Introduction by Rintaro Akamatsu
El amor brujo, or Love, the Magician, is a masterpiece by Manuel de Falla (1876-1946), a suite of glamorous music about the love of a gypsy woman. Danza ritual del fuego (Ritual Fire Dance) is a movement from the ballet, featuring Andalusian/gypsy emotions. This dance is an exorcism against a former lover who appears as a ghost. The intense rhythm is 2/4 and the trill magically imitates an echoing burning flame.
Falla resided in Paris until the beginning of World War I and interacted with many artists there. In 1916, Falla was commissioned by Sergei Diaghilev (1872-1929) of the Ballets Russes, to compose the Three-Cornered Hat (El sombrero de tres picos). For this production, Léonide Massine (1896-1979) was the choreographer and Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) the stage and costume designer. This is a unique time when Paris was at the forefront of the arts and it also reflects that Falla was one of the important figures of that era. When visiting the Musée Picasso in Paris, one can feel the dynamism of these geniuses through the various stage designs created by Picasso. By staying in Paris, many artists have not only inspired their own nationalism but also absorbed its impressionistic elements and learned a new grammar with their own balance. In the case of Falla, it took a decade to complete the Ballet Music, Love, the Magician, after the first draft of the work, Gitanería was premiered in 1915 commissioned by Pastora Imperio, a renowned gypsy dancer. But for its long period of maturation, it would have become an established masterpiece in the repertoire (final version premiered in 1924). Today, the piano solo versions of this work are also popular (a solo piano suite), and the arrangement of Alicia de Larrocha (1923-2009) is also well known. In addition, the performance of Arthur Rubinstein (1887-1982) of the Ritual Fire Dance (usually as an encore) is also very famous.
Inspired by these predecessors, I also play this work with improvised elements. When conveying Falla’s fascinating orchestral method to the piano, the key to creating a new appeal lies in the way the pedal works. In this arrangement, the damper pedal (right pedal) and shift pedal (left pedal) are both described in detail, so in this aspect it is like an “Etude for pedals”. The great Russian pianist Alexander Goldenweiser wrote: “Look closely at the feet of a good pianist. You’ll find that they have fine pedaling and never stop, because good players always control the sound with their pedals.” The more one pursues pedaling, the more conscious one will become in touching the keyboard. I hope the student/performer will keep this in mind in the process of reading the score in order to attain the charm of the work.