Of the opening five Chapters, three (nos. 1, 2 and 4) focus
on Madrid at various times of the twenty-four hour cycle. Some
views are from above, others at street level. As a capital city
its architecture is varied and interesting, less so its traffic
jams. However, the totality is to give a sense of a capital
city of architectural character to go along, as in London, with
modern high-rise development. The opening with a statue of Don
Quixote on his horse, accompanied by his faithful squire Sancho
Panza, on a donkey, reminds us where we are. The other two Chapters
on Madrid home in on the city’s fountains (CH.5) and the
El Retiro (CH.3). Particularly interesting to the British are
the pictures of Palacio Cristal, located in the Retiro along
with grandiose monuments to Alfonso II. The impressive glass
construction was modelled on that in London, built to house
the 1851 Great Exhibition, and tragically burnt down in 1936
after its removal and re-erection at Sydenham Hill. Seeing it
is a reminder of what London lost.
The music of the opening Chapter is of Chabrier’s España.
Like the rest of the music, and despite none of it being by
Spanish composers, it does invoke a feeling of Spain. Glinka’s,
Summer Night in Madrid, is an invitation to photography
that is not resisted (CH.2) whilst the six short ballet pieces
from Massenet’s Le Cid take us from Madrid to La
Mancha. This is an historical region located on a plateau of
central Spain south of Madrid. The photography whilst showing
the town itself (CH.8) focuses particularly on the Belmonte
Castle and surrounding landscape (CHs. 6 and 8). The castle
itself became the property of Countess Eugenia who married Napoleon
III of France, becoming Empress until the fall of the Third
Empire following the siege of Paris in 1870. It’s a magnificent
structure in an interesting region of Spain.
We conclude with a visit (CH.10) to Córdoba on the banks
of a shallow Guadalquivir, doubtless filmed in the dry period.
Much of the content, accompanied by Rimsky-Korsakov’s
Capriccio espagnol, is concerned with the local industry
of olive farming. The views of pollarded trees are somewhat
excessive whilst those of the town all too brief. The harvesting
of the olives, both modern and traditional, is interesting.
The excellent, and more than usually extensive booklet notes,
point out Córdoba’s long history that preceded
it being a regional centre for the Romans before falling into
the Byzantine empire from which it returned to Christianity
in 1236. The gardens of the Alcazar of the Christian Kings were
built under Alfonso XI of Castile in 1328 on the site of the
old Moorish fortress.
This makes for a well-documented and interesting journey, with
much to ravish the ear and interest the eye.
Robert J Farr