Isaac Albeniz: Portrait of a Romantic

By Walter Aaron Clark | Go to book overview

5
A Man of Some Importance (1896-1897)

JUAN VALERAY ALCALÁ GALIANO ( 1824-1905) was one of the best writers Spain produced in the nineteenth century. Born to a prosperous family in Córdoba, he studied Latin, law, and philosophy as a youth and was fluent in several languages. In 1847 he was appointed ambassador to Naples, where in his spare time he studied classical and modern Greek. Later diplomatic assignments took him to Lisbon, Rio de Janeiro, Dresden, Paris, Berlin, St Petersburg, and Washington, DC. Valera was, like Albéniz, a man of cosmopolitan tastes and refinement. He was also a member of the liberal faction in Spain, and much of his writing was political in nature. All of this has a direct bearing on his first novel and most famous literary achievement, Pepita Jimdnez (published 1874).1

Pepita Jiménez is an epistolary novel in which the story unfolds in a series of letters narrated after the events have taken place. It deals with the conflict between human and divine love, with the distinction between genuine religious devotional ardour on the one hand, and spiritual vanity and egoism on the other. Valera presents this conflict in minute psychological detail before resolving it in the union of the religious aspirant Don Luis de Vargas and the woman whom he falls in love with and marries, Pepita Jiménez. Unlike Mérimée's Carmen, this story has a happy ending. It was hardly a secret to literary critics or Valera himself, however, that the dramatic stuff of the book is meagre. Indeed, this is a plausible plot for a cheap novel: young priest-to-be seduced by village temptress, etc. What makes Pepita Jiménez a sublime literary achievement instead is the message that lies behind the plot, and the exquisite language Valera uses to convey that message.

Albéniz was apparently very keen to use this novel as the basis for an opera, but his precise reasons must remain in the realm of speculation, for no

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1
For a detailed study of the opera, its genesis, literary and musical dimensions, and performance history, see Clark, "Spanish Music with a Universal Accent". See also Bevan, Albéniz.

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Isaac Albeniz: Portrait of a Romantic
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgements vi
  • Contents ix
  • List of Plates x
  • List of Tables xii
  • Abbreviations xiii
  • List of Musical Examples xiv
  • Introduction - Step by Step 1
  • 1 - The Phenomenon 1860-1875) 16
  • 2 - With Distinction (1876-1888) 34
  • 3 - Veni, Vidi, Vici (1889-1893) 73
  • 4 - Prophet Without Honour (1894-1895) 109
  • 5 - A Man of Some Importance (1896-1897) 136
  • 6 - The Imperfect Wagnerite (1898-1904) 178
  • 7 - Iberia (1905-1909) 220
  • 8 - The Legacy of Albéniz 268
  • Appendix I 292
  • Appendix II - List of Works 295
  • Bibliography 301
  • Index of Works 311
  • General Index 314
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