Duration: 4'00", 3.2 Mb. (128kB/s, 44100 Hz)
Domenico Gallo was a Venetian composer from the Italian late baroque and pre-galant period, very closely to the modern school of Galuppi (at Venice) and Pergolesi (at Naples) school. There is an important collection of sonatas by Gallo - for a long time attributed to Pergolesi - well-known as a decisive step on galant style consolidation.
Among the few details we know of Gallo's biography we know that there was an important family named Gallo on Naples although Domenico is born in Venice, where he worked as composer and violinist; we could immediately hear it in his virtuoso variations for the violins!
Dissonances (2nds) of the violins on the little 'intro' previous of the appearance of the main theme on ostinato and the walking quarters movement of the bass on the same intro reminds me powerfully of Pergolesi's Stabat Mater and other pieces of music of the middle XVIII century (walking quarters and 4ths progressions means lamento and we don't must forget ostinato in minor key has been always (from Monteverdi Lamento della Ninfa to Bachs Chaconne) a symbol for lamento, sadness, etc... (we have other examples of German and also Italian (French of course) music for the ostinato like lamento allusion).
It is curious Gallo chose g minor as key. Of course, there is little more dark affetto but, as a violinist, I think Gallo explored that in the key of g minor there are much more possibilities to do chords on some variations than in the usual d minor-setting. By the way, it is also obvious that Gallo knew Vivaldi's Follia, similarities on sonata 12 by Vivaldi and these follia are sometimes almost textual copies (variation 4).
Finally, the variation for the viola (close to the end) is amazing! I think they are not, a part of Geminiani concerto grosso, a variation for the viola solo!
We see in Gallo's Follia the confrontation between traditional forms regular treatment of the basso continuo, deep dialog between voices and Gallo's attending to ostinato; and Napolitain incipient ideas as the Stabat Mater like 'introduction' or some striking stravagant variations much more close to the Spanish Fandangos-like flavor of Scarlatti, Soler and Boccherini than to Vivaldi Corellian Sonata.
Duration: 0'53", 843 kB. (128kB/s, 44100 Hz)
Duration: 5'38", 13 kB.
|Opening of Gallot's Folies d'Espagne for lute||by Hudson Vol I, p. 91|
' Le triste etat' is a sarabande as well as being constructed on a popular progrssion of harmonies having the name folia. 'L 'Altesse Royale' by by Jacques Gallot, the elder (d. 1647) is an example of 17th-century French lute music. Performed on this recording by harp and theorbo, it is based on the folia harmonic pattern and serves therefor as a complement to 'Le trite etat'.
An innovative aspect of Gallot's Folies d'Espagne is the implementation of idioms native tot the baroque guitar - this feature undoubtedly intends to bring out the 'Spanish' in the Folies and also bring the Frenche lute 'up to date' with the 'guitar royal' made invincible by Francesco Corbetta.
Final work of the 'Pièces de Luth consists of nine couplets of the famous theme of Follies d'Espagne. In Gallot's composition the register is frequently changed; the theme, the first three couplets and the superius (the high voice) is raised an octave. The variations, mostly affecting the superius, are mainly melodic (ornaments, fragments of descending scales, arpeggio's) and sometimes rhythmical (movements of quavers, introduction of syncopes and semiquavers). Gallot wrote in the vocabulary of the French musicians of his age, but especially the knowledge of Lully's music echoes in his work, as shown his grave, sometimes solemn writing constantly expressive melodic intervals (especially the diminished fourth) and his use of chromaticism. Gallot's works were still found in manuscripts of the end of the 17th and the beginning of the 18th century throughout Europe.
Les Folies d'Espagne in A minor
The folia is a dance originating in Portugal. Linking different variations to the same melody, it is related to the chaconne and the passacaglia. Having its roots in the 15th century (Cancioneira do Palacio), without doubt, it gave us the most popular chaconne theme for all Western Music: Les Folies d'Espagne
In 1682, Robert de Visée also refused to deal with the hackneyed subject of the 'folies d'Espagne' (in England known as 'Farinelli's Ground'): 'There are so many going the rounds, every concert resounds with them, that I could but say the same thing as others in their folies'. Yet we know how popular the theme was, even up to Rachmaninov and beyond! The famous harmonic progression to the rhythm of a sarabande inspired Gallot to write a set of ten variations which, in their bariolages reminiscent of the theorbo, the luxuriance of their ornamentation, the battery in imitation of the guitar, and their contrasting registers seem to use all the lute's resources
I believe that the Folia-tune originated from Portugal (my home country) in the Middle Ages. My interpretation has a theme and 7 variations. In each variation i try to emphasize a different aspect of the flute technique. For instance variation 4 is made in multiphonics and variation 6 uses harmonics.
|The opening of Folia||© Joaquim Pedro Galvão, used with permission|
A live performance
by Chamber Orchestra Chaarts
Concerto Copenhagen plays GeminianiNov. 27 November 2011 in Copenhagen, Denmark
Concerto Köln plays Geminiani May 10, 2013 in the cathedral of Mechelen, Belgium
The Concerto grosso in D minor is the twelfth in a set
of such works which Geminiani published in 1726 as arrangements of Corelli's
Opus 5 sonatas for violin and basso continuo. One of Geminiani's chief
contributions to the concerto grosso form was the inclusion of an independent
viola part in the continuo group, thus making it a four-part rather
than the customary three-part texture. This feature alone gives Geminiani's
concerti grossi an individuality both of artistic and historical importance;
but they are also important as examples of this composer's taste for
and ability at arranging an original idea into something more elaborate
and sometimes more complex than its model. [...]
Geminiani's arrangement of Corelli's Variations in D minor, "La Follia" (Op. 5, No. 12), retains his master's thematical material and harmonic structure whilst extending the imaginative character of the music both by means of richer textures and by employment of newly developed string technique. It has been said that the immense popularity of the 'variation' form in the seventeenth century reflected the limited understanding of tonality and modulation at that time. Necertheless, in the present instance, we have a fine example of the flexibility of the form and the way in which it lent itself to the development of diverse instrumental idioms. Apart from this, Geminiani and other pupils of Corelli such as Veracini, Locatelli, and Somis (the teacher of Leclair), inherited from their teacher a clarity of form and an expressive technique which had a long lasting and far reaching effect on the chamber music of many European countries. The arrival of Italian and German violinists in England, moreover, was largely responsible for bringing to the attention of English musicians the true potential of the violin
[...] I made a point of working on the so-called sonate da camera tht make up the second part of op. V. Their apparent simplicity does not prevent ech movement from being a perfect little tableau: several styles of composition, a variety of dances (sarabande, gigue courante, gavotte) alternating with contrapuntal movements, never a moment too long, a subtle texture in which the bass takes on a concertante role and abandons its continuo function. The da camera half of opus V concludes with that incredible Follia which has come down over centuries, a brave piece intended to show off the technical prowess of every virtuoso. And here I was discovering it anew, amazed to find I was being asked to perform a 'folly' restored to its initial simplicity and purity. Here, Corelli goes right to the heart of things: not a note too many, not a note too few.And Dottore Enrico wrote for the slipcase:
In selecting Corelli's op. V Geminiani must have taken account, not only of its being one of the most important works to emerge from the Roman school, but also of the fact that the final sonata in the set - the Follia - was one of the best-known compositions of the early eighteenth century, and in itself a guarantee of success. A success that - if Hawkins (John Hawkins, the music historian who is quoted in the slipcase for finishing work of Corelli by Geminiani) is to be believed - initially proved elusive, but which has finally been confirmed in the past few decades, thanks to the recent rediscovery of the works of Corelli's pupil and transcriber Geminiani
La Follia, both in its original version for violin and continuo (published in Rome in 1700) and in Geminiani's concerto version, is now among the most frequently performed of all instrumental works of the early eighteenth century. It consists of an adagio melody of the greatest simplicity and twenty-three extraordinary variations that provided a point of reference for violinists and composers alike throughout the eighteenth century and beyond.
Europa Galante plays Geminiani March 31, 2013 in Krakow, Poland
This extraordinary youth orchestra performs with period instruments and for this concert has tripled its usual size, boasting 60 players. They are directed from the violin by Chiara Banchini, one of baroque music's most admired interpreters.
Here they perform a programme of music by contemporaries Corelli, Muffat, Geminiani and Handel who met in Rome in the late 1600s and early 1700s. Muffat's music is immediate and powerful, Corelli's coolly elegant, while Geminiani's La Follia, a reworking of Corelli's set of virtuoso variations, highlights his talent as one of the greatest violinists of his time.
A live performance
by the European Union Baroque Orchestra
The history of the "Follia" is ancient - the "rowdy amusement" as this phenomenon was referred to in Germany with a pinch of annoyance, probably spread as early as the Middle Ages. It was originally a dance with a particular theme
and rhythm originating from Spain or Portugal
already used for secret gatherings by 13th century
Playing and dancing the follia in public was soon strictly forbidden by decree, generating of course a secretive aura which only increased its erotic charge. The character of these "follia" dances, with their constant repetition of a rhythmic motif. relies on the same hypnotic principle that animates dancers at Berlin's "Berghain" nightclub and brings them into altered states of consciousness.
Mind you, at that time, the "follia" meetings seem to have been pretty hot events, even without crystal meth thrown in the mix: you arrived masked but after increasingly wilder improvisations all masks and inhibitions were dropped. Naturally, religious authorities of all confessions became a bit "irritated under the cassock" as a result. In 16th century Seville, a commission was created with the aim of uprooting this evil but nothing came of it because the commission's chairman himself was caught dancing. The Inquisition lovingly took care of him with a few thumb-screwing sessions, after which he begged to be executed and finally redeemed from his terrible follia-addiction. What remains after all these clandestine activities is a single and surprisingly harmless theme. A simple dotted melodic line which has inspired the most beautiful flourishes from all possible composers. Clearly, the 18th century Franceseo Geminiani, with his Concerto Grosso in D minor on "La Follia", was a member of this sect. Like most interesting composers, Geminiani -no doubt called "11 Furibondo" for a good reason was obsessed with rhythm. This preference must have shaped his violin playing, learned
from Arcangelo Corelli in Rome and praised throughout Europe.
Corelli's Concerto Grosso on the follia is also the basis for Geminiani's concerto but Geminiani spices it up much more than his teacher, adding not one but two solo violins as well as a solo cel lo for good measure! For Geminiani, ru les were predictability boring and meant to be disregarded. His treatment of the ~follia', beyond the una ltered basic motif, is a bag full of surprises ...
A live performance
by Harmonie Universelle
Geminiani's arrangements of his teacher's violin sonatas are both sensitive and technically skilled. Throughout the set he retains Corelli's thematic material and basic harmonic structure while extending the imaginative character of the music by means of richer textures and the employment of newly developed string techniques. Here, as in all his subsequent concertos, we find a "concertino" group of quartet as opposed to trio texture, while the ripieno consists of violins in two parts, cello and bass. Corelli's formal clarity, however, and his simply expressive idiom are carefully preserved.
What, in fact, is far more original, is Geminiani's inclusion
of an independent viola part in the concertino group, as opposed to
the customary three-part texture of two violins and a cello. These were
not Geminiani's only compositions based on those of other composers
and, whilst it does, perhaps, seem curious that he spent so much energy
in adaptations of this kind, we can admire him both for knowing his
market and for the valuable impact he made on eighteenth-century English
The Op. 5 Concertos retain Corelli's thematic material and harmonic structure whilst extending the character of the music by means of richer textures and newly developed string technique. The great respect and understanding which Geminiani shows towards the basic material of his former teacher is, in a sense, a touching act of homage, for we are never allowed to forget that this is Corelli speaking through his pupil rather than the pupil improving upon his master.
Geminiani's orchestration of his teacher Corelli's famous Violin Sonata 'La Follia' deserves to be more widely known. The arrangement is both sensitive and technically accomplished. Corelli's thematic material and basic harmonic structure remain in place, but Geminiani extends the imaginative character of the music by means of richer textures and a more advanced string technique. The concerto falls into a single movement, consisting of the 'Follia' theme, introduced at the outset, followed by 25 variations on it. Geminiani assures essential textural contrasts by juxtaposing his smaller concertino group with that of the full band. In this warm tribute to his master, Geminiani offers us a piece full of brilliant gestures and string virtuosity, yet retaining the essence of a work which Corelli himself is said to have regarded highly.
Orquesta Nacional de España plays all variations by Francesco Geminiani
The Purcell Quartet plays all variations by Francesco Geminiani
The Rare Fruit Council recorded live in Utrecht
'La Follia' – musical madness. Sometimes you just can't fight it when music gets in your head and just goes round and round – this can be uplifting, maddening, or both! Should you succumb to 'La Follia' at this concert, you'll be guaranteed plenty of musical 'ear-worms', not least in Holst's St. Paul Suite and Britten's Simple Symphony, making sure that the Ensemble experience stays with your long after the concert.
The theme from La Follia, the twelfth of Corelli's sonatas, with its twenty-five variations, became the most popular and famous of the set. In our recording, the English Concert performs the concerto grosso in the original version by Geminiani with interpolations for solo strings.
Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713), an unsurpassed violin master, composed 12 concerti for strings, including the famous Christmas Concerto; 48 trio sonatas (opus 1 to 4); and 12 sonatas for violin and basso continuo (opus 5), published in 1700. The latter collection ends with a sonata in a single movement based on a ground-bass motif known as the folia (follia, or folie(s) d’Espagne). Variations on this ground-bass were written throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, and, later, not only by Franz Liszt (Rhapsodie espagnole) but also by Sergei Rachmaninoff (Variations on a theme by Corelli). The harmonic progression of the folia inspired Corelli to write some of the most brilliant violin music of his time. The sonata that ends his opus 5 is in a single movement, and comprises the theme followed by 23 variations in various tempi. Francesco Geminiani (1687-1762), one of the master’s students, transcribed this folia for string orchestra and, in 1726 and in 1729, refashioned all of Corelli’s opus 5 as concerti grossiArcangelo Corelli (1653-1713), an unsurpassed violin master, composed 12 concerti for strings, including the famous Christmas Concerto; 48 trio sonatas (opus 1 to 4); and 12 sonatas for violin and basso continuo (opus 5), published in 1700. The latter collection ends with a sonata in a single movement based on a ground-bass motif known as the folia (follia, or folie(s) d’Espagne). Variations on this ground-bass were written throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, and, later, not only by Franz Liszt (Rhapsodie espagnole) but also by Sergei Rachmaninoff (Variations on a theme by Corelli). The harmonic progression of the folia inspired Corelli to write some of the most brilliant violin music of his time. The sonata that ends his opus 5 is in a single movement, and comprises the theme followed by 23 variations in various tempi. Francesco Geminiani (1687-1762), one of the master’s students, transcribed this folia for string orchestra and, in 1726 and in 1729, refashioned all of Corelli’s opus 5 as concerti grossi
Venice Baroque Orchestra plays Geminiani October 20, 2013 in the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Duration: 6'08" direct link to YouTube
The finale, 'Folia' refers to the popular Spanish dance of that title (actually it seems of medieval Portuguese origin) and its associated tune 'Folies d'Espagne', used by Corelli in his 'La Folia' variations, by Liszt in his 'Rhapsodie Espagnole and by countless other composers besides. In portuguese 'Folia' means both a fool's dance and jollification. in Catalan it connotes madness, lunacy, in a non-literal, figurative sense. Gehrard has reffered to the lighter side of this title in the 'Follia' movement of his cantata 'l'alta naixença del rei en Jaume (Auvidis / Montaigne MO 782106). In the Concerto he evokes the darker associations in a finale of hectic, slippery moto perpetuo figuration, invaded ever and anon by severe quotations of 'La Folia' which Gerhard described as 'menacing' (and marked, in the score, 'minaccioso'). On one level these episodes are perhaps like the Brethen of the Deadly Sin in his opera 'The Duenna', exhorting us to repent, as we hurry heedless towards death. On another, they may represent the inescapability of the past. At all events, they suggest that a reckoning will eventually have to be paid for folly in Spain.
Gerhard's Piano Concerto, first performed by Noel Mewton-Wood at the 1951 Aldeburgh Festival, with the Festival Orchestra conducted by Norman Del Mar, was the first of Gerhard's works composed with serial techniques. Each movement is headed with a title that refers to Renaissance Spanish keyboard music. Tiento refers to the name used by sixteenth-century Spanish organists for toccata and the movement has a whirlwind energy in which the soloist barely pauses for breath. Diferencias is the Spanish equivalent of the English divisions or variations and Gerhard suggested that the "theme and diferencias here may be taken as seven different visions of the same face". Based on a Catalan religious song, the movement is among Gerhard's most powerful utterances, a dark lament for his country under the yoke of dictatorship into which the Dies irae is also woven. Folias was a fantasy-like form on ground bass line. It was associated with a popular seventeenthcentury melody which was widely used in keyboard and string music. Gerhard makes prominent use of the first three notes of the Folia tune in his finale which he described as having "a frenzied carnival-folly atmosphere" reminiscent of Goya's Burial of the Sardine.
Gerhard's use of the term 'Folia' for the last movement carries an association of meanings. It refers to a chord sequence with a corresponding melodic pattern which originated in Spain in the late Middle Ages. 'Folia' in Portuguese means a 'fools dance' but in Catalan it is a euphemism for the sexual climax. Gerhard first used this term ironically in the third movement of his cantata 'L'alta naixença del rei en jaume' (1932), which also refers to the 'Goig del roser'. Rather mysteriously, in his own programme note to the concerto, he speaks of the menancing references to the 'Folia', which, as the listener will recognize, is also the first three notes of 'God save the King'. For the republican exile, writing in the Festival of Britain year, these ponderous allusions within a fleeting lightfooted moto perpetuo appear deeply subversive. Such musical satire would have been impossible in his own country, still in the grip of fascism.
From the viewpoint of a composer, the variation that makes a direct use of the theme, with only some sort of ornamental treatment of either the melody or the harmony or both, is considered nowadays more a school exercise than a true creative work. The true variation is more elaborated, taking the theme as a background reference, and creating entirely new structures after it. In my "Variazioni sulla Follía", for instance, I have created completely new musical paths that have almost nothing to see with the themes, except that, from time to time, they pass through memories of the themes, and then they live them again....
Duration: 1'10", 02 kB.
|The opening of Variazioni sulla Follía||Reproduced by permission of Edizioni Musicali Bèrben|
Angelo Gilardino's work rides Follía through hallucination. It is only through hallucination that the world can be revealed in its true sense. Without giving up the traditional way of composing with its counterpoint, its interrupted and repeated themes, and its opposite dynamics, Gilardino works out Follía again, and dives into it, as an ancient alchemist, to develop diverse and unknown sounds. This process transforms Follía into something that does not belong to the author, into something that can be, at the same time, both alienated and alienator. It is impossible to accomplish completely such a kind of alchemistic process, and this is the reason why it ends up with the quotation of Sor, another great guitarist who has chosen to render and preserve the deepness and the torture of his thoughts by means of a specific sound.
Published in the public domain
9 pages in pdf-format with fingersetting of theme and
first variation, 700 kB
Duration: 4'02", 16 kB.
|Opening of Giuliani's Variazioni sul tema della Follia di Spagna|
The six 'Variations sur les Folies d'Espagne' op 45, published by Artaria in Vienna in 1814 represent the umpteenth attempt of a great musician on a theme which has been considered as a difficult field of competition since the Rennaissance. Once the theme has been announced, in the first variation Giuliani still lingers to elicit the cantability of the melody spreading it with a sort of echo effect between the upper tones and the bass. It is with the three subsequent variations that some of the most effective virtuoso solutions that the classical technique has developed are detected. In the fifth variation, 'un poco più adagio' is in major tonality, and has two functions: it is the arrival point for what precedes it, but above all it is the starting point for the sixth variation in a Spanish mood, that concludes the cycle and is a synthesis of style and technique united to a deep rhythmical dramaticity similar to 'flamenco'.
The theme of the 'Spanish follies' (actually a bass ostinato in minor mode with the progression I-V-I-VIIb-III-VIIb-I-V, sometimes slightly modified at the conclusion) is encountered in the instrumental repertory as early as the sixteenth century. The first version for guitar was written by Alonso Mudarra, in a Pavana that appeared in 1546. From that time on, variations on this theme were very common, as is evident from the uninterrupted stream of works by numerous composers up to the present day. The long list of guitar variations on this theme includes works by such composers as Corbetta, Carulli, Sor, Ponce and R. Malipiero.
The folies d'Espagne or folias was not so much a theme as a chord progression, probably of Iberian origin, and dating at least to the sixteenth century. It became a standard in the repertory of the Baroque guitarists and lutenists and found its way into the music of the masters such as Handel, Corelli, Vivaldi, and Boccherini. Guitarists from the seventeenth century onwards seem to have favoured the chord progression to teach arpeggio patterns and as the basis for improvisations, and so the "theme" became firmly rooted in guitar culture. While easy variations on the Folias were well known throughout Europe, Giuliani's Six Variations sur les Folies d'Espagne, Op. 45, (Vienna: Artaria, 1814) was perhaps the most ambitious and virtuosic elaboration for the guitar to that date (Fernando Sor's famous variations, Op. 15, date to the early 1820s).
Duration: 0'37", 02 kB, just the fragment
Duration: 0'42", 670 kB. (128kB/s, 44100 Hz)
Duration: 1'02", 963 kB. (128kB/s, 44100 Hz)
Duration: 0'54", 858 kB. (128kB/s, 44100 Hz)
Duration: 1'47", 1682 kB. (128kB/s, 44100 Hz)
Variations on "Folias de España" were
sketched on Pieve di Teco (Italy) and finished in Milan in the fall
of 1990. Written on commission from the "Accademia di Studi Superiori
L'Ottocento" (Italy), the work develops from the "Folias"
theme (slightly altered), through a series of variations which not only
expand the thematic material, but also the formal structure of the original.
From that standpoint, this work is a true synthesis of styles: while still retaining the inherent Renaissance theme, the variations progress in 19th-Century fashion, but using contemporary harmonic and rhythmic elements.
THEME AND VARIATIONS ON THE FOLIAS D'ESPANA, Op. 15 (for solo guitar)
A BRIEF HISTORICAL, SOCIAL, PHILOSOPHICAL AND RELIGIOUS VIEW OF THE FOLIA
ORIGIN OF MY THEME AND VARIATIONS ON THE FOLIA
The story of my variations on the Folia is rather bizarre.
For the last 18 years, I have periodically taught at the 'Accademia degli Studi Ottocento' (Academy for the Study of 19th-Century Music) which is based in Vigevano, Italy (outside of Milan), directed by the 19th-Century expert, Maestro Carlo Barone. During an Academy tour in 1990 (just prior to my winning First Prize at the International Toscanini Competition), most of the faculty was performing one or more of the many variation sets on the Folia theme (esp. those for guitar by 19th-Century guitarists / composers, Mauro Giuliani [Op. 45] and by Fernando Sor [Op. 15]).
In the midst of that tour, the entire academy was in residence at a monastery in Pieve de Teco, Italy - a beautiful site in the Ligurian mountains that once housed over 200 monks - which, in the last 500 years, has been reduced to 2 brothers.
In Pieve di Teco (when we weren't having parties with the 2 monks... and trust me, monks KNOW how to party...) I secretly composed my Folias Variations surrounded by glorious olive and almond groves, the scorpions that shared our toilet space and the single, ice-cold "shower" (a garden hose on a balcony) which was a true legacy to Musolini's Fascist regime.
I composed my Variations on Folias d'Espagna in 6 days at that monastery (the final version, written in Milan)
The next to last stop on the tour was a large concert at the famed church, Santa Maria degli Angeli in Rome and, being somewhat of an anarchist, I wanted to do a surprise piece, decidedly NOT 19th-Century... As I had planned, at that concert I announced a change in my concert program and simply said I was going to play 'The Variations on Folias de Espana...'
Following the sighs of '...bloody hell, not again!' the audience and faculty were shocked, amused and ultimately thrilled to hear a different set of variations on the Folia that was FAR from the ubiquitous versions from the 19th-Century.
THE FOLIA AS A THEME FOR VARIATIONS - A COMPOSER'S VIEW
In my opinion, the Folia represents a near-perfect harmonic progression for writing variations in a quasi-conservative yet virtuostic format. The original theme is fairly simple, but because of the phrase structure, it is possible for a composer to explore harmonic and melodic variants as well as the rhythmic structure of the original ground.
This also brings up an interesting concept that I personally hold as a composer (echoed by the brilliant writer, Milan Kundera, in his novel, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting):
As a composer, I consider the normal compositional process to be one of EXPANSION. A composer takes a theme, expands it, pulls it and develops it into something new. However, composing variations is backwards.
In composing variations, we take a theme and go INSIDE. We go smaller and smaller and try to find a 'thin red thread' which will connect the different variations with the theme. 'Mois est plus!'
In short, traditional western composition addresses the Macrocosm: 'GO BIG!'
Writing variations is an eastern approach which demands that the composer examine the Microcosm: 'GO SMALL!'
For that very reason, writing variations, I believe, forces a composer (and performer) to examine the subjective interior. On a more eclectic level, it is a reflection of our religious Archetyptical Past (if the reader will excuse my gentle reference to Plato's brilliant dialogue, 'Ion'), rather than our Future as I'll discuss briefly in the following section.
VARIATIONS AS A REFLECTION OF RELIGIOUS DEVELOPMENT IN OUR GENETIC MEMORY
RELIGION IN THE MODERN 'WEST' - A VERTICAL PERCEPTION
In the view of most modern western and near eastern religions, individual believers have a more direct and personal access to God through, Jesus, Mohammed and a few other primary intermediary sources. Per that assumption, a relationship to God is 'one-on-one' which is 'vertical' (from the earth-bound believer to heaven). Especially in the west, this belief was further propagated by the European 'Age of Enlightenment' which assumed such a heightened sense of self.
In the west, the INDIVIDUAL became increasingly important per that personal link to God but it required that the individual take responsibility for initiation of that relationship. In effect, the western search for truth goes OUTWARDS (or 'upwards') from the single individual directly to God in the same way that western composers traditionally develop 'outwards' (and 'upwards' with regards to VERTICAL harmonic structure) from the thematic material. A brief look at the 19th-Century sonata-allegro form will confirm this attitude of expansion from a compositional standpoint.
In fact, from the beginning of the 20th-Century, the individual has become so ultra-important to a such a Narcissistic level, that even one single death is cause for war (consider Prince Rudolph's assassination at the hands of a Serbian dissident and the resultant World War I).
This attitudinal difference between the east and west could be further supported if we consider the shift of the Papacy from Constantinople (eastern) to Avignon (western) then finally to Rome (as a compromise between the two), but that is subject better left to theologians...
RELIGION IN THE ANCIENT EAST (Our original 'Roots') - A LINEAR PERCEPTION
In the view of most eastern religions, individual believers have an indirect and less personal access to God through Moses, Buddha and a few other primary intermediary sources.
If we consider earlier religious maxims, an attitude of individual spiritual exclusivity is foreign and in many cases, non-existent. In virtually all historical eastern religions (including many contemporary eastern religions) the individual is ostensibly irrelevant; an attitude which certainly helps explain the current trend of suicide bombings in the middle east.
The ultimate concern is for the 'whole' whether it be the country, region or the village community. It is a concern that goes from one individual to the next within the community in a linear fashion, then - and only then - to God.
The musical parallel, of course, is that in the West, one individually extends upwards to God (which implies an harmonic, vertical structure) while in the East, one extends outwards (which implies a linear structure).
Additionally, in nearly all eastern religions (which we MUST remember is the source of Christianity), one goes INWARD to discover 'truth'. This profound search and arrival has been called 'Satori, 'The Still Point,'Enlightenment,' 'Kether,' etc. while western goes OUTWARDS.
As I said above, as opposed to the western 'vertical' concept, eastern attitudes assume a search that is 'linear'. Additionally, in the east, the individual is infinitely less critical (per no direct access to God as in the west) and in that same manner, composers traditionally develop INWARDS when writing variations on a theme. *
For all these reasons, I sincerely consider writing variations a profound, eastern-oriented, subjective venture into the composer's soul... and even into our genetic / spiritual memory. It is a compositional medium that demands MUCH more self-awareness, a command of the thematic material and an approach that requires a compositional maturity of which few composers can boast.
This opinion is evidenced in the careers of many cherished western composers in their more mature works, in particular, Beethoven, who in his latter years was obsessively committed to working in the variation form.
I would strongly urge composers, as they mature, to seriously consider the theme and variation form as a profound medium to express their more serious concepts and the Folia, as a theme, is one of the most accessible and adaptable motives imaginable for experimenting with this severe journey to the soul.
While I know of no one else who has dared address this subject, in my opinion, I consider it hardly coincidence that historical dance (like music) has exhibited a similar regression with regards to the social interests of the 'communal' vs. the 'individual'.
When we look at primary sources of early dance manuals, the earliest (including manuscripts and incunabula through Arbeau [ca. 1588]) all give dance choreographies which are highly 'communal'. I.e. the entire village dances together, indiscriminate of age, social standing, etc.
This documented attitude, in my opinion, further verifies an historical concern with propagation (thus survival) of the village populace - supported by the fact that early dances were INFINITELY more seductive and erotic - than later historical dances. The goal (conscious or otherwise) of this eroticism, I believe, was to excite the senses (or at least the loins) to insure future generations of the local inhabitants.
I.e. 'Dance... get excited... go breed for the survival of the village'.
By the 17th-Century (particularly as documented in the dance manuals of the two leading Renaissance Dancing Masters, Caroso  and Negri ) dances were more oriented to smaller groups and exhibit less concern over small-scale ('village') communal survival via indiscriminate propagation.
This more conservative attitude is especially prominent in the Renaissance Italian courts where prodigious procreation was, in fact, a terrifying disadvantage which led to the murderous hobbies of the Borgia, et al. in order to 'thin out the competition' for noble title.
Following the Renaissance, we find a majority of dances through and beyond the Baroque focusing on couple or solo dances such as those choreographed by Rameau and, to take one fascinating historical 'step' (no dancing-pun intended) further to the modern disco / dance clubs of today, one simply 'dances' (with or without a partner) and we can only assume that the dancer is even aware that anyone else is on the dance floor!
This self-absorbed 'progress' in the history of dance, presents a strong parallel to musical and social situations and documents a logical progression (regression?) toward a total lack of consideration for anything but the individual.
This set of six variations was commissioned by the Newbury Spring Festival, and first performed by
Christopher Herrick in May 1984. The Portuguese dance on which the variations are based must rank
among the most popular subjects for variation treatment, second only perhaps to Paganini's famous
Caprice; and, like that tune, 'La Folia' derives its attraction to composers from its basic simplicity.
After a straightforward version of the theme and a re-inforcement of its distinctive chord sequence in the first variation, a twelve-note-row appears, firstly in the bass and, in the subsequent section, as the melody. After 'scherzo' and 'cantilena' movements, the note-row appears with a vengeance to confront the folia theme, bringing the work to a thunderous close.
Duration: 5'32" direct link to YouTube
This is a jazz improvisation upon the 'Folies d'Espagne' harmonic pattern.
Before, I have never recorded this theme but played it in different concerts.
Why I choose to do a jazz version? Because the method of improvising in the 17th century was basically the same as in most styles of jazz: variations upon a harmonic scheme. So the use of this theme as well as of some other 16th and 17th-century 'standards' (see my other recordings on Youtube) seems rather organic in jazz 'clothes' (see 'Greensleeves' by Coltrane). Of course this is no more 'baroque' music but modern music upon an old theme.
Duration: 3'32", 17 kB.
'L' amant jaloux has a sombre, impetuous character: there
is nothing comparable in its successor. L'amant jaloux is set in Spain,
the characters had to take a Romantic tint inspired by the customs, nocturnal
amours and the novels of that nation.
Character in nationality determined the French menuet for Florival in scene 10. More calculated still was the use of the 'Folia'-bass in 'Le mariage est une envie', though Grétry claimed that 'the reference was appreciated immediately'. Lopez is given a text in which he inveighs against mariage. To set this 'musical dictum' as he called it, the composer had recourse to a kind of a pun that depended on local colour: the formula known as 'Les folies d'Espagne'. This bass-line, known at the time everywhere for its fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Iberian associations, was associated by Grétry with Corelli, i.e. the violin sonata Op. 5 no. 12. But its use as the basis of song had occurred earlier in eighteenth-century Parisian opéra-comique.
The second thing I found (don't know if it can be of any interest) is that the piece of Grieg "In Rosenlund etc..", taken from Norway Melodies, sounds really close (but really a bit too close) to the Swedish song "Sinclairs Visan"; so probably is meant to be the same theme. On the other hand I wouldn't be surprised if a Swedish melody could be taken for a Norwegian melody, or vice versa...
A live performance during the Festival in Morelia
The piece ”A Devil Behind the Mask”, dedicated to Anders Borbye, was written for electric guitar, and exploits extensively this instruments ability to change character. At the same time, the concept of Anders' CD, collecting pieces that refer to the old ”La Folia” theme, is well suited to work with the tension in holding on to something while it is changing. In my piece the Folia-theme is the little devil that roams underneath, hiding in different pleasant disguises, that are only step by step revealed by Anders. At last we actually reach the core, and the theme appears to us in a way we could never have imagined this old theme would sound! When we find our own ”core” I hope it is in the same way crude, fascinating and frightening. But it probably isn't. If it is there.
Duration: 1'01", 951 kB. (128kB/s, 44100Hz)
Duration: 0'59", 02 kB.
|First of Doze diferencias de Folías||by Hudson Vol I, p. 118|
The Folia is a danza of Portuguese origin with an extensive history in Spain - there being references to it as far back as the fifteenth century. During the course of the seventeenth century the harmonic pattern known as the folías de España became widely used (the three that we include here follow that pattern). [...] From Guerau there are twelve diferencias on folías of a poised beauty, profuse with ornaments and with melodic ideas cleverly interwoven between all te voices.
Xavier Díaz-Latorre plays Folías by Guerau
The entire suite: I. Hachas (anonymous) II. Folias (Guerau)
III. El Villano (anonymous) IV. Matachin (Guerau)
The word folias is Portuguese in origin meaning mad or empty headed. References in relation to music and dancing go back as far as the fifteenth century. The term describes two forms; an early and later variant which became known under the French name 'La folia' or 'Folie d'Espagne', whose emphasis on the second beat is closely related to the French Sarabande. The folia was also sung as well as danced with an example of a text again given by Brinçeño. Guerau's twelve variations generally stick to the older form but with some rhythmic elements of the new. He gives no hint of the madness implied by the title and instead offers us a serene interplay among the parts, greatly enhanced by his preferred use of octave stringing.
In Baroque times, no melody or chord
schema was more often used in
variations than the Folly from Spain.
Incontestably, Corelli's «La Folia» is the
most famous, but even ].S. Bach used the
theme' in his «Peasant Cantata».
Originally, the Folly was a wild dance, in which men in carnival costume often ~eached a state of hysterical trance. The Church did not approve and as a result the Folly was gradually transformed into the slow, solemn melody we know today
The Folly was extremely popular among baroque guitar players, to the point that Robert de Visee - almost alone in not publishing one - felt it necessary to write in his introduction: «Neither will one find here the Spanish Folly. So many of these are now to be
heard, that I could only repeat the follie of others».
There is not the space here to list all the Follies written for the Baroque Guitar, but the three collected on this record are among the most beautiful: that of the Spaniard F. Gereau, the Brussels-born F. Le Cocq and the ltalian A.M.B. whose works have been neglect to this day.
In later times as well, guitar players have shown their partiality for the Spanish Folly and the two greatest guitar composers of the 19th Century, Fernando Sor and M. Giuliani, wrote variations on these themes. In our own times the Mexican Manuel Ponce, who wrote principally for the guitar, also composed some Follies; indeed, his most important work comprises no less than 20 variations followed by a majestic fugue.
Published in the public domain
Published in the IMSLP under restrictions
You're missing one or more?
Please e-mail your contribution to
and it will be added to the inventory
best viewed at 800 x 600