"La oración del torero", op. 34 for String quartet

The Prayer of Toreador opus 24 was originally written for a quartet “laud“. Translated literally, this would mean a “quartet of four lutes”, but the composer did not mean the lutes of the Renaissance or Baroque, but Spanish folk instruments, which with their pear-shaped bodies and double strings resemble mandolins. As an ensemble, they cover a much wider range and have richer opportunities, with the bandura and laudeta performing the high parts in the quartet, and the tenor “laud” and “laudon” covering the tenor and bass. From March 31st  to May 6th , 1925, Turina  reworked the work for string quartet and dedicated it to the Aguilar Quartet, with which he collaborated in the writing process, and in 1926 he adapted it for string orchestra. The premiere of “The Prayer of the Toreador” was on January 3rd , 1927 at the Teatro de la Comedia – Madrid. It was performed by the Madrid Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Bartolome Perez Casas, and on October 28th , 1927 it was performed in Barcelona. The program of the concert quotes the following statement of Turina himself: “One afternoon, during the bullfight in the Plaza de Madrid, this old, harmonious and fun square, I” saw “my work. I was by the stables, and there, behind a small door, there was a chapel full of incense, where the bullfighters came to pray the moment before they faced death. Then, in all its fullness, I was presented with that subjectively musical and vivid contrast between the distant noise of the square, the audience waiting for the spectacle, and the devotion of those who come to the baren altar, filled with touching poetry. They pray to God for their lives, perhaps for their souls; for the illusion and for the hope, with the full awareness that maybe they will leave forever in a few minutes, in this arena full of laughter, music and sun … “

The Prayer of the Toreador  consists of  five parts: Introduction brève, Pasodoble, Andante, Lento, Pasodoble (repetición). Given the violent romantic impressionism of the work, it is difficult to imagine how did it sound in its original version for four lutes, or even in the subsequent transcription for string quartet. There is no doubt that Turina’s decision to expand the quartet to a full string orchestra was the right one. This becomes clear immediately, as the strings pulsate and echo with the beautifully outlined contour, which is entirely Spanish. The mood here is awe-inspiring, as Turina’s bullfighter is trying to find inner peace. The atmosphere of drama and the tension in the arena intensify briefly after the main theme and its development make their way. The prayer ends as it has began: quietly and stoically, in the manner befitting a brave warrior.

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