Enrique Fernandez Arbós
Tres Piezas Originales en Estilo Español, Op.1
Enrique Fernández Arbós (1863-1939) originally made his name as a virtuoso violinist and later as one of Spain’s greatest conductors. After studying violin in Madrid, he continued his studies in Brussels under Henri Vieuxtemps and later in Berlin under Joseph Joachim. He enjoyed a considerable solo career but was also engaged as concertmaster of several orchestras including those of Berlin, Boston and Glasgow. In 1904, he was offered the position of principal conductor of the Madrid Symphony, a position he held for nearly 35 years.
Arbós emphasized that his Tres Piezas Originales en Estilo Español, Op.1 (three pieces in the Spanish style) were original, meaning they were of his own creation and not taken from Spanish folklore. Although the music is highly stylized and perhaps approaches the archetypical, it is more than salon music. The work dates from the late 1880’s during which time he was still in Germany. Although the official title is “Three Pieces”, Arbós usually referred to the work as the Spanish Trio.
The first piece or movement is marked Bolero. Remove any thoughts you may have of Ravel because there is nothing here sounding like that except the quick rhythmic drum-beat triplets used as the back drop. Lively and formal, yet romantic, the music is captivating from first note to last, a real show piece, which like the other two movements, could stand on its own. This is followed by an atmospheric and moody Habanera. The dramatic dance follows the typical rhythmic pattern we have to come expect, especially after Carmen, from this kind of dance. But the slower middle section has some very interesting chromatic piano writing and other passages in the strings which create a new kind of Habenera out of the famous old standard. The deeply Spanish finale, Seguidillas gitanas, (Gypsy songs) begins classically as you might expect. Long-lined lyrical melodies in the strings are accompanied by perky angular rhythms in the piano. This joyful music makes you want to dance.