard miniatures, but his more ambitious piano works have real substance. Among these, we mention the suite Sevilla (1909), the 3 Danses Andalouses (1912), the "sonata pintoresca" Sanlúcar de Barrameda (1922), the two sets of Mujeres Españolas (Women of Spain) from 1917 and 1932, and the Danzas fantásticas (1920) which are perhaps better known in their orchestral version. Somewhat lesser in statue, but surpassing them all in popularity, are the two sets of Danses Gitanes of 1930 and 1934.

-- Chris Breemer (more on the author...)


Recordings
Danses Gitanes 
Femmes d' Espagne 
Femmes de Seville 
Por las Calles de Sevilla