Six Spanish Lessons, originally written for solo
harpsichord, but piano as well, was composed in the summer of 1988 during a period when I
was enjoying beginning Spanish lessons along with my friend and
colleague harpsichordist Bruce Gustafson. The lessons were given to us
by another colleague and friend, Ana Börger-Reese, and took place in her
garden. The piece was subsequently premiered by Mr. Gustafson at
Franklin and Marshall College that fall.
The titles need a bit of explanation, even for those who have more than a passing knowledge of the language. After a Prólogo, which sets the mood with a reference to a well-known folk tune, the suite begins with the depiction of the manic La perra Marysol, the very small hyperactive dog of our teacher, who was always present at these gatherings. In the following piece, La siesta de Domenico Scarlatti, the famous harpsichordist/composer is depicted during his sojourn in Spain with hand-crossings (one of his trademarks) perhaps in the middle of a dream (indicated in the score by the words “el sueño”). Because Ana used to always take a siesta before, during and after our lessons, this piece is necessary. Next we have Siempre elegante, (always elegant), a reference to the extravagant meals Ana served in her garden. The absurdist piece, Y de niño? (and as a child?) refers to the terrifying drills in the imperfect tense we performed as students. The teacher is depicted in the faster parts of the piece and the students more slowly. The suite concludes with El trabajo del gato (the cat’s work), which refers to Blanche, Bruce’s cat, yet another resident of the garden who was always occupied with afternoon chores.
The piano version has been recorded on the Zimbel label by pianist Steven Graff.
Selected Performances of Six Spanish Lessons
Premiere: Bruce Gustafson, harpsichord, Franklin and Marshall College Sunday Concert Series, Lancaster, PA
September 28, 1991, Bruce Gustafson, harpsichord, Society of Composers Region III Conference at Radford University, Radford, VA
March 31, 2012: Pianist Steven Graff performed Six Spanish Lessons for piano at Hudson River Music Hall, Hudson Falls, NY