Emmanuel Chabrier: España


Whilst touring around Spain between July and December of 1882, Emmanuel Chabrier took great interest in some of the traditional dances that he saw. He wrote in October of that year that he was to return home soon to compose an “extraordinary fantasia” which would be based on some of the traditional Spanish music he fell in love with. At first, Chabrier focused on a piano duet for this piece, however the music soon amalgamated into a work for full orchestra. Composed over a period of a few months in 1883, España was born. Premiered later in the year, after a quick name change from Jota to España, the piece sealed Chabrier’s success as a composer. 


The Music

Opening with pizzicato strings, the muted trumpets initiate the first theme. This theme is taken and used four times across the piece. The intricate opening sees the plucking strings interweave with the fast tonguing from the trumpets and horns. The glorious tutti sections are loud and boisterous and full of Latin flair. The flowing second theme is woven throughout the more intricate sections, which gives you light and shade within the music. 

The central rhythmic theme is Romantic in style and emphasises the different strong beats often utilised in Spanish music. As the horns lead into a marcato section, the trombones and flutes take up a conversational theme. From here, the theme is formed into a number of variations, each of which showcases the different sounds within the orchestra. The loud trumpets paired with the spritely woodwind offer a sparkling timbre which is seen in other Latin-inspired works such as Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio Espagnol and Maurice Ravel’s Rapsodie espagnol. 

After a reprise of the opening theme for the final time, the orchestra begin to ready themselves for the thrilling conclusion of España. After a quiet section, the music begins to build back up in texture and dynamic as the brass triumphantly lead the orchestra to the vibrant final chords. 


Ⓒ Alex Burns

Happy Reading!

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