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Catalogue No: HN823
Shop Product Code: 198596G
“La Vega” depicts the view over the plain of Granada, as seen from the Arabian palace, the Alhambra. The attractive landscape inspired Albéniz to compose this delicate, impressionistic work with an almost meditative character. Claude Debussy was so impressed that he would have liked to have visited the place immediately. “La Vega” has survived in two very different versions, both of which we have reproduced in their complete form in our Urtext edition. Thus, the player is afforded a unique insight into Albéniz' compositional methods.
Isaac Albéniz (1860–1909) regularly concertized throughout Europe and the Americas during the 1880s. Following a triumphant concert in Paris at the invitation of the Erard piano company in 1889 (the audience included Debussy, Dukas, Fauré, and Ravel), Albéniz embarked on a concert tour of Great Britain. Successful engagements throughout the country brought him renown, and with his reputation as a virtuoso pianist firmly established, he decided to remain in London permanently by the spring of 1890. Despite the fame that he had achieved throughout Great Britain, Albeniz decided to leave for Paris in 1894. His return to the city in which he had triumphed as a performer in 1889 was made much easier with the financial support of his English patron, F. B. Money-Coutts.
As a composer, Albéniz had already commanded a sophisticated melodic and harmonic language by the time he settled in Paris. From 1896 he began teaching piano, and also studied counterpoint with Vincent d’Indy at the Schola Cantorum where his colleagues included such musical innovators as Albert Roussel, Erik Satie, and Déodat de Séverac. France’s musical culture of the late nineteenth century and Albéniz’s financial independence, thanks to Money- Coutts, freed his mind and fueled his creativity, transforming him from a salon composer of beautiful, tuneful melodies into a composer for the piano capable of creation on a much larger scale. Albéniz continued to use the pan-folkloric Spanish idioms of his salon works, but he was able to develop those themes more thoroughly and with greater sophistication.
The composition that provides the clearest portal into this evolutionary period of Albéniz’s musical style is La Vega, completed in 1897. The piece is significant in Albéniz’s piano oeuvre because it foreshadows the kind of composer he would become when he undertook composing Iberia. Interestingly, although the piano was the vehicle with which Albéniz gained fame throughout Europe, after he composed La Vega, he largely abandoned writing for the instrument until the composition of Iberia began in 1905. His return to the piano is marked by Evocación, the first movement of Iberia; similar to La Vega, it is also written in the unique key of ab minor, in a ternary meter, and is intended as an introductory movement to a larger group of pieces.
Although likely envisioned initially as part of a song cycle based on the poetry of his patron F. B. Money-Coutts, and later conceived as a movement of an orchestral suite, La Vega was in the first place written as a piano work. The final page of the autograph manuscript of La Vega ends with the indication that it was completed in the Paris suburb of Auteuil on January 26th, 1897. The composition underwent significant revisions during the following weeks during which Albeniz removed La Vega’s final five pages, added a repetition of the first sixand- a-half and composed a new sevenpage ending. This revision was completed on February 14th, 1897 in Paris. On the final page, Albéniz wrote “The Alhambra” | Suitte [sic] Symphonique Sur le Poeme de F. B. Money Coutts | No. 1. “La Vega”.
It was in 1908, the year before Albeniz's death, and when he was already seriously ill, that La Vega was finally published by A. Díaz y Cía., a small firm located in San Sebastián, Spain. This first edition contains numerous differences to the manuscript, and it is not known if Albéniz approved those changes himself. This uncertainty is magnified by the eleven years that passed between the composition and eventual publication of La Vega and also by the fact that a fair copy of the manuscript dated May, 1898 and currently held at the Museu de la Música in Barcelona was written under a different title (Fantaisie Espagnole). All subsequent publishers of the work used the exact plates as A. Díaz y Cía. with some minor alterations.
The purpose of this edition is to unify the A. Díaz y Cía. publication of La Vega with the final version of the manuscript. All significant differences between the manuscript and the first edition are footnoted, and thus it is left to the discretion of the performer which source to follow. Furthermore, included in this volume is the original version of La Vega from January, 1897, which provides a unique insight into the composer’s editorial process. All of the fingerings printed, although sparse, are Albeniz's own and were found written in the manuscript of La Vega. The A. Díaz y Cía. edition of La Vega and all of the subsequent reprints included a poem by F. B. Money-Coutts called Granada and a dedication to José Vianna da Motta, the pianist who premiered La Vega in Paris in 1899. Albéniz, however, wrote no such dedication in his manuscript or in any other extant source. For that reason, a dedication is not included in this edition either. Similarly, there was no concrete evidence among the letters or the manuscripts held at the Biblioteca de Catalunya or the Museu de la Música that confirmed Albéniz wanted the poem, Granada, attached to La Vega. Quite to the contrary, he crossed out “Sur le Poeme de F. B. Money Coutts” on the signature page of his February revision. Albéniz’s intentions regarding the poetry remain questionable, and, justifiably, the editor chose not to include the
poem Granada, by F. B. Money-Coutts in the main text of this edition (for informational purposes it is reprinted in the Bemerkungen at the end of this volume).
The editor wishes to thank Joana Crespi from the Biblioteca de Catalunya in Barcelona for granting him access to the manuscript of La Vega as well as the correspondence between Albeniz and his contemporaries. Further gratitude is given to José Carlos Gosálves Lara, chief librarian of the Conservatorio Reál de Música in Madrid for his
willingness to share the rare Díaz edition of La Vega with the editor. Imma Cusco, the chief archivist from Barcelona’s
Museu de la Música provided the editor with access to the Fantaisie Espagnole for which he is grateful. Karen Emenheiser deserves the editor’s profound thanks for hand copying the entire manuscript. Finally, the editor wishes to extend his appreciation toward Walter A. Clark for his thoughtful recommendation of investigating La Vega’s publication history.
Raleigh, North Carolina, USA, Spring 2007 - Milton Rubén Laufer
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