“I am, after all, Spanish, and my music is Spanish,” says Carlos Surinach, in describing the genesis of his Melorhythmic Dramas. “By ‘melorhythmic’ I mean the combination of melos—melody—and rhythm, and the use of these to create, in the best sense of the world, a musical melodrama. Drama arrives to me through the dance, and especially the Spanish dance. I have been closely associated with the dance, and the influence of the Spanish dance is string with me. That doesn’t mean that my music tries to be folkloric or ethnic. But the idea comes from somewhere.
“In my Melorhythmic Dramas I have tried to do in music what the theater does in words and action: to transport the mind of the audience into another world, world illuminated and imagination. In my younger days people seemed to be most interested in the dramatic aspects within myself, and to write consciously what was unconscious with me before.”
Formally conductor of the Orquesta Filharmonica in Barcelona and the Lamoureux in Paris, Surinach is the 1966 winner of the Arnold Bax Society Medal for the Non-Commonwealth Composers, and served during the academic year 1966-67 as Visiting Professor of Composition at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
Melorhythmic Dramas, commissioned by the Meadow Brook Festival of Oakland University, was completed in 1966. Sixten Ehrling led the Detroit Symphony in its first performance, at the Festival in Rochester, Michigan, on august 16, 1966. Each of the seven movements of the work explores a different musical idea as it expresses the dramatic emotion of its title. “Fervid” (No. 1) assigns the principle melodic material to the horns, while atmosphere scales in strings and winds contrasts with sharp, percussive accents by the entire orchestra. In “Festive” a dance rhythm takes over, with only brief snatches of melody emerging in horns and strings in low unison. “Poignant” explores string sonorities, abandoning the sharp accents and rhythms of the first movements. “Tragic” continues the low sonorities, with a counterpoint between slow bassoon fifths and a Spanish-song recitative in the ‘celli.
“Voluptuous” gives is the Spanish song itself, in violin and viola at the octave, surrounded by lush string, harp and wind accompaniment. In “Vehement” the entire orchestra joins in the brilliance and driving rhythm, led by the trumpets. Solo passages for winds are interspersed above the periodic ground bass. “Mournful,” concluding the work in an uneven 10/8 rhythm, combines to the sonorities, rhythmic ideas, sharp accents, and passage work of the previous movements in a new treatment which works up to a brilliant climax. Throughout, the score is distinguished by its rhythmic invention, its colorful orchestration, and its imaginative textures and sonorities.