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Nights in the Gardens of Spain

  • St Peter's Church Kensington Park Road London, W11 2PN United Kingdom (map)

Conductor Asier Puga
Pianist Juan Carlos Fernandez Nieto

Stravinsky Suite No. 1 & 2
de Falla Nights in the Gardens of Spain
Shostakovich 9th Symphony

Conductor Asier Puga

Conductor Asier Puga

In collaboration with Acción Cultural Española, AC/E, Covent Garden Chamber Orchestra is delighted to present two young Spanish artists in this wide ranging programme of twentieth century gems. Outstanding young pianist Juan Carlos Fernandez Nieto makes his London debut in Manuel De Falla's enchanting tone poem, while the hotly tipped young conductor Asier Puga puts the orchestra through its paces in some drily witty masterpieces from Stravinsky and Shostakovich's sardonic Symphony no.9.

“If I had a world of my own, nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn't” used to say Lewis Carroll, and this concert could be a very good example of it. The programme consists of the satirical Suite No. 1 & 2 by Stravinsky, de Falla’s mysterious Nights in the Gardens of Spain, and the concert will culminate with the provocative, sardonic and the least predictable symphony ever written: Shostakovich´s Ninth Symphony.

Stravinsky, Suite No. 1 & 2 (1921-1925)
The concert will start with the enchanting, gently satirical Suites for Small Orchestra No. 1 & 2 by Stravinsky. Both Suites were orchestrated in 1921 and 1925 but date originally from an earlier period, after the composition of The Rite of Spring. The source material was taken from the eight piano duets that Stravinsky wrote for his children.

“I wrote the Polka [Suite No. 2] first,” Stravinsky recalled. “It is a caricature of Diaghilev, whom I had seen as a circus trainer cracking a long whip.” The composer Alfredo Casella was present when Stravinsky played the Polka for Diaghilev, and asked for a piece for himself as well; Stravinsky responded with the Marche. The Valse was written in the style of, and in homage to, Erik Satie. The Española is a souvenir of the composer’s trip to Spain in 1916, and the Napolitana (which quotes Funiculì, funiculà) is a souvenir of a visit to Naples the following year.

de Falla, Nights in the Gardens of Spain (1915)
Manuel de Falla began Nights in the Gardens of Spain in Paris, as a set of nocturnes for solo piano in 1909, but on the suggestion of the pianist Ricardo Viñes, Falla turned them into piano and orchestra, completing the work in 1915. Nights in the Gardens of Spain is a work very clearly influenced by impressionism, in fact the subtitle: “Symphonic impressions”, is very significant.

The composer has offered his own perspective to serve as a closing word on this score:

“The themes employed are based upon the rhythms, modes, cadences, and ornamental figures which distinguish the popular music of Andalusia; and the orchestration frequently employs certain effects peculiar to the popular instruments used in those parts of Spain. The music has not pretensions to being descriptive; it is merely expressive. But something more than the sound of festivals and dances have inspired these “evocations in sound”, for melancholy and mystery have their part also”.

Nights in the Gardens of Spain is anything but a solo concerto. The piano part, although prominent, is often cast as one more ochestral voice. Although the piano rarely announces themes not stated elsewhere in the orchestra.

Shostakovich, 9th Symphony (1945)
When we think in a 9th Symphony, everybody thinks on Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. Stalin had in his mind something similar when he himself commissioned Shostakovich to write a new symphony in 1945. The war was finally over and Stalin, as Shostakovich himself explained, “was expecting from me a majestic Ninth Symphony”, in order to conmemorate his great victory.

On the contrary, Shostakovich simply wrote the least predictable and most surprising Ninth that exists. Short, hilarious, and sarcastic, when Shostakovich first showed the symphony, some asked: “is he serious about all this?”, “is he making fun of our victory?”. For that reason, it is not absurd to say that what Shostakovich wrote, was actually the anti-Ninth Symphony.

Earlier Event: December 3
East Meets West: Symphonic Dances
Later Event: May 6
Dreams, Sorrows & Hope