En la Alhambra


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En la Alhambra
Alhambrismo Musical

Orquesta Ciudad de Granada


19th Century Spanish Symphonic Music




R. Chapí

1- A Granada (Andante Cantábile)   8'12"

2- Meditación (Moderato)   5'05"

3- Serenata (Allegro Moderato)   3'30"

4- Final (Moderato)   4'37"


J. de Monasterio

6- AL PIE DE LA REJA   5'16"

M. Carreras

7- EN LA ALHAMBRA   8'02

T. Bretón


R. Chapí

8- La ronda de los gnomos (Allegretto)   4'55"

9- Conjuro. Séquito de Aquitania y Oberon (Andante Maestoso)   9'42"

10- La fiesta de los espíritus. La Aurora. (Allegro Molto Vivace)   6'37"




Dirigida por JUAN DE UDAETA


Grabado en el Auditorio MANUEL DE FALLA (Granada, 1992)



More than a fully-developed style entity, Alhambrismo in nineteenth-century music was a fashion, a type of "sound" which can be linked with a tendency towards the picturesque and the recreation of the mood of Spanish music of the first half of the nineteenth century. The Picturesque had opened its doors on two trends in European orchestral music: northern idealism asseen in Fingal's cave by Mendelssohn, and the Orientalism of The Desert by David, which was followed later in works by Massenet and Saint-Saëns. Historically, Spain was considered Arabic and, in spite of ignorance of Arabic music, clich devices such as Andalusian or augmented second intervals scales were used, thereby identifying the Arabic with Andalusia, and Andalusia with Spain.

More concerned with music of the early years of the twentieth century, musicology until now has completely neglected the Alhambrismo of nineteenth century Spanish music. It is therefore difficult to propose a classification of the music. So, rather than speak of a particular genre, it would be better to regard it as the emergente of a picturesque tendency in musical works. Sometimes composed for specific cultural events, these works, rather than searching for their own musical language, conform to a decidedly European aesthetic through the use of generalised conventions, becoming superficially Arabic in appropriate places.

Alhambrista music started in Spain around 1848, in the period of change following the European revolutions, the period that also saw the return to Spain of members of the first generation of zarzuela composers. This first period extends from 1848 to 1866 and should be linked to the dissemination of Romantic literature in Spain during the Isabelline period, specially Irving's Tales of the Alhambra. Its forerunner was the journal Alhambra, periódico de ciencias, Literatura y Bellas Artes, published in Granada between 1839 and 1843. In 1852, Orientales by José Zorrilla was published and, in the following year Música árabe española, y conexión de la música con la astronomía, medicina y arquitectura by Soriano Fuertes.

The tendency towards Alhambrismo is reflected in several zarzuelas, such as Boabdil, último rey de Granada by Saldoni (1845), La conquista de Granada by Arrieta (1850), the Bolero from Los diamantes dé la Corona by Barbieri (1854), or La conquista de Madrid by Gaztambide (1863) which is set in the moorish Madrid of the eleventh century.

The musical work of greatest significance in this period was Adios a la Alhambra by Jesús de Monasterio which was composed in 1856 and circulated through Europe due to the composer's performances . The work was performed in Berlín by Monasterio, accompanied at the piano by Meyerbeer who praised it generously.

The consolidation of the alhambrista movement occurred during the years of the Restoration, particularly between 1875 and 1891, a period in which there was an enormous profusion of salon music, mainly songs with accompaniment and works for the piano. Arabic references are more of a token kind than of any specific musical content, one does not find, on the other hand, the creation of specifically orchestral works, except in the Sinfonía Mozárabe by Giró, and in works of the early and late 80s. In song, the Alhambrista element is found in the texts, which blend Andalusian with Arabic topics, as in the songs of Isidoro Hernández in the late 70s.

In piano literature, the best representative of this genre are the early suites of Albéniz (Suite Morisca) as well as those of Ocón, Allú (Farixa, melodía árabe, Suspiros del Moro) and Serrano (Narraciones de la Alhambra). In the orchestral domain, Adiós a la Alhambra by Monasterio continued to be played both in Madrid and in the rest of Spain. Chapí composed his Fantasía Morisca for band in 1876, later rearranged for orchestra and, in 1881 Bretón composed the serenade En la Alhambra. Other works of the period such as the first movement of the 3rd. Symphony of Pedro Miguel Marqués, based on Andalusian scales share the stylistic devices common to the movement . In the field of opera, Pedrell's L'Ultimo Abenzerraggio, premiered in Barcelona in 1874, warrants mention for, even though written in Italian, it too uses an Arabic theme.

The Fantasía Morisca of Ruperto Chapí was extraordinarily popular, not only being frequently performed in its orchestral version but also in its many transcriptions for piano and for sextet with piano, the instrumental formation typical to cafés. This work is far from having the structure of the Symphonic poem though it does evoke the fashionable subject of the Christian advance towards the kingdom of Granada and the sadness of the Moors on being expelled from their former dominion. Also very popular at the time was the work, both Andalucista and Alhambrista par excellence of Miguel Carreras (1836-1878) Al Pié de la Reja, first performed in Madrid in 1873.

The most representative orchestral work is, as mentioned aboye, En la Alhambra, Serenade by Bretón. This work was composed in Rome during the period when he was on scholarship there, as a souvenir of the period he spent in Granada. In its orchestral version, it was premiered by the Sociedad de Conciertos of Madrid in 1888 under the baton of the composer, and frequently performed in Madrid, Granada and elsewhere, being described by the press as "a piece with an irreproachable melodic cut, and full of local inspiration and flavour".