The following review by Jonathan Santa Maria Bouquet of The Piano in Spain by Ana Benavides was published in the Newsletter of The American Musical Instrument Society, Volume 44, No. 1, Spring 2015, p22. The review is reproduced here with permission from AMIS.
Ana Benavides’ book is directed to a non-specialist general public with a focus on the piano and its music from around 1729 until the early twentieth century in Spain. It is published in Spanish, Russian, and English (The Piano in Spain, ISBN: 8437009967072) with slight changes in the content and length. The book is divided into 12 chapters, plus a prologue by Andrés Ruiz Tarazona and an appendix listing the author’s piano music editions as well as her audio recordings of Spanish piano music.
It is important to point out that rather than studying the history and development of the instrument itself, this book presents a broad musicological perspective. Benavides focuses her work in the socio-cultural aspects of the piano in Spain, exploring its music, performance spaces, performers, composers, and piano teachers. Only the first two chapters are dedicated specifically to the piano, the first being the introduction and the second being a chapter exploring early piano makers in Spain. The structure of these two chapters, also used in chapters 5 and 8, consists of an introduction followed by short biographies of relevant figures. Each of these biographies includes a brief text accompanied by very interesting images either in color or black-and-white. These images represent a very valuable resource, their quality and printing are generally good and they are properly credited and referenced.
Chapters 3 to 7 explore social aspects of piano music and its social context, focusing on performance spaces, music editions, Spain’s Nationalism, Spain within Europe, and piano repertoire respectively. Chapter 8, “Maestros y Predecesores,” is dedicated to piano teachers and includes fifty short biographies. Each biography is only one page long and comprises a small image, a portrait of the pianist, or a reproduction of the cover of one of his editions, a short text, about one paragraph long, and an excerpt of his music.
The last 4 chapters are longer biographies, each of them devoted to a particularly important Spanish composer for the piano: Isaac Albeniz, Enrique Granados, Manuel de Falla, and Joaquin Turina.
Throughout this book we find interesting quotations from important piano figures such as composers, academics, etc., all printed in a distinctive turquoise color. The text is presented without breaking its narrative, and with a few exceptions (pp. 15, 91, 155), is properly referenced. However, within the text we find opinions and ideas of other authors mentioned without suitable citations and vague references to non-specified sources (pp.16, 17, 20, 28, 29, etc.). Nonetheless, Benavides’ work is laudable for exploring and investigating many obscure nineteenth-century Spanish musicians and their practically unknown music.
Altogether, this book is an interesting introductory text at a basic level, suitable for musicians, musicologists, and piano enthusiasts; it is written in an approachable language, contains useful information, and the collection of period images is a valuable iconographic resource.
Jonathan Santa Maria Bouquet
University of Edinburgh
Jonathan Santa Maria Bouquet is the Principal’s Career Development Ph.D. Scholar and Conservator of musical instruments at the Edinburgh University Collection of Historic Musical Instruments.