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La Folia de la Spagna
Fons vitae; Dementia praecox angelorum; Supra solfamirevt [5:55]
Extravagans; Laurea minima; In vitro [2:07]
Oratio pro-folia; Fama volat; Citrus – Hesperides [2:26]
Principalis. Fermescens; Indica exacta; Adverso flumine [8:11]
Parsimonia aristocraciae  [3:14]
Subtilis; De profundis – Extra muros [1:29]
Vulgaris – Sine populi notione; Vagula et blandula [1:38]
Nordica et desolata; Aurea mediocritas [5:04]
Nobilissima; Degredans et corruptae [2:21]
De pastribus; Mathematica dies irae; Crepuscularis; Sine nomine; Tristis est anima mea; Equites fortis armaturae; Audaces fortuna juvat; Sine praeputium; Ecclesiastica [5:14]
Theatralis et hipocritae; Ruralis; Alter indica perfecta  [1:57]
De tolerentia aethera; Fuga ficta et carus triumphalis [4:30]
Atrium Musicae de Madrid: Gregorio Paniagua (guitar, jew’s harp, cromorne, viola da gamba, vielle à roue), Eduardo Paniagua (recorders, jew’s harp), Daniel del Rio (violin, pochette, tambour), Andreas Prittwitz (recorders, cromorne, clarinet), Luis Paniagua (double bass, tabla, sitar, crotales, castanets, derbouka), Albertina do Huete (harpsichord, xylophone, metallophone, grelots); Gregorio Paniagua (director).
rec. June, 1980, no location given.


Extraordinary stuff!

The range of instruments listed above will already have given the signal that this is not an altogether standard early music recording. Since some other sounds not listed – such as those of a pistol being fired, a chain-saw in action and a car approaching and departing – are also to be heard on this vividly recorded CD, it will be gathered that “not altogether standard” rather understates the case!

Not that you would necessarily have any suspicions from the packaging – the usual elegant white of Musique d’Abord releases and the name of Gregorio Paniagua and the Atrium Musicae de Madrid on the front, and a list of Latin titles on the back (most of which are Paniagua’s invention).

La Folia is a dance – which may actually be Portuguese, rather than Spanish, in origin - whose harmonic framework was adopted and employed by composer after composer in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, often as the starting point for a set of variations. As early as 1623, Piccinini published his ‘Partite variate sopra Folia’ though its origins certainly lie earlier. Gregorio Paniagua’s booklet notes say that the earliest mention of the dance cones in the ‘auto de la Sibilla Cassandra’ by the Portuguese musician and poet Gil Vicente. Jean-Baptiste Lully’s ‘Air des hautbois Les folies d'Espagne’ (1672) was fundamental to the later fashion for La Folia, a fashion which shows no sign of stopping and which includes important contributions by Corelli, Vivaldi, Geminiani, Sor, Paganini, Liszt etc. etc. A huge website devoted to ‘La Folia’ (click here) lists well over a hundred versions since 1970.

‘Folia’ is said to derive from the Tuscan word ‘folle’, meaning foolish, strange, mad. There’s a Spanish form of poem known as a folia – made up of four lines of nonsense or absurdity. Such senses of the word are certainly relevant to Paniagua’s own variations on La Folia. In his booklet notes he seems to see the dance as somehow symptomatic of an important aspect of the Spanish psyche: “In Spain where all men are solitary, where everyone bears a world within himself, where nothing is more universal than individuality, where all men are filled with both darkness and light, where there have been, and still are, very distant men, full of uncertainty and of hope, madness takes root with quite extraordinary facility”.

Given such a vision, we need not be so surprised at the nature of Paniagua’s treatment. A variety of previous Folias – many of them anonymous and taken from early manuscripts of Spanish music, a few better known, such as ones by Pasquini and Gaspar Sanz – are subjected to Paniagua’s remarkable musical imagination. These Folias are mixed with, cross-fertilised with pieces from many other sources, reinterpreted and commented upon in the light of other musical idioms – ragas, electronics, jazz etc. The results are, as I say, extraordinary. There are moments of beauty and moments that seem wilfully bizarre; at times the results seem quite funny, at others rather painfully disturbed. If there is such a thing as musical surrealism – and it might be worth remembering how important the Spanish contribution to surrealism was – then this is surely a major contribution to the genre.

The original LP of ‘La Folia de la Spagna’ (Harmonia Mundi HMC 901050) was released in 1982 and acquired a certain minor cult status, both amongst audiophiles and amongst musicians. This CD reissue is welcome, but unfortunately the extensive documentation present on the original LP has disappeared – not least the detailed table of sources that was provided in the original issue. Fortunately a version of this has been provided on the web-site mentioned earlier (click here).

This is not recommendable to, as they say, those of a nervous disposition, nor to early-music purists. But those with a taste for the unusual, for music that is effectively beyond all normal categories, will find much to intrigue them here.

Glyn Pursglove


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