Music Isaac Albéniz
by
Walter A. Clark
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 July 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199757824-0221

Introduction

Isaac Albéniz y Pascual (b. 29 May 1860–d. 18 May 1909) was born and flourished during a period of simultaneous imperial decline and cultural florescence in Spain, one in which Spanish music, literature, and visual arts re-entered the mainstream of European culture for the first time since the 1600s, even as the country lost what was left of a once-global empire. Another irony is this: though we rightly regard Albéniz as the oracular voice of Spanish nationalism in music, one whose assorted collections of piano pieces evoke with vivid color Spain’s many regional styles of folklore, especially of Andalusia, he himself spent most of his career as an expatriate, first in London and then in Paris. Widely traveled and cosmopolitan in outlook, Albéniz was as uncomfortable with Spain’s conservative politics and religion as he was deeply conversant with its folklore. Indeed, yet another irony in his life story is that though his musical style was thoroughly grounded in the traditional music of his native land, he evoked it in concert works remarkable for the influence they reveal of French impressionism, particularly of Debussy. Albéniz summarized his international brand of nationalism in the dictum that “Spanish composers should make Spanish music with a universal accent” (see Víctor Ruiz Albéniz, Isaac Albéniz. Madrid: Comisaria General de Música, 1948, p. 102), meaning with an awareness and assimilation of trends beyond the Iberian Peninsula, in France and Germany especially. Albéniz’s music and the philosophy that underlay it thus became the guiding light for those composers who would dominate Spanish concert music during the middle decades of the 20th century, especially Manuel de Falla, Joaquín Turina, and Joaquín Rodrigo. As Turina rightly observed, Albéniz “showed us the road we had to follow” (see Joaquín Turina, “Sobre Granados,” Revista Musical Hispano-Americana 3, 30 April 1916, p. 7). Albéniz did not achieve this stature overnight, of course. He went through a long evolution, from child prodigy and internationally acclaimed concert pianist to a composer of increasingly sophisticated works. And though he specialized in and is best remembered for his piano solos, he developed considerable range as a composer and branched out into the realms of English operetta, Spanish zarzuela, and full-scale opera, concertos and symphonic poems, as well as choral music and numerous works for solo voice. In the absence of modern editions and recordings of most of these works, it was difficult to assay their quality. Since the 1990s, however, there has been a surge of serious interest in Albéniz that has closed these gaps in our knowledge.

Biographies

The 1990s witnessed the advent of serious musicological research in this area, correcting a biographical record shot through with errors and providing serious analyses of his music and the social, political, and cultural context in which he composed it. Research into the life and music of Isaac Albéniz has always been complicated, if not impeded, by the composer’s self-mythologizing. In other words, he exaggerated or fabricated stories about his childhood and adolescence that made for good press copy but would plague all biographical accounts from Guerra y Alarcón 1990 onwards. Ever creative, he was not content to dispense only one exaggerated or fabricated incident to journalists but routinely spun variations on themes such as stowing away on a steamer bound for Cuba or studying with Franz Liszt in Budapest. Later biographers unquestioningly adopted some version of these colorful stories, placing Albéniz in Buenos Aires or San Francisco or even Manila, locales there is no reason to believe he ever visited. Exposing these fictions has required acknowledging the obvious and ferreting out documentation to establish the actual course of events, independently of his fertile imagination.

Books

There are relatively few book-length biographical studies of this intriguing and important composer. Nearly all were written by Spanish or French authors, who were aiming to reach a wider readership than academics and scholars. Thus, these books are dependent on errant secondary sources, make sparing use of citations (if at all), include cursory bibliographies (or none at all), and rely on purely descriptive treatment of the music without musical examples. This safely characterizes the biographies Guerra y Alarcón 1990 (1886), Collet 1948 (1926), Laplane 1956, and Gauthier 1978. In the 1990s, a younger generation of academically trained scholars began to devote the sort of serious attention to Albéniz that he had long deserved but generally gone without. Biographies and biographical studies such as Falces Sierra 1993, Clark 1999, and Torres Mulas and Aguado Sánchez 2008 have dramatically heightened our understanding and appreciation of Albéniz as a transformational figure in the history of Spanish music and an enduring presence in the classical canon.

  • Clark, Walter Aaron. Isaac Albéniz: Portrait of a Romantic. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

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    The first book-length examination in English of the life and works of the composer. It came out in a slightly revised paperback edition in 2002, as well as in Spanish translation by Paul Silles (Madrid: Turner Ediciones). Confronts the issue of his many prevarications and includes a critical examination of his major compositions for piano, voice, orchestra, and the stage, with an emphasis on his handling of folkloric material.

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  • Collet, Henri. Albéniz et Granados. Rev. ed. Paris: Éditions Le Bon Plaisir, 1948.

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    Originally published in 1926, Collet’s biography was the first to examine Albéniz’s life and works in their entirety. The biographical section includes many anecdotes by acquaintances of the composer who were still alive when Collet wrote the book. The section on his music was the first to form a comprehensive overview of his oeuvre and includes a cursory analytical appraisal of the major works and an estimate of their critical reception.

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  • Falces Sierra, Marta. El pacto de Fausto: Estudio lingüístico-musical de los lieder ingleses de Albéniz sobre poemas de Francis Money-Coutts. Granada, Spain: Universidad de Granada, 1993.

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    Falces begins with an examination of the sources and biographical problems, then continues with a look at Albéniz’s London period during the early 1890s. She clarifies Albéniz’s relationship to Francis Burdett Money-Coutts, an analysis of whose poetic lyrics forms the principal substance of the rest of the book, focusing on the relationship between musical phrasing and poetic structure.

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  • Gauthier, André. Albéniz. Translated from French to Spanish by Felipe Ximénez de Sandoval. Madrid: Espasa-Calpe, 1978.

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    Gauthier succeeded Laplane as the foremost French biographer of Albéniz. The biographical material is completely dependent on earlier secondary sources. Offers helpful synopses of Albéniz’s stage works as well as a balanced discussion of Iberia. The discography and bibliography, however, are so cursory as to appear mere afterthoughts.

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  • Guerra y Alarcón, Antonio. Isaac Albéniz: Notas crítico-biográficas de tan eminente pianista. Madrid: Fundación Isaac Albéniz, 1990.

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    The first biographical account of Albéniz, issued in conjunction with his sensational concerts in Madrid in 1886. Information for the booklet came straight from Albéniz but does not agree in many particulars with accounts he later dispensed to others. Originally published in Madrid: Escuela Tipográfica del Hospicio, 1886.

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  • Laplane, Gabriel. Albéniz: Sa vie, son oeuvre. Preface by Francis Poulenc. Geneva, Switzerland: Éditions du Milieu du Monde, 1956.

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    Laplane’s biography was the most thorough effort ever undertaken. Its three sections and nineteen chapters include not only a biographical discussion but also an excellent treatment of his musical style and a survey of his works. It concludes with a useful bibliography (a rarity in this field), as well as the customary discography and chronology of Albéniz’s life. Still, it is far from a reliable source of information.

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  • Torres Mulas, Jacinto, and Ester Aguado Sánchez. Las claves madrileñas de Isaac Albéniz. Madrid: Ayuntamiento de Madrid, 2008.

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    Explores the impetus Albéniz’s connection with Madrid provided to his career. The “Madrid keys” in the title refer to the three central chapters, Clave de Sol, de Fa, and de Do, or G, F, and C (V, IV, I). These have symbolic significance in relation to the people who were “key” to his life. Includes facsimiles of articles, letters, and manuscripts, a detailed chronology of his Madrid years, and much previously unpublished information.

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Articles and Book Chapters

Considerable biographical progress has been made in shorter publications, focusing on some particular period in or aspect of Albéniz’s life. Reliable chronologies have been lacking, and that in Alarcón Hernández 2009 is a welcome addition. Albéniz had a close relationship with Belgium, and De Kloe 2004–2005 sheds needed light on his early education in Brussels (1876–1879) and the 1905 production of two of his stage works there. As a young touring virtuoso, Albéniz performed in Valencia and the surrounding region, a tour that Ferrer 2011 fleshes out. Albéniz himself, however, had Basque and Catalan ancestry, which Solà-Morales 1981 traces back to the 1600s. Yet, Albéniz spent several years in Madrid (see Torres Mulas and Aguado Sánchez 2008 in Books). Torres Mulas 2009–2010 explores his desultory education at the Royal Conservatory, while Gallego 1989 examines his crucial relationship with the Madrid publisher Zozaya. Despite all this, Sopeña 1989 illuminates Albéniz’s ambivalent feelings toward his homeland, feelings that drove him to reside outside of Spain for the last twenty years of his life.

  • Alarcón Hernández, Joana. “Biografía.” In Isaac Albéniz: Artista i mecenes. Catalogue of an exhibition organized by the Museu Diocesà de Barcelona, July-September 2009. Edited by Joana Alarcón Hernández, 47–56. Barcelona: Museu Diocesà de Barcelona, 2009.

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    A year-by-year chronological overview of Albéniz’s life, from his birth in 1860 to his death in 1909. This essay is heavily indebted to the latest biographical research and is highlighted by several photographs of the composer, his family and friends.

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  • De Kloe, Jan. “Albéniz in Brussels.” Soundboard 30.4 (2004–2005): 7–16.

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    A superb examination of Albéniz’s connections with the Belgian capital, first as a student at the Conservatoire Royal (1876–1879) and later, in 1905, during the production of his opera Pepita Jiménez at the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie. Corrects and expands factual data previously available in biographical accounts. The article is enhanced by helpful illustrations.

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  • Ferrer, Victoria Alemany. “La estancia de Isaac Albéniz en Valencia en 1882.” Anuario Musical 66 (January-December 2011): 235–261.

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    Albéniz made concert appearances in Valencia during the summer of 1882. This article documents those performances, part of a concert tour that also took him to nearby Alicante, Cartagena, and Alcoy. It explores the welcome he received in Valencia, the social and cultural impact of his performances, and the relationships he forged there with other aspiring musicians, as well as painters and sculptors.

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  • Gallego, Antonio. “Isaac Albéniz y el editor Zozaya.” Notas de Música (Boletín de la Fundación Isaac Albéniz) 2–3 (April-June 1989): 6–14.

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    Explores Albéniz’s relations with the Madrid editor Benito Zozaya, who published much of Albéniz’s piano music during the 1880s, when Albéniz was residing in the capital. Zozaya was also the publisher of La Correspondencia Musical, in which notices of Albéniz’s concerts regularly appeared and which is one of the most important sources of information about his activities during this period.

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  • Solà-Morales, J. M. de. “La sang gironina-gaditana d’Isaac Albèniz.” Annals de l’Institut d’Estudis Gironins 25.2 (1981): 233–253.

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    Detailed study of Albéniz’s genealogy, tracing his family on both mother’s and father’s sides back to the 17th century. Demonstrates beyond doubt that Albéniz’s father was Basque and that there was no connection between his family and that of Mateo or Pedro Albéniz. Contains records of the military service of his maternal grandfather, a war hero who served for four decades in the Spanish army.

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  • Sopeña, Federico. “En el juego de las generaciones.” Scherzo: Revista de Música 4.35 (June 1989): 68.

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    An insightful essay regarding Albéniz’s status as an expatriate and his feelings about Spain. Though Albéniz’s music expresses great love for his homeland, he remained disillusioned with the political and cultural realities of Spain. He was not alone in this regard, as disaffection and desire for reform were characteristic of the generation that experienced the 1898 war with the United States.

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  • Torres Mulas, Jacinto. “El Conservatorio de Madrid en la trayectoria vital y artística de Isaac Albéniz [I].” Música: Revista del Real Conservatorio Superior de Música de Madrid 16–17 (2009–2010): 213–265.

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    Despite conventional notions about Albéniz’s supposed lack of technical and theoretical instruction, this essay reveals his early studies in regular classes at the Real Conservatorio Superior de Música de Madrid. The research is based on hitherto unknown documentation, reproduced here in its entirety for the first time.

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Bio-bibliographies and Discographies

Recent useful additions to the literature are Clark 2015 and Romero 2002. The first is a bio-bibliography, originally published in 1998: while the 2015 edition contains much new and updated material, the 1998 version has a much more extensive discography, the most complete one up to that time. This includes not only recordings of his works in their original instrumentation but also arrangements and transcriptions, which are legion. Romero built on this foundation, including essays and annotations about the long and complex history of recordings in this area. A valuable complement to Romero is Ullate i Estanyol 2009. The most imaginative and original research in this area, however, is glimpsed in Pérez Sánchez 2009, which derives from the author’s doctoral work (see Pérez Sánchez 2012, under Dissertations and Theses) on the recording history of Albéniz’s chef-d’oeuvre, Iberia. The surprisingly large number of recordings provides evidence of the enduring fascination with Albéniz’s distinctive musical language exhibited by performers and audiences alike. Of course, any bibliography or discography is on the road to obsolescence the minute it rolls off the presses, as publications and recordings continue to appear. Online sources will provide the best way for dealing with this dilemma in the future.

  • Clark, Walter Aaron. Isaac Albéniz: A Research and Information Guide. New York: Routledge, 2015.

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    The second edition of Isaac Albéniz: A Guide to Research (New York: Garland, 1998), this presents expanded and updated offerings in its biography, catalogue of works, treatment of primary and secondary sources, contemporary periodical literature, and chronology, as well as editions and recent recordings. Should definitely be consulted in addition to the present bibliography.

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  • Pérez Sánchez, Alfonso. “La presencia de Iberia en los distintos soportes sonoros.” In Antes de Iberia: De Masarnau a Albéniz; Pre-Iberia: From Masarnau to Albéniz. Edited by Luisa Morales and Walter A. Clark, 125–140. Garrucha, Spain: Asociación Cultural LEAL, 2009.

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    This fascinating article presents a remarkably detailed overview of the recording history of Iberia, focusing on how developments in recording technology and formats have influenced the number of audio recordings available. The recording of certain numbers to the exclusion of other, equally worthy ones seems to have been dictated by that selection’s suitability to the recording technology available at the time.

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  • Romero, Justo. Isaac Albéniz: Discografía recomendada. Obra completa comentada. Barcelona: Ediciones Península, 2002.

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    Begins with a sixty-page biographical summary revealing awareness of recent advances in Albéniz research. Continues with an annotated catalogue of works, organized by genre and medium and providing a brief commentary on each composition. Of special interest is the discography that concludes each entry in the catalogue. Concludes with a chronology and index.

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  • Ullate i Estanyol, Margarida. “Rarezas de la discografía histórica (1903–1959).” Scherzo: Revista de Música 24.240 (April 2009): 128–131.

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    An intriguing overview of historic recordings of Albéniz’s music, many of which were not mentioned in the discography of the 1998 edition of Clark’s research guide (see Clark 2015) or the subsequent discography by Justo Romero (Romero 2002).

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Source Studies

Original research on Albéniz is absolutely impossible without access to the letters, diaries, music manuscripts, and press clippings that the family preserved and are now available in various libraries and archives, mostly in the Barcelona area. In 2015, Albéniz’s descendants donated the remaining items in their possession to the Biblioteca de Catalunya. Escalas 2009 brings important insights to this subject, as he was director of another important repository, the Museu de la Música in Barcelona. Composer and conductor Tomás Bretón was a major figure in Spanish music around 1900 and a close friend of Albéniz. They collaborated on several projects, and crucial information on their relationship is available in Torres Mulas 1995. Torres Mulas 1997 is a case study in the maintenance and dispersion of family archives.

  • Escalas, Romà. “El legado de Albéniz en el Museu de la Música de Barcelona.” Scherzo: Revista de Música 24.240 (April 2009): 132–136.

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    Much of the Albéniz family archive was donated to the Museu de la Música during the late 1970s and early 1980s. It might have been better if the entire archive had been deposited in one place, but instead, it was divided up among several facilities in Barcelona. This useful article summarizes the contents of that part of the archive now residing in the Museu de la Música.

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  • Torres Mulas, Jacinto. “Concentración vs. dispersión de fondos documentales: El desdichado caso de Isaac Albéniz.” In El patrimonio musical: Los archivos familiares (1898–1936). Edited by Jorge de Persia and María García Alonso, 55–77. Trujillo, Spain: Ediciones de La Coria, 1997.

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    An overview of the state of primary resources in Albéniz research, particularly in regards to the family archive and its dispersal to several libraries and archives, mostly in Barcelona. This is basically a case study in how not to handle such a priceless collection of materials.

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  • Torres Mulas, Jacinto, ed. Tomás Bretón: Diario 1881–1888. 2 vols. Madrid: Acento Editorial, 1995.

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    Tomás Bretón (b. 1850–d. 1923) was a leading composer of zarzuela as well as a conductor. He conducted and orchestrated various works by Albéniz, and the two exchanged ideas on a number of subjects. These volumes contain over one hundred diary entries pertaining to Albéniz.

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Dictionary and Encyclopedia Entries

There is a relative dearth of reliable resources in this genre. Iglesias 1982 was the best during the decade in which it was published and still has value. Clearly it has been superseded by Iglesias and Kalfa 1999 and Barulich 2014. But these also have limitations as they do not adequately reflect the advances that have been made in Albéniz research since the 1990s.

  • Barulich, Frances. “Albéniz, Isaac.” Grove Music Online (accessed 19 August 2014).

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    Although this is not the longest dictionary or encyclopedia entry available, it is the most accurate and up to date; furthermore, it has the online advantage of being revisable and responsive to advances in research.

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  • Iglesias, Antonio. “Albéniz, Isaac.” In Enciclopedia Salvat de los grandes compositores. Vol. 4, La música nacionalista. Pamplona, Spain: Salvat S.A. de Ediciones, 1982.

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    A remarkably lengthy entry for its time. Though the biography was based on the canon and is now out of date, it is very detailed and still contains some valuable data. Includes many photographs and illustrations as well as a list of works.

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  • Iglesias, Antonio, and Jacqueline Kalfa. “Albéniz, Isaac.” In Diccionario de la música española e hispanoamericana. Vol. 1. Edited by Emilio Casares, 188–201. Madrid: Sociedad General de Autores y Editores, 1999.

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    A very substantial article richly illustrated with photos and concluding with an ample bibliography. Still, the authors persist in perpetuating Albéniz’s self-mythology, even in the face of contradictory evidence presented in several of the items listed in said bibliography. Not a reliable source of information.

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Historical Studies and Historiographies

Several articles have been published on Albéniz’s connection with larger historical and cultural trends, both within Spain and elsewhere. Though Albéniz’s music exudes a Spanish flavor, Barce 1996 reminds us that his exposure to traditional music and dance took place in urban rather than rural settings. Certainly among the most important urban settings, one he evoked time and again in his piano music, was Granada, especially its Moorish palace-fortress, the Alhambra. In fact, Christoforidis 2009 explores his evocations of Granada as part of a larger European and American fascination with this city as the meeting point of East and West, a fascination shared by French writers and composers, especially Debussy. Though southern Spain remained the wellspring of Albéniz’s inspiration, Gallego 1988 is correct to point out that his musical “vignettes” often represent a romanticized vision of a Spain that no longer exists, or never existed at all. Though Albéniz was principally attracted to Andalusia, Torres Mulas 2007 reveals his connection with the Quijote of Cervantes, a thread running through 400 years of Spanish culture. Torres Mulas 2010a also explores the surprising importance of Freemasonry in Albéniz’s life and career, as his father and Madrid publisher Benito Zozaya were Freemasons. Moreover, he gave concerts for Masonic groups as a young virtuoso. Albéniz was closely associated with London’s cultural life as well, and Cooper 2006 elucidates the little-known connection between the Spaniard and George Bernard Shaw. Next to Spain, however, Albéniz was most intimately involved with France and French culture. Several works, e.g., Kalfa 1988, López-Bonastre 1998, Jiménez 2009, and Nommick 2009, treat his professional and personal relationships in Paris, associations that were decisive during the last fifteen years of his creative life. All of this contextualization led Torres Mulas 2010b to a historiographical examination of how we have received and understood Albéniz and his music since the late 19th century.

  • Barce, Ramón. “Sintesi di folklori professionali in Isaac Albéniz.” Musica/Realtà 18 (November 1996): 117–130.

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    Albéniz’s music is suffused with melodies and rhythms indebted to the folk songs and dances of Spain. This article explores the sources of this material that were available to Albéniz and concludes that rather than in the village square, Albéniz came into contact with this folklore in commercial settings, where it was performed by professionals. It was thus urban rather than rural folklore that served as Albéniz’s muse.

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  • Christoforidis, Michael. “Isaac Albéniz’s Alhambrism and fin-de-siècle Paris.” In Antes de Iberia: De Masarnau a Albéniz; Pre-Iberia: From Masarnau to Albéniz. Edited by Luisa Morales and Walter A. Clark, 171–182. Garrucha, Spain: Asociación Cultural LEAL, 2009.

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    Explores the phenomenon of Alhambrism in Albéniz’s music. A fascination with Granada and its Alhambra as the final redoubt of Arab culture in Europe, Alhambrismo was pervasive in music, literature, and art of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, not only in Spain itself but also in France.

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  • Cooper, Colin. “Albéniz and Shaw.” Classical Guitar 25.1 (September 2006): 30–31.

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    A brief but intriguing examination of the intersection of Albéniz’s career with that of the celebrated author George Bernard Shaw. Though the two men never actually met, this article surveys Shaw’s several reviews of Albéniz’s performances and stage productions during his tenure in London, 1890–1893. This useful article is clearly indebted to earlier research but includes no citation of sources.

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  • Gallego, Julián. “Albéniz: La España que (acaso) fue.” Música (Boletín de la Fundación Isaac Albéniz) 1 (December 1988): 27–28.

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    This article deals with Albéniz’s romantic longing for a Spain that existed mostly in the realm of idealized reminiscence. His nostalgia finds poignant expression in Iberia, whose musical depictions of various locales in Spain such as “Málaga” and “Almería” do not correspond to present or historical reality.

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  • Jiménez, Lourdes. “Isaac Albéniz: Artista i mecenes.” In Isaac Albéniz: Artista i mecenes. Catalogue of an exhibition organized by the Museu Diocesà de Barcelona, July-September 2009. Edited by Joana Alarcón Hernández, 117–130. Barcelona: Museu Diocesà de Barcelona, 2009.

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    A survey of Albéniz’s relationship with the art and artists of his own time, especially those associated with the modernist movement. Treats photographs and paintings of the composer himself and then discusses his sizable collection of paintings, including canvases by Casas, Rusiñol, Zuloaga, and Regoyos. Followed by color reproductions of paintings and drawings by these artists.

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  • Kalfa, Jacqueline. “Isaac Albéniz à Paris.” Revue Internationale de Musique Française 9.26 (June 1988): 19–37.

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    Treats in detail Albéniz’s Paris years (1894–1909) and his relationship with notable musicians and institutions there, including Chausson and d’Indy, the Société Nationale de Musique, and the Schola Cantorum. Discusses his relationship with Debussy and the influence they exerted on one another.

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  • López-Bonastre, Begoña. “Isaac Albéniz: Un double ancrage.” In Échanges musicaux franco-espagnols XVIIe–XIXe siècles. Proceedings of the Recontres de Villecroze, 15–17 October, 1998. Edited by François Lesure, 335–341. Villecroze, France: Académie Musicale de Villecroze, 1998.

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    Albéniz was “anchored” in two different cultures, the Spanish and the French. The Parisian influence on his output becomes more marked in his mature compositions, especially his songs with French texts, on which this essay focuses.

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  • Nommick, Yvan. “Albéniz en París: Recepción y magisterio.” Scherzo: Revista de Música 24.240 (April 2009): 114–117.

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    An insightful overview of Albéniz’s close relationships with leading musicians in fin-de-siècle Paris. These included such luminaries as Debussy, d’Indy, Dukas, Fauré, and Ravel, as well as his Spanish compatriots Falla and Turina. Albéniz played a key role in promoting a progressive form of Spanish music and assisting other Spanish composers keen to follow his lead.

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  • Torres Mulas, Jacinto. “La jamás imaginada ‘Aventura de los molinos,’ de Isaac Albéniz.” In Cervantes y el Quijote en la música. Edited by Begoña Lolo, 345–371. Madrid: Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia, Centro de Estudios Cervantinos, 2007.

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    Explores Albéniz’s fascination with Cervantes and the composer’s unrealized plans to write an opera based on the novel Rinconete y Cortadillo and a programmatic orchestral work entitled Aventura de los molinos. This is a revision of “La pasión cervantina de Isaac Albéniz, discurso pronunciado por el Exemo. Sr. Dr. D. Jacinto Torres Mulas en el acto de su toma de posesión como Académico de Número el día 26 de octubre de 2005 y contestación del académico Excmo. Sr. Dr. D. Fernando Aguirre de Yraola” (Madrid: Real Academia de Doctores de España, 2005).

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  • Torres Mulas, Jacinto. “Isaac Albéniz y los hermanos francmasones.” In La masonería española. Represión y exilios. XII Symposium Internacional de Historia de la Masonería Española (Almería, 8–10 octubre 2009). Vol. 1. Edited by J. A. Ferrer Benimeli, 601–625. Zaragoza, Spain: Gobierno de Aragón, 2010a.

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    Offers a very detailed investigation concerning all aspects of Albéniz’s lifelong relationships with freethinkers and Freemasons, including the Masonic membership of many of the people who played a decisive role in his life and the very close connections he established with them, not only in Spain but also in Belgium, Cuba, England, and France.

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  • Torres Mulas, Jacinto. “Las voces y los ecos: Un siglo de historiografía albeniciana.” Anales de la Real Academia de Doctores de España 14.2 (2010b): 143–160.

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    A deeply insightful overview of the history of Albéniz biography, from its tentative beginnings in the late 19th century through the florescence of scholarship since the 1990s. As one of the leading figures in this development, the author is in an excellent position to assay Albéniz historiography and lay out the necessary intellectual parameters that successful research must observe.

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Correspondence and Writings

Albéniz maintained a voluminous correspondence with family, friends, and professional associates in Spain, Britain, Belgium, France, and Germany. This was carefully preserved by the family and is now available for examination in Barcelona archives and libraries. Most of the extant letters are to rather than from him, but they nonetheless provide the historian with a superabundance of useful and fascinating information. For insights into Albéniz’s thoughts and feelings, we must rely heavily on his diaries, which record details of his journeys early in life and ruminations of a philosophical nature from his mature years. Though outwardly sanguine and loquacious, it is obvious that Albéniz was a very complex and thoughtful individual, one occasionally given to bouts of depression. Though his diary entries have been published in a less-than-reliable and incomplete edition in Albéniz 1990, there is still no collected correspondence. Instead, we are dependent either on direct examination of primary sources or the selected items published in Salvat 1933, Moragas 1938, Llorens Cisteró 1959, Llorens Cisteró 1960, Nectoux 1977, Sobrino 1998, Samsó Moya 2009, and García 2010. Tricas Preckler 1983 provides correspondence between Dukas and Albéniz’s daughter Laura, a gifted artist who served as his secretary during the composer’s illness-ridden final years. Montes 2016 does the same for Fauré’s letters to and from Isaac and Laura.

  • Albéniz, Isaac. Impresiones y diarios de viaje. Edited by Enrique Franco. Madrid: Fundación Isaac Albéniz, 1990.

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    The first publication of Albéniz’s travel journals and diaries. The initial entries are from 1880 and record his journey to Budapest in search of Franz Liszt, with whom he hoped to study. The second set of journal entries deals with his journey to Prague in 1897 and the production of Pepita Jiménez there in that year. In 1898, Albéniz began a diary in which, until the final entry in 1903, he expatiated on a wide variety of subjects.

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  • García, Laura Sanz. “Isaac Albéniz y la difusión de la cultura española en París, a través del género epistolar.” Anuario Musical 65 (January-December 2010): 111–132.

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    This article makes excellent use of surviving correspondence at the Biblioteca de Catalunya to flesh out the central role Albéniz played in establishing crucial connections between Spanish (particularly Catalan) musicians, artists, and writers active in Paris around 1900 and their French counterparts. The author compares and contrasts Spanish and French cultures at that time.

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  • Llorens Cisteró, José María. “Notas inéditas sobre el virtuosismo de Isaac Albéniz y su producción pianística.” Anuario Musical 14 (1959): 91–113.

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    Excerpts from letters, poems, and articles concerning Albéniz’s remarkable gifts as a performer and improviser at the piano. Includes commentary from the album he took on his early concert tours in which admirers inscribed their encomiums, as well as substantial quotes from letters by Francisco Barbieri, Vincent d’Indy, and Charles-Marie Widor congratulating him on his performances and his own compositions.

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  • Llorens Cisteró, José María. “Isaac Albéniz a través de unas cartas inéditas.” San Jorge 38 (April 1960): 26–31.

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    The extant correspondence of Albéniz numbers in the hundreds of letters. Among these are missives from many distinguished contemporaries in France and Spain, and this article presents brief excerpts from several. Included are passages by Tomás Bretón, Alfred Bruneau, Gabriel Fauré, Enrique Granados, Joaquim Malats, and Enric Morera concerning both his performances and his compositions.

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  • Montes, Beatriz C., ed. and trans. Correspondencia de Gabriel Fauré a Isaac y Laura Albéniz. Madrid: Nauclero Ediciones, 2016.

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    Albéniz was a close friend of Gabriel Fauré, and the two composers maintained a lively correspondence, which continued with Albéniz’s daughter Laura after her father’s death in 1909. The original letters were in French and are presented here in Spanish translation. The volume concludes with a very helpful table of all the letters, in chronological order listing description, date, and a summary of contents.

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  • Moragas, Rafael. “Epistolario inédito de Isaac Albéniz.” Música 1/5 (May-June 1938): 38–45.

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    Letters from Albéniz to his friend Enrique Moragas throw valuable light on the genesis of several of his works, including “Granada” from the Suite española no. 1, “La vega” from the incomplete The Alhambra. Suite pour le piano, and the reorchestration of Pepita Jiménez. Also reveals his plan (unrealized) to set Joaquín Dicenta’s play Juan José as an opera.

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  • Nectoux, Jean-Michel. “Albéniz et Fauré: Correspondence inédite.” TILAS (Travaux de l’Institut d’Études Iberiques et Latino-Americaines) (1977): 159–186.

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    Before Montes 2016, this was the most complete publication of the extensive correspondence (twenty-two cards and letters) from Fauré to Albéniz and his family (in the Biblioteca de Catalunya, sig. M986, “F”). These make it clear that they were very intimate friends and greatly admired one another. In addition, there are three poems by Fauré to Albéniz that reveal not only his wit and humor but also his affection for the Spaniard. All items are in the original French.

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  • Salvat, Joan. “Epistolari dels nostres músics: Isaac Albéniz a Joaquim Malats.” Revista Musical Catalana 30.357 (September 1933): 364–372.

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    The correspondence between these two titans of Catalan pianism reveals Albéniz’s uncommon affection and respect for his compatriot. The correspondence deals mostly with the creation and interpretation of Iberia, several numbers of which Malats premiered in Spain. Iberia was clearly written with Malats in mind, and his performance of it gave Albéniz complete satisfaction.

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  • Samsó Moya, Julio. “El diari de Laura Albéniz.” In Isaac Albéniz: Artista i mecenes. Catalogue of an exhibition organized by the Museu Diocesà de Barcelona, July-September 2009. Edited by Joana Alarcón Hernández, 81–116. Barcelona: Museu Diocesà de Barcelona, 2009.

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    The first-ever publication of the diary of Albéniz’s daughter Laura, with an introductory essay on its genesis, contents, and history by the composer’s grandson, who owns the diary and has finally made it public. This very important document sheds important light on Albéniz’s family and its enduring presence in Spanish cultural life.

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  • Sobrino, Ramón. “El epistolario inédito de Tomás Bretón a Isaac Albéniz (1890–1908): Nuevos documentos sobre la música española en torno al 98.” Cuadernos de Música Iberoamericana 5 (1998): 163–183.

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    This is a well-organized and thorough presentation of the unpublished correspondence sent from composer/conductor Tomás Bretón (b. 1850–d. 1923) to Albéniz during the period 1890–1908 and that is located in the Biblioteca de Catalunya, Barcelona. Of great interest to anyone researching the close personal and professional relationship between these two men.

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  • Tricas Preckler, Mercedes, ed. Cartas de Paul Dukas a Laura Albéniz. Bellaterra, Spain: Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona, 1983.

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    Paul Dukas was an intimate friend of the Albéniz family and maintained a close relationship with it for many years after the composer’s death. His letters (sixty-nine in all, covering the period 1906–1935) to Albéniz’s daughter Laura (who served as her father’s secretary before his death) make clear the affectionate regard in which he held the Spanish composer.

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Catalogues

Since the late 1980s, increasing attention has been paid to Albéniz as a truly pivotal figure in the history of Spanish music. An important manifestation of this revival of interest has been the organization of exhibitions devoted to his life and music and to the compiling of the first systematic catalogues of his works. The exhibitions have produced catalogues and reprints of genuine value, while the catalogues of works have provided the first lists based on an examination of abundant primary and secondary sources, including manuscripts, first editions, and press notices.

Exhibitions

Starting in 1988, exhibitions have played a major role in advancing our knowledge of Albéniz and his musical universe. The exhibition organized by the Fundacion Isaac Albéniz produced two important publications, Franco 1988 and Franco 1990, which present many of the items that were on display in the exhibition, as well as essays and reprints of articles. In 2009, upon the centenary of Albéniz’s death, the Diocesan Museum in Barcelona organized an exhibition that explored Albéniz’s connections with and support for important cultural figures of his time, especially painters. This produced a major catalogue with fascinating reproductions and essays by family members and leading scholars. Another exhibition was organized in Madrid that same year, which produced a catalogue and other very useful items.

  • Franco, Enrique, ed. Imágenes de Isaac Albéniz. Madrid: Fundación Isaac Albéniz, 1988.

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    A collection of essays, articles, and poems dealing with Albéniz. Includes many photographs as well as passages from his travel diaries. This was the first major publication of the Fundación and includes some items not found in their subsequent publications, though some of this material was used for the 1990 exhibition.

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  • Franco, Enrique, ed. Albéniz y su tiempo. Madrid: Fundación Isaac Albéniz, 1990.

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    A catalogue of the 1990 traveling exhibition organized by the Fundación. It contains articles and essays about Albéniz and his times. Richly illustrated with photographs and drawings of Albéniz and important figures and locales in his life story.

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  • Hernández, Joana Alarcón, ed. Isaac Albéniz: Artista i mecenes. Catalogue of an exhibition organized by the Museu Diocesà de Barcelona, July-September 2009. Barcelona: Museu Diocesà de Barcelona, 2009.

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    Contains a cornucopia of articles by Joana Alarcón Hernández, Roger Alier, Walter Aaron Clark, Josep Colomer i Ràfols, Pere Jordi Figuerola i Rotger, Josep Marti i Bonet, and Julio Samsó Moya (most of these are treated in separate annotations here). It is richly illustrated with photos and reproductions of art works.

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  • Romero, Justo, Llúcia Gimeno, and Lourdes Jiménez Fernández. Albéniz: Leyendas y verdades. Catalogue of the exhibition organized by Spain’s Ministerio de Cultura, the Biblioteca Nacional, and the Sociedad Estatal de Conmemoraciones Culturales in the Centro Cultural del Conde Duque de Madrid, 11 November 2009, to 31 January 2010. Madrid: Ayuntamiento de Madrid, 2009.

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    Fascinating and richly illustrated guide to the 2009–2010 exhibition in Madrid, honoring the centenary of the composer’s death and the sesquicentennial of his birth. Explores the fine line between legend and reality in the composer’s life story. Comes with a DVD of the exhibition.

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Works

Baytelman 1993 was the most rigorous and complete catalogue of Albéniz’s piano works ever published. Though it remains a valuable source of information, it has since largely been superseded by Torres Mulas 2001. What Torres Mulas has done for Albéniz is comparable to what earlier researchers like Köchel and Kirkpatrick did for Mozart and Domenico Scarlatti. Thus, it is now customary among Albéniz scholars to utilize T. numbers in connection with his oeuvre.

  • Baytelman, Pola. Isaac Albéniz: Chronological List and Thematic Catalog of His Piano Works. Detroit Studies in Music Bibliography 72. Warren, MI: Harmonie Park, 1993.

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    Presents a summary of biographical issues, then discusses style periods, publishers, and detailed examination of the piano music in chronological order listing performance, publication information, and special details. Concludes with a discography and several other appendices.

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  • Torres Mulas, Jacinto. Catálogo sistemático descriptivo de las obras musicales de Isaac Albéniz. Preface by Robert M. Stevenson. Madrid: Instituto de Bibliografía Musical, 2001.

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    The systematic portion of the catalogue presents the works numbered continuously throughout and grouped by genre/medium: stage, orchestra, chamber, vocal, and piano. It continues with assorted arrangements, exercises, and improvisations, and concludes with titles for projected as well as spurious and wrongly attributed works. The text is enhanced by reproductions of manuscript pages, concert programs, and first-edition covers.

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Dissertations and Theses

One of the most telling indicators of the vitality of any area of musicological investigation is the number and quality of doctoral dissertations and master’s theses written on the subject. For more than a half-century after Albéniz’s death, no such document on his life and music existed. Mast 1974 broke major ground in this respect with his first-ever theoretical analysis of Iberia, a work that has continued to attract the greatest interest, especially in Kalfa 1980, Pérez Sánchez 2012, and Fernández Marín 2015. Other scholars, notably the authors of Laufer 2003, Martínez Burgos 2004, and Acosta Castillo 2017 have found plenty to say about his earlier piano works, especially the Suite española no. 1 and La vega. Clark 1992, Bevan 1994, and Carlson 2010 ventured beyond piano pieces to shed needed light on Albéniz’s stage and orchestral works.

  • Acosta Castillo, Hugo Nahum. “Prélude (Asturias, Leyenda) de Isaac Albéniz: Estudio del lenguaje guitarrístico inherente en la versión original para piano y sugerencias para futuras transcripciones a partir del análisis de grabaciones emblemáticas.” Master’s thesis, Universidad de Guanajuato, 2017.

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    Presents insightful analyses of various recordings of this evergreen favorite, often referred to as “Asturias (Leyenda)” from the Suite española no. 1 but which is properly known as the Prélude from Chants d’Espagne (it was inserted posthumously by publishers into the Suite, with a new title). The author examines recordings by both pianists and guitarists in dealing with how the piano originals imitate the guitar, as well as how guitarists have transcribed the work.

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  • Bevan, Clifford. “Albéniz, Money-Coutts and ‘La Parenthèse londonienne.’” PhD diss., University of London, 1994.

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    Examines Albéniz’s collaboration with Francis Burdett Money-Coutts. The three operas Albéniz composed to librettos by Money-Coutts are examined in terms of their production, reception, textual and musical structure, and influences. Provides a brief examination of Albéniz’s songs on texts of Money-Coutts. The appendices include plot summaries and a thorough catalogue of manuscript and published sources.

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  • Carlson, Lindsey. “From Albéniz to Arbós: The Orchestration of ‘Iberia.’” Master’s thesis, University of Maryland, 2010.

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    Examines in admirable detail the collaboration between Albéniz and Arbós in the orchestration of Iberia. He was unsatisfied with his orchestration of “El Puerto” from Iberia and approached Arbós to take over. This study concludes that Arbós did not begin afresh but rather revised Albéniz’s orchestration; however, the remaining four of his arrangements from Iberia were completely his own work.

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  • Clark, Walter Aaron. “‘Spanish Music with a Universal Accent’: Isaac Albéniz’s Opera Pepita Jiménez.” PhD diss., University of California Los Angeles, 1992.

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    Examines problems in the biography of Albéniz’s early life, as well as his relationship with Francis Burdett Money-Coutts, the English librettist. Chapters on manuscript and published sources are followed by an analysis of the music and the opera’s critical reception. The final chapters treat the work’s significance in the context of Albéniz’s evolution as a composer and in the development of ópera española.

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  • Fernández Marín, Lola. “Estructuras de la música popular andaluza, preflamenca y flamenca en Iberia de Isaac Albéniz.” PhD diss., Universidad Complutense de Madrid, 2015.

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    Seeks to answer questions that have arisen about Iberia’s thematic identity in relation to Andalusian folklore, including flamenco and pre-flamenco genres. It accomplishes this by means of a thorough musical analysis, to assess whether previously conceived ideas about the folkloric origins of his thematic material are accurate. In addition to confirming or dismissing received wisdom about these themes, it also proposes new identities based on original research. This dissertation is thus an indispensable resource for anyone undertaking serious analysis of Albéniz’s Iberia.

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  • Kalfa, Jacqueline. “Inspiration hispanique et ecriture pianistique dans Iberia d’Isaac Albéniz.” Thèse de 3e cycle de musicologie, Université de Paris-Sorbonne, 1980.

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    Begins with a general introduction to the work, followed by five chapters devoted to Spanish music from the era of Domenico Scarlatti through the revival of the zarzuela. Chapters 6 through 20 deal with Albéniz’s handling of local color, articulation, notation, etc. Chapters 21 through 23 treat the form of the pieces, and the final three chapters discuss its reception history and influence.

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  • Laufer, Milton Rubén. “Isaac Albéniz and La Vega: A Publication History and New Edition.” D.M.A. thesis, Rice University, 2003.

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    La vega is a transformative work in Albéniz’s output, in both its formal/harmonic complexity and its stylization of folkloric materials. This groundbreaking thesis establishes the history of its publication through a careful examination of primary sources and offers a cleaned-up version, one free of the editorial errors that plagued many of Albéniz’s works.

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  • Martínez Burgos, Manuel. “Isaac Albéniz: La armonía en las composiciones de madurez para piano solo como síntesis de procesos tonales y modales.” PhD diss., Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, 2004.

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    Explores tonal and modal harmonies in Albéniz’s late works, including “Córdoba” from Chants d’Espagne, La vega, Espagne (Souvenirs), Yvonne en visite!, Iberia, Navarra, and Azulejos. Albéniz’s integration of tonality and modality is accomplished through juxtaposition, superimposition, and integration of chords. Such harmonic procedures have important implications for the formal structures in these works.

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  • Mast, Paul Buck. “Style and Structure in ‘Iberia’ by Isaac Albéniz.” PhD diss., University of Rochester, Eastman School of Music, 1974.

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    Begins with a distillation of secondary sources in presenting a portrait of Albéniz as a man and artist. A chapter on Spanish folk music, mainly flamenco, introduces an extensive summary of the work’s principal stylistic features. He then proceeds systematically through the four books of Iberia in discussing the formal structure of each number, with emphasis on Albéniz’s adaptation of sonata form to his folkloric style.

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  • Pérez Sánchez, Alfonso. “El legado sonoro de Iberia de Isaac Albéniz. La grabación integral: Un estudio de caso.” PhD thesis, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, 2012.

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    This original and thoroughly researched dissertation examines the recordings of the complete solo piano version of Iberia from several perspectives in order to understand them better as commercial products. It is divided into three main parts: 1) historical information regarding the various interpreters and recordings; 2) album-cover iconography; and 3) musical tempo in the recordings.

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Piano Works

Albéniz was one of the outstanding piano virtuosos of his epoch, and it is not surprising that his most durable and celebrated works are for that medium. They have certainly attracted the lion’s share of scholarly attention over the years. Other than Iberia, however, specific individual works are the focus of only a few publications; therefore, this section is divided into two parts, one presenting overviews up to and including Iberia but not devoted solely to that work, and the other including studies of Iberia alone, clearly Albéniz’s most substantial set of pieces for his instrument and an enduring monument in the piano repertoire.

Overviews

Only a small number of researchers have attempted to gain a sort of bird’s-eye view of Albéniz’s entire output for piano. Iglesias 1987 was the first and last such attempt. Baytelman 2009 and Torres Mulas 2009 provide more current and useful treatments of his stylistic evolution. Albéniz was clearly indebted to Spanish folklore in many of his piano works, and evocations of the techniques and musical idioms of the guitar are especially prominent, something of importance for a pianist to know and a subject taken up in Chapalain 1997, Chapalain 1998, and Yates 2004–2005. The style of guitar playing that influenced Albéniz was flamenco, and Fernández Marín 2006 treat this art form’s impact on his music. Other influences are at work, however. Clark 2009 elucidates the impact of the Cuban habanera on Albéniz’s “tangos.” Albéniz had so assimilated the traditional music of Spain that he could readily improvise a malagueña or jota at the piano. In fact, he recorded a few such improvisations on wax cylinders, and Laufer and Walker 2009 discusses these fascinating works, having enhanced their recordings and published transcriptions. One must also bear in mind, however, that Albéniz as a pianist was a consummate interpreter of the mainstream Baroque, Classical, and Romantic repertoire. Thus, his concert programs featured works by Bach, Scarlatti, Beethoven, and Chopin. There are several compositions in his oeuvre for piano, such as his Sonatas, that are not Spanish in character but clearly reflect his love of the Central European tradition. Albéniz’s “classical” streak is the subject of Clark 2016.

  • Baytelman, Pola. “Style Evolution in the Piano Works of Isaac Albéniz.” In Antes de Iberia: De Masarnau a Albéniz; Pre-Iberia: From Masarnau to Albéniz. Edited by Luisa Morales and Walter A. Clark, 151–170. Garrucha, Spain: Asociación Cultural LEAL, 2009.

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    Offers a general overview of the stylistic evolution in Albéniz’s piano music, from his early imitations of Chopin, Schubert, and Liszt to his character pieces inspired by Spanish folklore as well as his non-Hispanic suites and sonatas. All of these established the necessary foundation for his mature compositions, including the influence of contemporary French music, with which he became familiar during his Paris years.

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  • Chapalain, Guy. “La Guitare dans l’ecriture d’Isaac Albéniz [part 1].” Les Cahiers de la Guitare et de la Musique 64 (1997): 21–23.

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    A brief yet very astute and useful examination of the precise musical elements of Andalusian folklore, especially flamenco, that Albéniz deployed in his Spanish-style piano works. Imitations of the guitar’s characteristic strumming patterns (rasgueo), runs (picados), slurred passages (ligados), and chord progressions are specified and corroborated by representative excerpts from Albéniz’s music.

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  • Chapalain, Guy. “La Guitare dans l’ecriture d’Isaac Albéniz [part 2].” Les Cahiers de la Guitare et de la Musique 65 (1998): 34–37.

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    A continuation of Chapalain 1997, exploring various transcriptions of Albéniz’s piano works for the guitar, the instrument that he so often and so skillfully evoked at the keyboard. Cites specific musical passages in treating the technique of transcription.

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  • Clark, Walter Aaron. “Bajo la palmera: Yradier, Albéniz, and the Lure of the Cuban ‘Tango.’” In Antes de Iberia: De Masarnau a Albéniz; Pre-Iberia: From Masarnau to Albéniz. Edited by Luisa Morales and Walter A. Clark, 141–150. Garrucha, Spain: Asociación Cultural LEAL, 2009.

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    There are numerous evocations of the habanera in Albéniz’s works, though he never uses the word “habanera” in any title, preferring instead “tango” or some other designation. This article explores the meaning of the word “tango” in the context of Albéniz’s music and also reveals the influence of Sebastián Yradier, to whose habaneras Albéniz’s “tangos” owe an obvious debt.

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  • Clark, Walter Aaron. “Variety within Logic: Classicism in the Works of Isaac Albéniz.” Diagonal: An Ibero-American Music Review 1.1 (2016).

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    Explores classicizing elements in Albéniz’s style, particularly in regard to his love of the 18th century, e.g., Scarlatti, Bach, and Viennese classicism. Albéniz’s composition of chaconnes, minuets, and sonatas owes a clear debt to that earlier period and demonstrates that, despite his modernizing tendencies in La vega and Iberia, he felt a profound reverence for tradition.

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  • Fernández Marín, Lola. “El flamenco en la música nacionalista española: Falla y Albéniz.” Música y Educación 19.1 (March 2006): 29–64.

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    A fascinating and quite original examination of precise harmonic, melodic, and rhythmic elements in flamenco that inform various works by Albéniz and Falla. Not only does this study shed light on Spanish nationalist works inspired by flamenco, but it also sheds light on flamenco itself, which was otherwise not written down during the period in which these men were composing.

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  • Iglesias, Antonio. Isaac Albéniz (su obra para piano). 2 vols. Madrid: Editorial Alpuerto, 1987.

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    Part of this author’s series of studies of Spanish piano music and composers. Presents detailed examination of Albéniz’s large piano output. The works are placed in alphabetical rather than chronological order. The books are enhanced by musical examples, poems, and photographs and conclude with a list of works, discography, and bibliography.

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  • Laufer, Milton Ruben, and John Q. Walker. “Musical Archaeology: The Recovery and Re-performance of Isaac Albéniz’s Improvisations.” In Antes de Iberia: De Masarnau a Albéniz; Pre-Iberia: From Masarnau to Albéniz. Edited by Luisa Morales and Walter A. Clark, 207–214. Garrucha, Spain: Asociación Cultural LEAL, 2009.

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    Albéniz made three surviving wax cylinder recordings in 1903, consisting of his improvisation of three “Impromptus.” Using the latest technology, these works have been transcribed and then re-performed by Zenph Studios, providing like-new renditions of what are some of the composer’s final works (see Drei Improvisationen 1903, with CD recording, Munich: G. Henle Verlag, 2010).

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  • Torres Mulas, Jacinto. “Influencias estilísticas y fuentes temáticas en la obra de Isaac Albéniz.” In Antes de Iberia: De Masarnau a Albéniz; Pre-Iberia: From Masarnau to Albéniz. Edited by Luisa Morales and Walter A. Clark, 125–140. Garrucha, Spain: Asociación Cultural LEAL, 2009.

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    The author emphasizes various thematic and stylistic elements that are ubiquitous in Albéniz’s works, from his earliest essays to his final compositions, which feature increasing stylization of his customary materials. The influence of Scarlatti and Chopin is readily apparent, interwoven with a process of Romantic “invention” in regards to Spanish folklore.

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  • Yates, Stanley. “Albéniz and the Guitar.” Soundboard 30.4 (2004–2005): 18–25.

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    If not for the attentions of guitarists playing transcriptions of them, many of Albéniz’s lesser-known piano works would remain in relative obscurity. Provides an overview of guitar arrangements of Albéniz’s piano music, a summary biography, and a description of the composer’s piano-performance style. Continues on to an insightful examination of key stylistic features every guitarist playing this music must comprehend.

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Iberia (1905–1908)

In view of its monumentality, complexity, technical difficulty, and highly evocative qualities, Iberia stands out as Albéniz’s most significant accomplishment as a composer. It is no wonder, then, that most of the scholarly attention paid to his music has gone to this twelve-movement work (consult the section Dissertations and Theses for several Iberia-related items). Early admiration was expressed in Debussy 1913, as the work gained traction due to the French premieres of each of the four books given by Blanche Selva, premieres explored in Font Batallé 2009. Some studies—principally Andrade de Silva 1952 and Iglesias 1988—have focused on the daunting technical challenges Iberia poses and ways to cope with them. Most other studies, particularly Franco 1973, Halbreich 1989, Maione 2002, and Martínez Burgos 2008, have delved into a musical analysis (see also Mast 1974 in Dissertations and Theses). Iglesias 1992 uses Iberia as the focus of a philippic against the neglect of Albéniz in Spain up to that time, while Torres Mulas and González 1998 presents the first systematic study of the work’s genesis and manuscript sources, as part of the definitive edition that Torres Mulas and pianist Guillermo González made of the work.

  • Andrade de Silva, Tomás. “El piano de Albéniz.” Música (Revista de los Conservatorios) 2 (October-December 1952): 71–82.

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    A treatment of the daunting technical problems posed by Iberia, describing it as “anti-pianistic” in its nearly impossible chords, leaps, and rhythms. Proceeds to a brief discussion of the particular challenges of each number in the collection, along with some reflections on their musical style.

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  • Debussy, Claude. “Concerts Colonne—Société des Nouveaux Concerts.” Bulletin Français de la Société Internationale de Musique 9.12 (1 December 1913): 42–44.

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    In 1913 Debussy attended a concert of Spanish works performed by Spanish musicians. Albéniz’s Iberia, a work with which he had long been familiar, was on the program, and he singles it out for special honors. Of particular merit is “Eritaña”: “Never has music attained to such diverse, such colorful impressions.” He goes on to state that “in this Iberia collection . . . Albéniz has given his best.”

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  • Font Batallé, Montserrat. “Blanche Selva y la première de Iberia en Paris: Del virtuosismo francés al andalucismo.” In Antes de Iberia: De Masarnau a Albéniz; Pre-Iberia: From Masarnau to Albéniz. Edited by Luisa Morales and Walter A. Clark, 183–200. Garrucha, Spain: Asociación Cultural LEAL, 2009.

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    Blanche Selva was the first to premiere the entire Iberia collection, but what is sometimes overlooked is the extent to which she participated in the work’s genesis as well as its presentation. This article explores her role in the creation and performance of Iberia, as well as the impact her renditions had in France, and the contribution she made to Albéniz’s legacy through her piano teaching as well.

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  • Franco, Enrique. “La Suite Iberia di Isaac Albéniz.” Nuova Rivista Musicale Italiana 7 (1973): 51–74.

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    Offers useful insights into each of the numbers of the famous collection. Traces the folkloric origin of some of the thematic material and touches on salient aspects of Albéniz’s handling of the piano. In Italian.

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  • Halbreich, Harry. “Análisis de Iberia.” Scherzo: Revista de Música 4.35 (June 1989): 78–81.

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    Presents brief but insightful descriptions of each of the movements from Albéniz’s chef-d’oeuvre, with useful emphasis on the work’s favorable reception in France among members of the avant-garde, especially Messiaen. Despite its title, it does not present so much of a musico-theoretical analysis as it does an aesthetic one.

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  • Iglesias, Antonio. De la dificultad del gran piano de Isaac Albéniz. Madrid: Editorial Alpuerto, 1988.

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    Intriguing study of the technical difficulties in Iberia. Among these problems are frequent hand crossings, intertwining of the fingers of both hands, superabundant accidentals (especially double flats), and the exaggerated use of tempo and dynamic markings. Yet, for all his specificity in these respects, Albéniz neglected to include metronome markings and was stingy with fingerings, leaving that job for performers and editors. 25 pp. (Offprint of an article that appeared in Volume 3 of the Boletín de la Reial Acadèmia Catalana de Belles Arts de Sant Jordi in Barcelona).

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  • Iglesias, Antonio. En torno a Isaac Albéniz y su “Iberia.” Madrid: Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, 1992.

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    The text of a lecture given at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando on 5 April 1992. Presents an overview of Albéniz’s career and accomplishments and treats the particular significance of his greatest work, Iberia. Deplores the ongoing neglect, both official and scholarly, of Albéniz in his homeland and calls for greater recognition of his importance.

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  • Maione, Orazio. “Isaac Albéniz: Iberia e il problema dello stile.” Rassegna Musicale Curci 55 (September 2002): 27–30.

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    A brief and rather derivative (though without citations) overview of the stylistic influences operating in Albéniz’s Iberia, from Spanish folklore to 18th-century keyboard music to French Impressionism.

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  • Martínez Burgos, Manuel. “La armonía en Iberia de Isaac Albéniz como síntesis de procesos tonales y modales.” Inter-American Music Review 18.1–2 (Summer 2008): 337–365.

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    A summary of the author’s dissertation (see Martínez Burgos 2004 under Dissertations and Theses), it presents an analysis of Albéniz’s Iberia and examines the myriad ways the composer juxtaposes, superimposes, and integrates chordal structures. Continues with an examination of Albéniz’s synthesis of harmonic procedures, focusing on tonality and modality.

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  • Torres Mulas, Jacinto, and Guillermo González, eds. Isaac Albéniz’s Iberia: Facsimile, Urtext, and Performing Editions. 3 vols. Madrid: Editorial de Música Española Contemporánea (EMEC), 1998.

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    Torres Mulas’s “historical-documental” essay in Volume 1 offers a revealing look at the textual origins and genesis of Albéniz’s most celebrated work. This is the sine qua non of Iberia editions and indispensable to any serious interpreter of the work. Volume 1 also contains Guillermo González’s integral revision and a facsimile edition of the manuscripts.

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Vocal Works

Perhaps the least-known dimension of Albéniz’s overall output is his vocal music. These comprise several sets of solo songs as well as an outstanding work for a cappella choir. The art songs would not remind the casual listener at all of Albéniz’s Spanish essays, as the majority exude the fragrance of fin-de-siècle Paris rather than Seville. Albéniz wrote thirty songs, in Spanish, French, and English, beginning in the 1880s and continuing to the end of his life. Thus, one can trace his stylistic development through the study of these compositions, the final ones of which exhibit the advanced harmonic and formal procedures of Iberia and other late works.

Solo Vocal

Albéniz’s reputation as a composer had always rested on his work for solo piano, and Llorens Cisteró 1960 was the first to draw serious attention to his art songs, though the most up-to-date and reliable research is available in Torres Mulas 1999. López 2002 is virtually alone in focusing on one work in particular, the songs using texts by Pierre Loti.

  • Llorens Cisteró, José María. “El ‘Lied’ en la obra musical de Isaac Albéniz.” Anuario Musical 15 (1960): 123–140.

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    The first detailed study of all of Albéniz’s art songs. Though the majority of these were written to texts by the English poet Francis Burdett Money-Coutts, Albéniz composed several other songs to Italian and French texts. Examines the songs in chronological order treating their genesis and style, with numerous musical examples.

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  • López, Begoña. “Nuevas aportaciones a Deux morceaux de prose de Pierre Loti, de Isaac Albéniz.” Anuario Musical 57 (2002): 241–249.

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    Explores the relationship between Albéniz and the French author Pierre Loti (né Julien Viaud) in the context of two songs the composer wrote on texts of Loti, Crépuscule and Tristesse, which the author dates to 1898. The article explores in helpful detail Albéniz’s relationship not only with Loti but also with a circle of artists, authors, and musicians called Les Vingt (“The Twenty”).

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  • Torres Mulas, Jacinto. “La obra vocal de Isaac Albéniz: Songs, mélodies y canciones.” Revista de Musicología 22.2 (1999): 165–219.

    DOI: 10.2307/20797607Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The most thorough survey undertaken of the songs. It includes an exhaustive examination of the documentary sources, both literary and musical, a catalogue of the various works, and critical commentary on the technical and esthetic characteristics of this music (see Jacinto Torres Mulas and Anton Cardó, eds., rev. ed., Integral de la obra para voz y piano, Barcelona: Tritó, 2009).

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Choral

Most of the choral music Albéniz composed is to be found, like his orchestral music, in his various stage works. One exception to this rule is a lovely setting of Psalm 6 he composed for a cappella SATB chorus upon the death of his patron, King Alfonso XII, in 1885. This piece had fallen into complete oblivion before it was resurrected by Spanish musicologist Jacinto Torres Mulas in 1989, who published an edition and wrote the definitive study of it (Torres Mulas 1990).

  • Torres Mulas, Jacinto, ed. “Un desconocido ‘Salmo de difuntos’ de Isaac Albéniz.” Revista de Musicología 13.1 (January-June 1990): 279–293.

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    Torres Mulas discovered this work in manuscript at the Real Conservatorio in Madrid. It was composed upon the death of Alfonso XII, the Spanish king who had sponsored Albéniz’s studies abroad. The article presents its history and salient musical characteristics, and includes a reproduction of the original manuscript. Torres Mulas has since published the work in a modern edition through his Instituto de Bibliografía Musical.

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Stage Works

Albéniz aspired to be a successful composer of opera and devoted a heroic amount of time and energy to the task, the ultimate manifestations of which would remain incomplete upon his death. The reason for this desire is clear enough: the only path to real celebrity and remuneration lay through the stage. Moreover, he was a great lover of opera, Wagner in particular, and sought to emulate his idol. Finally, he was one of several composers seeking to create ópera española, to establish a native tradition of opera that could pry the public loose from exclusive dependence on imported operatic fare.

Overviews

Because of a glaring disparity in musical styles among his zarzuelas and operas, it is difficult to speak of a consistent trajectory in Albéniz’s theatrical output. As in almost every other area of Albéniz research, Torres Mulas 1991 was the first to attempt this task, with groundbreaking results (see also Clark 1992 and Bevan 1994 in Dissertations and Theses). Alier 2009 and Cortès 2009 build on this sturdy foundation and offer valuable insights.

  • Alier, Roger. “Albéniz i l’Òpera.” In Isaac Albéniz: Artista i mecenes. Catalogue of an exhibition organized by the Museu Diocesà de Barcelona, July-September 2009. Edited by Joana Alarcón Hernández, 71–80. Barcelona: Museu Diocesà de Barcelona, 2009.

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    Provides a survey of Albéniz’s operas, from his English operetta The Magic Opal and Spanish operetta (zarzuela) San Antonio de la Florida, to his more substantial operatic collaborations with the English librettist Francis Burdett Money-Coutts: Pepita Jiménez, Henry Clifford, and the King Arthur trilogy. Illustrated with reproductions of letters and programs.

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  • Cortès, Francesc. “Para empezar con las obras líricas.” Scherzo: Revista de Música 24.240 (April 2009): 122–127.

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    A very useful overview of Albéniz’s stage works and their reception, from the early zarzuelas through Merlin. This is an aspect of the composer’s output that received short shrift from nearly all biographers; however, the reemergence of these works on recordings and in productions since the turn of the 21st century has compelled us to reevaluate Albéniz’s stature and contributions as a composer.

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  • Torres Mulas, Jacinto. “La producción escénica de Isaac Albéniz.” Revista de Musicología 14.1–2 (1991): 167–212.

    DOI: 10.2307/20795451Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This was the first systematic study of the stage works of Albéniz, including their genesis, production history, alternate titles, and sources. Its enormous impact has been felt in the subsequent revival, in both recordings and productions, of several of Albéniz’s numerous musico-dramatic works, which had been ignored or disparaged by the majority of commentators over the 20th century.

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Magic Opal

Albéniz’s foray into English operetta came about as a result of his residence in London from 1890 to 1893. His initial impact there was as a touring concert pianist, and he received rave reviews throughout Britain. By 1892, however, he was becoming involved with musical theater, writing supplementary numbers for various productions and eventually conducting. This led to his composition of a completely new work, The Magic Opal, with a libretto by Arthur Law. It premiered at the Lyric Theatre in January 1893 but did not enjoy a long life on that stage, mostly as a result of the libretto, which critics deemed inferior. A touring company was formed, and the operetta did better outside of London. Clearly the work had potential, so it was revised, given a new title, The Magic Ring, and produced at the Prince of Wales Theatre in April 1893. George Bernard Shaw felt that the work still exhibited crippling liabilities in terms of its libretto, but even he conceded that the revision left Albéniz “easily ahead of the best of his rivals” on the London stage (World, 19 April 1893). This was an auspicious beginning, but Albéniz had his sights set on bigger things. The Magic Opal/The Magic Ring swiftly slid into total obscurity and was only rescued by the publication of a 2011 critical edition edited by Borja Mariño and his conducting of a concert version in Madrid in that year. Torres Mulas 2011 provides invaluable perspectives on this unique work.

  • Torres Mulas, Jacinto. “Génesis y avatares de una opereta camaleónica: The Magic Opal, de Isaac Albéniz.” In Isaac Albéniz: The Magic Opal. Òpera còmica en dos actes. Llibret d’Arthur Law. Edited by Borja Mariño, 36–42. Barcelona: Tritó, 2011.

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    This insightful essay clarifies the supposed involvement of Enrique Fernández Arbós in editing several numbers in this operetta. Torres Mulas’s research establishes the dates and circumstances of its creation, revision, and premieres, as well as documenting the reception of the work in London and various cities in Britain.

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San Antonio de la Florida

The only way to achieve fame and fortune as a composer in Spain during Albéniz’s lifetime was by writing successful zarzuelas, operettas intended for the general public that enjoyed the same popularity as modern television sitcoms and could be very profitable. In fact, Albéniz’s earliest compositions were three zarzuelas from the early 1880s, all now lost. He revisited this genre in 1894 with San Antonio de la Florida, to a libretto by his friend Eusebio Sierra. The critics were excoriating in their dismissal of the work, which they felt was too sophisticated for the genre and an attempt by the now-expatriate composer to show how erudite he had become after living in London and then in Paris. This disaster alienated him even further from his homeland. More importantly, it discouraged him from further attempts at succeeding as a zarzuelero. Ironically, the work enjoyed modest success in a production in Brussels in 1905, in French translation. Its principal revival came in 2003 in Madrid, and four Albéniz scholars contributed their insights to the program notes.

  • Clark, Walter Aaron. La vida artística de Isaac Albéniz: Innovación y renovación. Program notes for a production of Isaac Albéniz’s zarzuela San Antonio de la Florida, Teatro de la Zarzuela (Madrid), 4 April 2003, 9–19.

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    Pays special attention to the spirit of innovation and renovation that informs Albéniz’s stage works. He sought to enlarge the musical resources of the género chico (light zarzuela) in both quality and quantity, an approach that angered the critics in Madrid, who felt that the expatriate Albéniz was, in essence, “putting on airs.”

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  • Eusebio, José de. ‘San Antonio’ . . . de La Habana. Program notes for a production of Isaac Albéniz’s zarzuela San Antonio de la Florida, Teatro de la Zarzuela (Madrid), 4 April 2003, 31–40.

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    Eusebio describes the orchestral parts that Emilio Casares discovered at the Museo Nacional de Música (Fondos del Teatro Tacón) in Havana, and then explains how he, Eusebio, used these in reconstructing the work for this production.

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  • Romero, Justo. Entre majos y majas. Program notes for a production of Isaac Albéniz’s zarzuela San Antonio de la Florida, Teatro de la Zarzuela (Madrid), 4 April 2003, 61–69.

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    Explores Granados’s relationship to Albéniz and then surveys the latter’s career as a composer of musical theater.

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Pepita Jiménez

This opera is the one that Albéniz admirers would have expected him to write, based as the libretto is on a Spanish novel by Juan Valera (1874). Here was just the drama he needed to put forward his characteristic brand of concert music steeped in Spanish folklore. And the opera does indeed abound in delightful evocations of the malagueña and other varieties of popular musical expression, including the villancico. The lackluster libretto, by Money-Coutts, is (yet again) its major weakness and had much to do with the work’s failure to gain a permanent place on the stage, though it was nonetheless the most successful of his works. After its 1896 premiere in Barcelona as a work in one act (in Italian translation), Albéniz expanded it to two acts for a production in Prague the following year (in German). It was produced in Brussels in 1905 (in French). Posthumous productions took place in Paris, Barcelona, and Madrid. It was revived by José de Eusebio for a 2006 recording on the Decca label, starring Plácido Domingo (Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft, 002894776234). This was the only performance of the work in its original language—English! Aparici 1975 examines the correspondence between Albéniz and Valera, who had serious reservations about the suitability of his novel for operatic transformation. (See also Clark 1992 in Dissertations and Theses.)

  • Aparici, María Pilar. “‘Pepita Jiménez,’ Valera-Albéniz.” Boletín de la Real Academia Española 55.204 (January-April 1975): 147–172.

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    During the period 1895–1898, Albéniz corresponded with the noted Spanish author Juan Valera concerning his plans to convert Valera’s novel Pepita Jiménez (1874) into an opera. Only Valera’s letters have survived, but they reveal his misgivings about the novel’s dramatic merits. He insisted that mixing his novel with Albéniz’s music would be like “mixing a partridge with custard,” a recipe that would ruin both ingredients. (Reprinted in Franco 1990, under Exhibitions, pp. 80–100.)

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King Arthur

This was the principal operatic project of the team of Money-Coutts and Albéniz. The English librettist invested much of himself in this operatic triptych, which he envisioned as “the National Trilogy,” a subject on which Clark 2002 expatiates. Money Coutts had complete faith in Albéniz’s ability to work outside of his customary Spanish idiom and set an English libretto based on Malory’s Morte d’Arthur, one notable for its sometimes archaic language. This may seem to be a rather strange aberration in the trajectory of Albéniz’s career, but there were rational reasons for the collaboration. First, Money-Coutts was paying him a generous annual salary to set his texts to music (both songs and operas). Second, both Albéniz and Money-Coutts were great admirers of Wagner and sought to do for English opera what Wagner had done for German opera. Albéniz had a deep familiarity with Wagner’s music and perceived an opportunity to make his mark as a serious and respected composer by completing the King Arthur trilogy. Alas, he only finished Merlin, which was never produced during his lifetime. Launcelot remained incomplete, and he never made any progress with Guenevere.

  • Clark, Walter Aaron. “A Spaniard in Queen Victoria’s Court: Isaac Albéniz, Francis Money-Coutts, and ‘The National Trilogy’ King Arthur.” In Nineteenth-Century British Music Studies. Vol. 2. Edited by Bennett Zon, 114–125. London: Ashgate, 2002.

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    Discusses the genesis of Albéniz’s Arthurian trilogy with librettos by the English author Francis Burdett Money-Coutts, who provided Albéniz with an ample annual income in exchange for setting his librettos and poems to music. Money-Coutts took a passionate interest in creating an operatic “National Trilogy,” consisting of Merlin, Launcelot, and Guenevere. Only the first opera was ever completed, though it was never produced during its creators’ lifetimes.

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Merlin

Albéniz’s most unusual and least expected work is certainly Merlin, the first installment in an incomplete trilogy of operas based on the legend of King Arthur. Clark 2002 explores this opera in some detail, pointing out that such a work was entirely consistent with the almost cult-like devotion accorded to Wagner by Catalan modernists and the general public in Barcelona around 1900. Haller 2005–2006 helps us to situate the libretto in the larger context of Arthurian legend and literature, while Torres Mulas 1998 reveals the long musicological and editorial process by which Merlin emerged from the shadows of Albéniz’s output. Indeed, thanks to the efforts of Spanish conductor José de Eusebio, it was recorded as a CD on the Decca label in 2000 (289467096-2) and as a DVD on the BBC/Opus Arte label in 2004 (OA 0888D).

  • Clark, Walter Aaron. “King Arthur and the Wagner Cult in Spain: Isaac Albéniz’s Opera Merlin.” In King Arthur in Music. Edited by Richard W. Barber, 51–60. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell & Brewer, 2002.

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    In Barcelona of the early 1900s, there was enormous enthusiasm for Wagner, whose operas were regularly performed there, usually in Catalan translation. This is the proper context for analyzing Albéniz’s composition of a Wagnerian King Arthur trilogy, only the first opera of which, Merlin, was ever completed.

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  • Haller, Robert S. “Malory Meets Wagner in Madrid: Albéniz’s Merlin and the Mythologizing of Arthur.” Ars Lyrica 15 (2005–2006): 67–78.

    DOI: 10.1484/J.JAL.2.302707Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A very astute analysis of the opera Merlin, especially its textual sources and Money-Coutts’s transformation of them into a libretto of questionable utility. Particularly useful here is a chart comparing the sorcerer Merlin’s scenes with their sources in Wagner and Malory. This article was written in the wake of Merlin’s revival in 2003 at the Teatro Real in Madrid.

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  • Torres Mulas, Jacinto. “Reflexiones en torno a la recuperación de Merlin, de Isaac Albéniz.” Revista de Musicología 21.2 (1998): 635–641.

    DOI: 10.2307/20797540Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Seeks to reassess Albéniz as a composer, emphasizing his considerable achievements in writing not only piano pieces but also songs, orchestral works, and operas. In particular, Merlin gives evidence of Albéniz’s technical skill and stylistic range in late career, particularly the richness of his harmonic palette and effective employment of leitmotiv (under the influence of his idol, Wagner).

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Orchestral Works

Albéniz was not a prolific composer of stand-alone orchestral works, his most notable achievement in this regard being Catalonia, the subject of a critical edition by Jacinto Torres Mulas and Arnau Farré (see their Catalonia: Rapsòdia simfònica, T. 24, Barcelona: Tritó, 2010). Bruach 1999 takes a dim view of Albéniz’s abilities as a orchestrator, a skill he worked hard to develop, but the essay Torres Mulas 2010, which appears in the Torres Mulas and Farré critical edition, applies a necessary corrective to that view. (See also Carlson 2010, under Dissertations and Theses, for a study of the orchestration of Iberia by Albéniz and Enrique Fernández Arbós.) At any rate, a scholar wishing to assay Albéniz’s achievements as an orchestrator has to pay careful attention to the opera Merlin and his 1904 reorchestration of Pepita Jiménez.

  • Bruach, Agustí. “Die Orchesterwerke Isaac Albéniz’ nach dem Manuskript 984 der Biblioteca de Catalunya: Versuch einer Einschätzung.” Anuario Musical 54 (1999): 203–214.

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    An examination of the manuscripts of Albéniz’s orchestral works now in the Biblioteca de Catalunya (sig. M984). Based on a comparison of drafts with completed works, the author concludes that Albéniz probably received considerable assistance in orchestrating works such as Catalonia. Regrettably, this article reinforces the mistaken notion that Albéniz did not know how to orchestrate.

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  • Torres Mulas, Jacinto. “Isaac Albéniz ante la orquesta: Catalonia.” In Catalonia: Rapsòdia simfònica, T. 24. Edited by Jacinto Torres Mulas and Arnau Farré, 3–11. Barcelona: Tritó Edicions, 2010.

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    Over the decades, many commentators have criticized Albéniz’s supposed inadequacies as an orchestrator, arguing that he required the assistance of others or that his orchestration was a mere projection of his pianistic conceptions. This essay rebuts such critiques by providing evidence for the considerable skill Albéniz acquired in writing an orchestral score, without any prior pianistic scheme or model.

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