Spain Music and Dance

By | November 6, 2021


The first testimony of a specifically Spanish musical tradition is the Christian liturgical chant somewhat improperly called Mozarabic (5th-11th century). Later it should be remembered the development of a Spanish polyphony (10th-12th century), with the relevant compositions that came to us in the Codex Calixtinus, and, in the monodic context, the flowering of the cantigas, one of the most relevant traditions in the framework of the European monody of the century.. XIII. After the polyphonic testimonies of the sec. XIII-XIV, transmitted by the Códice de Las Huelgas, no Spanish compositions of the first half of the century are known. XV: in the second half the premises for the great flowering of Renaissance music are laid, with the production of sacred pages, villancicos and romances due to J. del Encina (1468-1529) and numerous other composers present in the famous Cancionero de Palacio and other cancioneros. The dominant personalities of the sixteenth century are C. de Morales (ca. 1500-1553), TL de Victoria (ca. 1550-1611) and F. Guerrero (1528-1599), who must be counted among the protagonists of European music of that century.. Organ music is also of great importance, with A. de Cabezón (1510-1566) and the rich flowering of works for vihuela, with L. de Milán (ca. 1500-after 1561), L. de Narváez (ca. 1500-after 1555), A. de Mudarra (ca. 1508-1580) and numerous others. In the sec. XVII the vihuela declined, while the guitar was established, especially with the composer G. Sanz (1640-1710); among the organists emerged J. Bautista Cabanilles (1644-1712). The tradition of the villancicos and romances continued and a form of theater with music was born, the zarzuela(the name derives from the palace where El golfo de las sirenas by P. Calderón de la Barca was represented in 1657), with J. Hidalgo (ca. 1610-1685) and S. Durón (1650/60-ca. 1720), while the Italian opera was excluded. It was introduced in the century. XVIII on the initiative of the Bourbon court, but met with resistance; in popular circles the tonadilla was preferred, simple and often of a satirical character, cultivated by P. Esteve y Grimau (d. 1794), L. Misón (d. 1776), B. de Laserna(1751-1816). The emerging figure in this century, which, like the previous one, is considered to be of decadence for Spanish music, is that of A. Soler (1729-1783); but we must remember the significant influence of the two Italian musicians who lived for a long time in Spain, D. Scarlatti (in the first half of the eighteenth century) and L. Boccherini (in the second half). The best known Spanish composer active abroad was V. Martín y Soler (1754-1806). The decline of Spanish music was serious in the first half of the century. XIX, in which the influence of Italian opera predominates, also recognizable in the protagonist of one of the happiest moments in the history of the zarzuela, FA Barbieri (1823-1894), alongside which F. Chueca (1846-1908) must be remembered, M. Fernández Caballero (1835-1906), P. Arrieta y Corera (1823-1894), T. Bretón y Hernández (1850-1923), R. Chapí y Lorente (1851-1909). Especially in the last two, the aspiration to a Spanish musical theater of a national character became alive: of these instances should be considered a supporter above all F. Pedrell (1841-1922), whose work as a composer, teacher and scholar (in particular of the Renaissance and of Spanish popular music) exerted a significant influence on the Spanish composers of the next generation who achieved European fame: I. Albéniz (1860-1909), E. Granados (1867-1916) and M. de Falla (1876-1946), the greatest Spanish musician of the twentieth century. Alongside them, but on a much lower level, J. Turina (1882-1949) can be remembered. De Falla’s influence is clearly felt in E. Halffter (1905-1989), while among the Spanish composers most attentive to the most advanced post-World War II research should be mentioned C. Halffter Escriche (b.1930) and L. de Pablo (n. 1930). The tradition of the zarzuela has found prosecutors in J. Serrano (1873-1941), J. Guerrero (1895-1951), F. Moreno Torroba (1891-1982), also author of successful guitar music. This instrument had constant followers in Spain: in particular F. Sor (1778-1839) and F. Tarrega (1825-1909) are remembered. Apart from that we must mention some Spanish concert players of great fame: the violinist P. de Sarasate(1844-1908), the pianist R. Viñes (1875-1943), the cellist P. Casals (1876-1973), the guitarist A. Segovia (1894-1987). It had great importance in Spanish musical life and in European cultured music itself, starting from the century. XIX, the popular tradition, especially the Andalusian one of cante hondo and flamenco.


According to Programingplease, the Iberian dance heritage is among the richest in the world and the Spanish nation can count on at least two extraordinary strands of indigenous tradition, that of flamenco-Andalusian ancestry and the academic-Spanish one of the escuela bolera. Alongside these two major strands, a number of regional dance traditions survive and, in modern times, new forms of dance expression have emerged that draw on the ballet tradition and that of modernism and international experimentalism. The origins of flamenco – still often mistakenly considered an exclusively gypsy art – are lost in the mists of time. The first traces are from pre-Iberian times and date back to the development of a flourishing civilization that settled in southern Spain, whose capital was Tartessos. In Roman times, Martial and Juvenal narrate unusually rhythmic dances performed by the girls of that region with the accompaniment of rattlesnakes. With the arrival of the Arabs in Andalusia (711 AD) the oriental influence was added to the legacy of Greek-Byzantine and Jewish liturgical music and to the rhythmic-musical one of Romanised Iberian-Celtic ancestry, merging into a unique form of culture which, after the Reconquista it radiated in all the regions of Spain, losing some of its peculiar traits in this passage. In the sec. XX, with the opening of the first Cafés Cantantes, Andalusian music and dance, which had kept intact ancient characters, underwent a gap. While on the one hand Andalusian flamenco continued to flourish in small circles – the result of intricate and ingenious paths of individual improvisation obtained by geometric accumulation according to a set of rules of prohibitive complexity, protected by a sort of initiatory intangibility – on the other hand verified a parallel evolution of the flamenco tradition according to more linear and stylized forms, transcribable – in the case of music – and transmissible – for dance. As for the escuela bolera, which had its maximum flowering in the sec. XVIII and XIX, but whose tradition has come down to us thanks to the activity of famous families of artists, including the Pericet, it can be briefly defined as a Spanish variant of the Franco-Italian school academicism, with some of its own rules, eccentric with respect to the main corpus. In modern times, the Iberian heritage and the modern tradition of ballet dating back to SP Djagilev (who stayed in Spain with his Ballets Russes in the years of the First World War) came together in a singular and brilliant figure of interpreter-creator, La Argentina (stage name of Antonia Mercé), which is usually attributed the merit of the modern rebirth of the Spanish theatrical dance tradition. Numerous other notable figures of interpreters-creators flourished around her and after her (La Argentinita, Antonio, V. Escudero, Mariemma, P. López, J. Greco, A. Gades, M. Maya) who enlivened the Spanish tradition, making it famous all over the world again. Since 1979, on the initiative of the Ministry of Culture, Spain also has a National Classical Ballet oriented to the formation of a repertoire inspired by the international ballet tradition. Alongside it, the Ballet Nacional de Espana, born in 1978, aims to preserve and enrich the national folkloric heritage according to an original school discipline. In the last fifteen years, numerous other dance expressions variously inspired by stylistic and choreographic experiences of European and American ancestry have flourished in Spain. Personalities like those of V. Ullate – former dancer in the company of Antonio (Ruiz Soler) and in the Ballet du XXand Siècle by M. Béjart -, V. Saez, and groups such as Mudances, Lanònima Imperial, Gelabert-Azzopardi Compania de danza, enrich the Spanish scene, contributing to making it one of the most lively areas of dance activity in the world.

Spain Music and Dance