About this work
Albéniz's popular set of six album leaves, España, is the acme of his salon piano compositions. None of the pieces is longer than approximately four minutes, and none has the technical challenges and intricate textures of his masterpiece Iberia. The rhythms, modal harmonies, and subtle dramatics of its simple lines so completely evoke Spain that anything more would be gilding the lily. Together, the six pieces could be viewed as Albéniz's take on the traditional keyboard suite, made up as it is of a prelude followed by dances with a couple of non-dance movements thrown in. The prelude is really an introduction in the sense that its opening phrases sound like a ceremonial fanfare announcement. In between these are phrases where the changing harmonies of triplets split between the hands foreshadow what's to come in the Malagueña later. The second album leaf is the famous Tango in D, Albéniz's most recognized melody, frequently transcribed for other instruments. The Malagueña places the fandango rhythm in the right hand and the melody in the left hand. The fourth piece, Serenata, alternates playful staccato phrases with more legato, song-like melodies while frequently changing harmonies color its expressions. Fifth is the Capricho Catalan, a delicate song played almost entirely in parallel thirds over a constant offbeat accompaniment. The last piece is a Basque dance in 5/8 meter, the Zortzico. It has a distinctive, dotted-rhythm device that covers the second and third beats of each measure, and often the fourth and fifth also, normally beat out on a drum.