Asturias by Isaac Albeniz

Stylistically, “Asturias” differs greatly from the rest of the CD. I included it here to show the third main branch of Gypsy music: the guitar music of Spain. Like in Hungary, Gypsies lived in Spain from 15th century. It wasn’t an easy life, though: the Spanish Inquisition persecuted them and sometimes banished them from the country altogether. Still, the Gypsies returned and continued to live in Spain, mainly in Andalusia, and they are credited with creating the most famous Spanish dance: the Flamenco. Their main music instrument was the guitar.

Like everywhere else, Spanish composers – Sarasate, De Falla, Granados, Turina – were fascinated with the Gypsy music style, and used it in their own pieces. Maybe the most authentic among them is “Asturias” by Isaac Albeniz; “the pure Flamenco”, as it was called. In no other composition have I seen such a masterful imitation of guitar on the piano.

Albeniz composed music with a strong Spanish flavor (which often meant imitating the guitar – an authentic Spanish music instrument). His friend, guitarist Francisco Tarrega, transcribed many of Albeniz’ piano pieces back to the guitar, and Albenis was said to like those transcriptions more than his own originals.

When learning “Asturias”, I listened to the recordings of this piece by a few Spanish pianists, to get the true feel for the Spanish music. Then one day it occurred to me to listen to guitarists as well – and I suddenly understood, why Albeniz preferred the guitar versions: it does sound more authentic! Listening more attentively, I noticed a subtle difference in texture: where in Albeniz’ original there are groups of two notes, the guitar arrangement uses triplets. On a whim, I decided to play this way as well – and I liked it. So this is the version you’ll hear on the CD: my piano arrangement of the guitar arrangement of the piano arrangement of the guitar...

This description may sound mind-bogging, but the music still remains the same: a simple and passionate Flamenco tune from the Andalusia Gypsies.

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This story is just a tidbit from Alexander's "Songs of Exiles" concert program. To hear the full story, together with Alexander's virtuoso performance, come see him at his next concert! To buy this track, or the full CD of the music from "Songs of Exiles", follow the link on the left.  

You may also listen to a sample of this song on or iTunes