Before I heard this disc I had thought of Chapí only as one of
the best composers of zarzuelas. Indeed that is how he was best
known in his lifetime although he also had some prominence as
a fighter for improved performing rights for composers. Naxos
have two short excerpts from his zarzuelas on 8.555957 – the Prelude
to “El tamor de granaderos” and the chorus of doctors from “El
rey que rabió”. They are the highlights of that disc and whet
the appetite for more by this composer. He did indeed also write
several operas, some chamber music and a small amount of orchestral
Symphony is the longer work here, and is full of delights even
if perhaps somewhat overlong for the material. The first movement,
with its slow introduction, and the third movement scherzo are
the most indebted to classical models of the first part of the
nineteenth century. The lengthy slow second movement and the
more boisterous finale are still very much influenced in the
same way but are as much character pieces as symphonic movements.
As a whole however this is an enjoyable work and well worth
same applies even more strongly to the Fantasía morisca which
was originally conceived for military band – at the time he
was director of the artillery regimental band in Madrid. Its
four movements are picturesque and imaginative. Whilst it has
a character similar to the Spanish-inspired works of, say, Bizet,
Massenet and Chabrier, the Spanish-sounding melodies and textures
here are presumably closer to the real thing than the former.
It is clearly a lighter work than the Symphony, but if the latter
is worth hearing once in a while, the Fantasia surely
deserves a permanent place in the normal orchestral repertoire
alongside the Spanish-inspired French Suites of the same period.
performances sound idiomatic - I have not been able to obtain
scores - and the recording is clear if somewhat dry and unatmospheric.
I understand that Chapí wrote other orchestral music, including
a much later tone poem “Los gnomos de la Alhambra” (The gnomes
of the Alhambra), described by Christopher
Webber in his book on zarzuelaas “strikingly adventurous”.
It is a pity that it is not included here, but perhaps it might
form the basis for a second disc of Chapí’s music. In the meantime,
here is a very enjoyable but inexpensive disc of two very worthwhile
pieces by a composer who clearly ought to be better known beyond
his own country.
of an alternative version of the Symphony