Six More Spanish Lessons


Six More Spanish Lessons (the sequel to the 1990 set) was composed twelve years later at the request of pianist William Wright. The location and characters for this suite of character pieces is the ranch Tierra Alta. It was written shortly after my father and his wife established a vineyard with this name and built a Peruvian horse farm with a Columbian-flavored hacienda. Muy suave (very soft and gentle) acts as a prologue, reflecting the pastel colors of a sunset looking down a long valley, past the coast range, towards the Pacific. These are colors I often use, having spent my early adult years in this area of the world. As in the first set of lessons there are three zoological references. The first, Jaranera y su potra Primavera, is a snapshot of a Peruvian mare and her filly. The piece opens with the proud and elegant paso llano (even footfall) of the mare, Jaranera, which alternates with the freely running filly (Primavera). The abrupt contrasts and alternation between these two gaits reflects the dynamic rhythmic counterpoint the equine duo performs on the rolling pastures. El Portillo del emperrado (the little door in the vineyard wall) was inspired by a grand stucco wall. Debussy’s Spanish-flavored prélude La Puerta del vino (the wine gate) is the subtext. The Debussy piece is marked Mouvement de Habanera. I have integrated that rhythm and similarly pungent harmonic language in my bow to the original.  Los Patos en el estanque draws on the undulating and colliding patterns of pond water whipped up by ducks and the hot late afternoon Santa Ana winds. Canción de cuna del buho para los ciervitos (the owl’s lullaby for the little deer) is cast in the form of a slow and poignant folia (in this case continuous variations based on a descending bass ostinato (i- bVII-vi-V) centered on Bb minor (same key as the dream in the first set of lessons) that migrates gradually to the other side of the circle of fifths (E minor). The suite concludes with the rollicking Jabalinas en las uvas (wild boar in the grapes). These marauders are often found on ranches in the southwest, and they can wreak havoc. There is a hunt through the hilly vineyard and down into Jabalina Hollow in this piece that accelerates to a furious pace as the hogs are chased away.


Selected Performances

Feb. 23, 2003: Pianist William Wright performed the premiere of Six More Spanish Lessons at a Sound Horizons Concert in Barshinger Center for the Performing Arts, Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster, PA.


Steven Graff has recorded Six More Spanish Lessons on a Zimbel release, John Carbon: Piano Music Played by Steven Graff.

© John Carbon 2015