Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Townsend: Asturias (Leyenda)

The name, if not the piece itself, of Isaac Albéniz' piece for piano, Asturias (Leyenda) has a checkered history. The piece was probably written in London in the 1890s under the name "Preludio" as the first movement of Chants d'Espagne and was so published. After Albéniz' death, a German publisher reprinted the piece in a different set of pieces all named after the northern provinces of Spain called Suite española and in keeping with that, assigned it the new title Asturias (Leyenda). However, the character of the music is directly inspired by the flamenco form of the granadinas, not by any music of Asturias. Go here for the whole story.

One of the inspired things that Segovia did to build up the reputation of the guitar was to seek out and transcribe weighty music that could show what the guitar was capable of. He found a lot of candidates in Baroque repertoire, especially by Bach, and his most inspired transcription of these was the enormous Chaconne from the 2nd Violin Partita. The other inspired set of transcriptions were from the piano music of Granados and Albéniz, especially that inspired by the guitar. The most famous transcription of all is undoubtedly that of Asturias. It is so famous, in fact, that probably more people know it in its version for guitar than the piano original.

Despite the dodgy attribution of the title, I am blithely going to accompany my performance of Asturias with photos of Asturias, a principality in the extreme Northwest of Spain. Asturias is to Spain as Wales is to Great Britain: a wild, mountainous region by the sea with an originally Celtic population. Asturias is famous for its natural beauty, excellent seafood and cider and for its goat cheeses. Enjoy the music and the photos:

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