Sunday, 5 August 2012

Follies (4)

The 20th Century's continuing love affair with La Folia included more variations for solo guitar, including the Variaciones sobre un tema de Fernando Sor, Op.15 by Miguel Llobet (1878-1938) and the  Variaciones & Fuga sobre La Follia by our old friend, the great Paraguayan Manuel Ponce (1882-1948).

Yes, La Folia had now global.

For another Nordic take on La Folia, the Lamb's Dance,  perhaps give Toivo Kuula (1883-1918) and his Lampaanpolska a try.

We now come to a substantial offering from Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943), his Variations on a theme of Corelli, Op.42 - the composer's final work for solo piano, sounding rather like a foretaste of the famous Rhapsody on a theme by Paganini. The theme is, of course, not really Corelli's; it's La Folia. The piece is very much in the composer's late style, with dramatic juxtapositions of contrasting moods, leaner, cleaner textures and somewhat tarter harmonies.

Joaquín Rodrigo (1901-1999), composer of a very famous guitar concerto, wrote many other concertos - including the Concierto de Estío ('Summer Concerto') for violin and orchestra. The wistful, lyrical central Siciliana of this piece (7.50 into the link) is a set of variations of a theme closely based on La Folia. His polar opposite (in so many respects), Roberto Gerhard, also wrote a concerto - this time a Piano Concerto - featuring a movement (the finale, beginning at 18.49 in the linked video) based on La Folia. This is a tougher, menacing take on the old tune. Other Spaniards have kept the tradition going, including Gregorio Paniagua (b.1944), whose La Folia de la Spagna has an agreeably antique feel and plenty of colour.

Sinclairvisan (La Folia) by the Swedish jazz musician and composer Jan Johansson (1931-1968) is a beguiling jazz-tinged take on the old tune. Given the nature of La Folia - a snatch of melody and a short series of chord progressions - it is a natural for jazz treatment. (The other part of the title refers to a drinking song that grew out of our tune). If you liked that you might also like the La Follia of German composer Andreas Prittwitz (b.1960). I do.

The Dutch organist Joop Schouten (1907-1983) composed the far more traditional but attractive Variaties en Fughetta op "La Follia" for organ in 1971 and if an organ take was long overdue so was a choral (religious) one. Here's a pleasant example from the Frenchman Jacques Berthier (1923-1994): Laudate Dominum

And on they go. There's the French composer Nicolas Bacri (b.1961) and his approachable Folia: chaconne symphonique for cello and orchestra from 1990 and the Israeli composer Menachem Wiesenberg (b.1950) and his winning 2001 Concerto Da Camera (La Folia) for four wind instruments and string orchestra. There's also the La Folia of popular British composer Karl Jenkins (b.1944), a concerto for marimba and strings written for Evelyn Glennie. And here's one from last year: The Variations on La Follia by American composer Richard Einhorn (b.1952), written for that most beautiful-sounding of old ensembles, the viol consort. It is unashamed to sound rather old-fashioned itself at times and to have a bit of fun too. 

Let the madness continue!

P.S. ...and how about the famous theme by Vangelis from 1492: Conquest of Paradise? It's La Folia!!!

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