- Seville (1882-1902)
Joaquín Turina Pérez was born in Seville on December 9th, 1882, into a middle-class family. His father, Joaquín, from Italian descent, was born in Seville in 1847, was a painter trained at the Escuela Provincial de Bellas Artes (Provincial School of Fine Arts) and was a distinguished member of the Escuela sevillana. His mother, Concepción, was born in a small town near Seville.
When he was four years-old he gained the reputation of being a child prodigy because of his improvised playing of an accordion that was given to him by a housemaid. He got his first music lesson at the Santo Ángel School and also accompanied the girls’ choir at that same school.
He studied high school at San Ramón School and began his piano lessons with Enrique Rodríguez. In 1894 he started to study harmony and counterpoint with Evaristo García Torres, who Turina always remembered with much affection and admiration.
Success first came to him as a performer and a composer with a piano quintet he established with friends and which was named La Orquestina, who performed at parties and gatherings. He also played four-hand piano with his teachers.
His official presentation to the public was on March 14th, 1897, at the Piazza de Sevilla, playing in a recital organized by the Sociedad de Cuartetos (Quartet Society), where he interpreted on the piano, Fantasia on Rossini´s ‘'Moses'' , by Segismond Thalberg. The reviews by the local news stood out his success and the ability to overcome the difficulties of the piece.
Ten months later he played again successfully, for both the critics and the public, on the same place and it is when he began to explore the composition of the keys or chamber ensembles. His first orchestral piece was Coplas al Señor de la Pasión (Folk Songs for the Passion of the Lord), written for the Hermandad de Pasión (Passion Brotherhood) and premiering at the Church of El Salvador with a small orchestra composed of twenty musicians, a men´s choir, a tenor and a baritone, all of them directed by the author.
His desire to create a more important piece took him towards writing an opera when he was only fifteen years-old and which he named, La Sulamita, based on the book by Pedro Balgañón. The author confessed having written and orchestrated the three-act opera by giving all his enthusiasm, and thought it would be easy to premiere at the Royal Theater of Madrid. Sometime later he would celebrate that he never premiered it.
He initiated and later abandoned his studies of medicine and instead decided to dedicate himself professionally to music. His teacher, García Torres, showed him the need to move to Madrid. He had his father´s support for this, and his father even used testamentary dispositions so his son could have the resources needed to widen his studies outside of Seville.
- Madrid (1902 – 1905)
In March of 1902, three days after arriving in Madrid, Turina went to the magnificent Royal Theater to listen to the Orchestra of the Concert Society, under the direction of Wassilly Sapelnikow, who was offering the first interpretation in Madrid of the Fifth Symphonyof Chaikovski.
Out of all the musical life in the city of Madrid, the orchestral concerts were the ones that impressed young Turina the most, even more than opera, zarzuela, recitals or the chamber ensembles.
On this trip, his first to Madrid, his father was able to gather help from his friends, especially the painter, José Villegas, with the naïve intention of having his son premiere his opera, La Sulamita, in the Royal Theater. During a private audience he would meet Conrado del Campo, who later would become his partner for many years to come. He went back to Seville without succeeding on his mission and in the month of October he returned to Madrid to study for three whole years. He resumed his friendship with José Villegas, who at that moment was the Director of the Prado Museum, became friends with the bookseller, Fernado Fé, the critic and composer, Manuel Manrique de Lara and, within the paradise of the Royal Theater, he met Manuel de Falla, and they would become life-long friends.
On March 14th, 1903, he presented himself to the people of Madrid at the Ateneo, with works from Scarlatti, Beethoven, Schumann, Wagner, and three of his own works which have disappeared since: La danza de los elfos (The dance of the Elves), Variaciones sobre cantos populares (Variations on popular songs) and Gran polacca.
In Madrid he never took any composition classes, probably because he never found the right teacher. So instead, he perfected his piano preparation with José Tragó. He continued to compose piano works, a trio, a quintet, a sainete (farce or short dramatic composition) titled, La Copla (Folk song), and also, a libretto by the Álvarez Quintero brothers titled, Fea y con gracia (Ugly but funny).
His personal life changed radically between 1903 and 1904 with the death of his parents and his decision to follow José Villegas´ advice to move to study in Paris.
- Paris (1905 -1913)
Turina established himself in Paris at the end of 1905, at the Kléber Hotel and through Joaquín Nin he started taking piano and composition classes with Moritz Moszkowski. A few weeks later, in January, 1906, and always through Nin, he signed up to take composition classes with Vincent D’Indy at the Schola Cantorum, although he continued under the tutelage of Moszkowski as his piano teacher.
On April 29th, 1907, he presented himself to the Parisian public at the Sala Aeolian. Alongside the Parent Quartet, they interpreted Quintets from Brahms and Franck, and Turina presented his Poema de las estaciones (Poem of the seasons). Eight days later he went back to the same stage and with the same quartet for the premiere of his Quinteto en sol menor (Quintet in so minor). The piece was successful, it was included in the repertoire, and was given an award at the Salón de Otoño on the following year. Because he was able to organize his own catalogue, Turina would consider this Quintet as his first piece, ignoring everything he had written before that moment.
But the best award he received at the Sala Aeolian was the presence of Isaac Albéniz. Turina confessed that the conversation he had with Albéniz and Falla, who was also present among the public, on the night after that concert would completely change his aesthetic ideas. He defined this moment as the most complete metamorphosis of his life.
Albéniz put all his effort behind the editing of the Quintet and in exchange he made Turina promise that he would never again write music with a French influence, and that he would instead base his art in the popular Spanish song, or better yet, from Andalusia.
During his Paris phase, Turina wrote ten more pieces of work that little by little started moving away from the Schola Cantorum environment to give way to songs, rhythms, light and joy that are so characteristic of his native Andalusia.
In 1908 he married Obdulia Garzón and two years later the first of his five children was born.
In 1913 he finished his training period at the Schola Cantorum. The school certificate signed by Vincent D’Indy is dated March 4th, and the 30th of that same month he premiered with a huge success at the Royal Theater of Madrid, La procesión del Rocío (The procession of El Rocio), with the Symphonic Orchestra of Madrid, and under the direction of Enrique Fernández Arbós.
The beginning of World War I forced his exit from Paris and the definitive return to Madrid.
- Madrid (1914 – 1949)
He settled down at the definitive address on street Alfonso XI n. 5 (today n.7) and his first premiere occurred on October of 1914, with the lyrical comedy, Margot, op.11, with a libretto written by the married couple formed by Gregorio Martínez Sierra and María Lejárraga, who would become his regular collaborators for his theater plays.
On January, 1915, a concert was given at the Ateneo de Madrid to present two young musicians that had just finished their studies in Paris: Falla and Turina.
Turina´s production would focus on the symphonic music, chambers, songs, and especially, piano pieces, which within the catalogue surpass sixty titles out of more than one hundred in total.
Turina also maintained an intense concert activity, whether it was by himself, with chamber ensembles, or with singers. As an Orchestra Director he premiered his pieces, Navidad (Christmas) (1916) and La adúltera penitente (The penitent adulterer) (1917), from Falla´s pantomime, El corregidor y la molinera(1917) and in 1918 Serge Diaguilev hired him as the Tour Director of the Russian Ballet throughout Spain.
He worked as a Maestro at the Royal Theater at the same time as he premiered as a composer the following pieces: Danzas fantásticas (Fantastic dances) (1919), the Sinfonía sevillana (The Sevillian Symphony) (1920), Sanlúcar de Barrameda (1921), Jardín de Oriente (The Garden of the Orient) (1923), La oración del torero (The bullfighter´s prayer) (1925) and the Trío n.1 (1926).
He also dedicated himself to the teachings of composition, first with private classes at his home, and from 1931 on, from his Chair at the Madrid Conservatory, while at the same time he gave conferences and masterful classes in and out of Spain. On this same line of contribution to theory, we must stand out, because of his uniqueness in the Spanish music scene, the publication in 1917 of the Enciclopedia abreviada de la música (Abbreviated Encyclopedia of Music) and on his final days he was preparing the Tratado de composición musical (Musical Composition Treaty), but was only able to complete the first two volumes.
In 1926 he began what would become a constant until the end of his life, his collaboration on the written press as a music critic. First at El Debate, until the newspaper disappeared in 1936, later in the newspaper Ya, and lastly on the weekly magazine Dígame.
After the Spanish Civil War, which Turina spent living in Madrid and protected by a license that identified him as a ''worker'' of the British Consulate, he is first integrated in a commission in charge of reorganizing the Spanish conservatories and later he is named the General Commissioner of Music, a position that gave him the opportunity to make a definitive organization of the National Orchestra.
The accumulation of jobs, occupations and an illness that was becoming more evident each day limited his musical production. On the last nine years of his life he only composed 13 pieces of work. The last one of his catalogue is a piano piece titled, Desde mi terraza (From my balcony), which carries opus number 104 and is dated on 1947.
Turina died in Madrid on January 14th, 1949.
Among his favorite pastimes were reading and photography, which he always cultivated. On his first phase he enjoyed gathering at coffee shops to talk, get together with his friends, always surrounding himself with music, and family walks to the near Retiro Park and through the Madrid of the Habsburgs. He had enormous passion for the Processions, and anytime he could he would go see them in Seville during Easter. He did not go often but he liked bullfighting and going to the movies. He also liked to go with his children to the circus, the local open-air dances, and riding the Ferris wheel.
Joaquin Turina. (1882 -1949)
Joaquín Turina Pérez was born in Seville on December 9th, 1882. He studied high school and music in Seville with Evaristo García Torres. In his birth city is where he offered his first concerts as a pianist and premiered his first compositions, before moving to Madrid in 1902 to perfect his piano education with José Tragó.
In 1905 Turina moved to Paris and signed up to receive composition classes from Vincent D’Indy at the Schola Cantorum, and studied piano with Moritz Moszkowski.
In 1907 he presented himself to the Parisian public at the Sala Aeolian, alongside the Parent Quartet, and premiered Quinteto en sol menor (Quintet in soh minor), which from that moment on he classified as opus 1. Isaac Albéniz, present at the concert, facilitated to edit the quintet and recommended Turina to compose music with Spanish inspiration.
In 1913 he finished his education period at the Schola Cantorum and premiered with huge success at the Royal Theater of Madrid La procesión del Rocío (The procession of El Rocio) by the Orquesta Sinfónica de Madrid under the direction of Enrique Fernández Arbós.
The appearance of World War I forced him to leave Paris and thus began Turina´s definitive return to Madrid.
In 1914 he premiered the lyric comedy, Margot, op.11, with a libretto written by Gregorio Martínez Sierra and María Lejárraga, who would become his regular collaborators for his theatrical works: Navidad (Christmas) (1916) and La adúltera penitente (The penitent adulterer) (1917), Jardin de Oriente (The Garden of the Orient) (1923).
He was very busy working as a piano soloist, an orchestra director, and a concertmaster at the Royal Theater, while at the same time composing and premiering the following works: Danzas fantásticas (Fantastic dances) (1919), the Sinfonía sevillana (Sevillian Symphony) (1920), Sanlúcar de Barrameda (1921), La oración del torero (The bullfighter´s prayer) (1925) and the Trío n.1 (1926).
In 1931 he was assigned the Composition Chair at the Madrid Conservatory and combined it by giving masterful conferences and classes, both in and outside of Spain.
He published in 1917 the Enciclopedia abreviada de la música (Abbreviated Encyclopedia of Music) and at the end of his days he was preparing the Tratado de composición musical (Treaty of the Composition of Music), but was only able to finish the first two volumes.
From 1926 until his last days he published music reviews, first at El Debate, until the newspaper disappeared in 1936, at the newspaper Ya, and lastly at the weekly magazine, Dígame.
After the Spanish Civil War he was named General Commissioner of Music, from where he launched the definitive organization of the Spanish National Orchestra.
The last piece of work of his catalogue is the pianist piece, Desde mi terraza (From my balcony), which was given opus number 104 and is dated in 1947.
Turina died in Madrid on January 14th, 1949.