Suite española No. 1 : Work information
- Work name
- Suite española No. 1
- Work number
- Op. 47
- 1886-01-01 02:00:00
- Recording date
- 1981-01-01 00:00:00
Isaac (Manuel Francisco) Albéniz
Embarking on a professional career as a pianist at a very early age, Isaac Albéniz was not destined to spend long in the town of his birth, Camprodón. Making his debut at age four at Barcelona's Teatro Romano, the audience was so astounded that they suspected some sort of fakery; successive performances eventually convinced them otherwise. Although his mother submitted him to the Paris Conservatory three years later, the professors deemed him too young and he had to wait until the age of nine to begin studying at Madrid.
Fleeing his home at only 12, he stowed away to Latin America, where he travelled extensively before making his way to San Francisco. From there he returned to Europe to further his education with, among others, Franz Liszt , who he followed around the continent after a meeting in 1880. These studies centered around pianistic ability, but Liszt significantly influenced the composer's subsequent aesthetics.
Although marrying and starting a family in his twenties, Albéniz refused to settle down, although he was beginning to devote more of his time to composition. By 1890 he had given up performing in public and the following year saw him strike a deal with London banker F.B. Money-Coutts (Lord Latymer) to set his libretti in return for suitable remuneration. The resulting operas were not generally inspired works and were slow to take to the stage. A collaboration with a librettist more to Albéniz's liking produced The Magic Opal, which was performed in London in 1893. As he became more successful, his Money-Coutts works were eventually put on in Barcelona.
Time spent in Paris brought about professional and personal associations with the leading French composers of the time, including Gabriel Fauré, Paul Dukas and Claude Debussy . Albéniz even paid for Breitkopf to publish Ernest Chausson's Poème. The composers took part in an extensive exchange of ideas, Albéniz's idiom adopting more of the extended harmonies and chromaticism of the impressionists. His focus returned to the piano, writing important works such as La Vega and his Suite Iberia in a nationalist vein but with a travelled, urbane sophistication.
Failing health and the death of those close to him hampered efforts on his late works. He suffered greatly from Bright's disease and left several pieces unfinished. Following his death in 1909 these works were completed by composers such as Enrique Granados.
By 1886, Albeniz was establishing himself in Madrid as a performer in the homes of the nobility and most of the 50 or so works he had written were for the piano. The Suite espanola dates from this time, though Albeniz added more movements, including the popular Asturias, leyenda in 1898.
In addition to some two-piano arrangements of the pieces, the suite is often performed on the classical guitar and sometimes in an orchestral version made by Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos. It is full of Spanish colour and guitar-like flamboyance, as exemplified in Asturias, leyenda with its insistent repetitions and punctuating chords.