The Spanish literature for piano and orchestra is sparse indeed, the only internationally known piece being “Nights in the Gardens of Spain” by Manuel de Falla.
Some years ago I made a rather successful attempt when I wrote the now fairly well know “Concertino for Piano Strings and Cymbals”, but a concertino is not a concerto, and strings with cymbals is surely a limited combination.
In the more or less recent past, m life-long friend Alicia de Larrocha, suggested that I be the indicated composer to write a piano concerto that would help fill this gap within the Spanish music. My answer was: “If you would play it, I would write it for you immediately,” and upon her affirmative, I put myself to work.
To write the concerto has not been an easy task. Melismas, colors, contrasts, scales emanating from Flamenco music, lyrical highs and lows, they all had to blend and mix in style with the piano at its top virtuosity. Arpeggios and arabesques are not my methods of handling form and structure. Yet a work written for the piano must pianistic; therefore I had to find the pianistic formula that would match my own musical physiognomy with comfort, and with comfort to the hands on the keyboard even at a virtuoso level.
Needless to say, having written a piano concertino previously has been a considerable help. Even thought the “Concertino” is a very different work, many pianistic hints therein have been concluded with definition in the present composition.
The entire work is based on the scale of the Flamenco music. It’s an eight-note scale, having three possible transpositions if we keep both tetrachords as above, but there are countless derivations. Unlike the twelve-tone row, which in my opinion erases sense of contrast, this scale allows for modulation, and for cadences or points of rest and arrival or conclusion, though these are not like the cadences of the tonal system.
There were three early population ingredients in Spain, all of them Oriental—the Sephardic Jew, the Gypsy, and the Moor. All three were “deported” during the Inquisition; the Gypsy, being nomadic, remaining to a greater degree than the others. They remained in caves, under bridges, around the countryside, retaining with them their traditional music. Their style is similar to that of the Moor and the Sephardic Jew, for the same tunes can be heard from Calcutta to Granada and Fez, with regional differences and variations. But the Gypsy, Sephardi and Moor have their own specific idiom within this common idiom, and the Flamenco stays within his own selective area rather as a Hindu musician will stay within his “rag” or scale. It is an instinctive section, not an intellectual one. It is sensuous music, but not without intellectual implications.
The three movements of the Concerto for Piano and Orchestra show immediately the use of the scale I speak of, and the adjustment I make to its use in connection with the acoustic peculiarities of piano virtuosity and symphonic orchestra. Certain details of the Flamenco style also, such as the passionately reiterated note peculiar to the Gypsy manner (toward the second half of the second movement), are enlarged, so that what one has heard as a melodic detail or decorative device becomes—with the weight of the whole orchestra—an emphatic, dramatic substance that is germane to the melodic themes, yet grows from mere decoration to an architecture born directly from the very nature of the materials of my choice.
Much of the organization of these materials is based on the fact that the Flamenco scale can be transposed, and therefore there exist modulations and more than one place for a succession of such keys. Harmonic implications emanate from polyphonic lines, and for the most part I go directly to the historical mainstream of melody and rhythm as sources of development.
The tempi of the three movements are: “Allegro”, “Larghetto” and “Vivance con Fuoco”. The work is dedicated to Alicia de Larrocha.