Music Appreciation

《Suite of Spanish Folksongs》

Manuel de Falla (1876-1946)

Omobono Stradivari, Vi(1740)

The status of Manuel de Falla in the history of Spanish music is similar to that held by Béla Bartók (1881-1945) in Hungary and Bedřich Smetana (1824-1884) in the Czech Republic; all of them were outstanding composers who succeeded in integrating elements of their own national identity into classical music. Based as it is on Spanish folk songs, de Falla’s music is characteristically Spanish. This particular piece – Suite of Spanish Folksongs – was composed in 1914 – 1915, shortly after de Falla had completed his studies in Paris and returned home to Spain. The suite originally comprised seven songs, written for mezzo-soprano or baritone and piano; the Polish violinist Paul Kochanski (1887 – 1934) subsequently chose six songs which he transcribed for violin and piano. The six songs are: El Paño Moruno, Nana, Canción, Polo, Asturiana, and Jota. Each of them represents a different aspect of the Spanish folk song tradition; in most cases, the melody was derived from popular songs of the time, although the themes used in Polo and Jota were written by de Falla himself. In his transcription, Kochanski added the use of particular violin techniques to each piece. For example, in El Paño Moruno, he makes use of the pizzicato technique for the violin. The melody in El Paño Moruno derives originally from the flamenco music of southern Spain, while the piano’s part is based on a tune from the Murcia region. The lyrics urge girls to preserve their own purity and integrity. They compare woman’s virtue to a towel on sale in a shop; once it gets stained, it is unlikely that people will buy it, and even if they do it will not go for a good price. Nana and Canción, which use cantabile melody, were both widely sung at the time when de Falla wrote the suite, and added new harmonies to them. Polo is an original composition by de Falla, written in a lively style similar to that of Aragonese folk songs. Asturiana features a very earthy melody derived from a melancholy lament from the Asturias region of northern Spain; this song requires the use of a mute by the violinist. Jota is another original composition by de Falla. Written in a gypsy or flamenco style, this song makes use of pizzicato to imitate the sound of maracas.