Sunday, 5 August 2012

Follies (2)

As the Baroque faded into the Pre-Classical Age, the old apparently-Portuguese (rather than Spanish) dance which Lully & Co. made known to the world as La Folia continued to inspire composers. 

The greatest composer (along with Gluck) of that intermediate period, C.P.E. Bach, followed in his father's footsteps and drew on the theme for his 12 Variationen auf die Folie d'Espagne in D minor in 1778 - not one of Emanuel's most daring keyboard compositions but full of fine fantasy nonetheless.

Earlier, a Venetian composer whose music Stravinsky mistook for Pergolesi when writing Pulcinella, Domenico Gallo (1730-c.1768), wrote La Follia in G minor for two violins, cello and basso continuo in 1760 - a piece full of those little dissonant suspensions which so appealed to Stravinsky's sensibilities.

The Classical Era itself brought more such works, alas none by Haydn or Mozart. There are works by many a minor composer, including Les Folies d'Espagne by the French harpist-composer Francesco Petrini (1744-1819) and the Variazioni sul tema della Follia di Spagna by the somewhat better known guitar virtuoso Mauro Giuliani (1781-1829). 

No Mozart, but his murderer (?!?) Antonio Salieri (1750-1825) penned a significant orchestral contribution to the Folia tradition - his Twenty-Six Variations for the Orchestra on a Theme called La Folia di Spagna. This is a substantial and attractive piece, demonstrating that Salieri is a composer worth hearing. The colours he draws from the orchestra are a treat.

Now here's an interesting one. Is there a quotation of La Folia in the slow movement of the most famous symphony of all, Beethoven's Fifth? Some think so. It comes in a passage for flute and pizzicato violas and cellos (at 7.14 in the attached video). Have a listen for yourselves and see if you think it's a genuine allusion. (It certainly sounds like one to me).  

The Romantics were just as keen on the Folia - and their offerings will be the subject of my next post. 

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