This collection includes all the songs composed by Esnaola between 1833 and 1836, except for those based on poems by Esteban Echeverría — his creative partner par excellence — which have already been issued.*
JUAN PEDRO ESNAOLA
Juan Pedro Esnaola was the most important composer of the Argentine Romantic period. He was born in Buenos Aires, the then-capital of the River Plate Viceroy’s Protectorate, on 17 August 1808. His father, who was from Albistur, and his Segura-born mother both belonged to two long-standing Basque families. From an early age he studied under his uncle, the presbyter José Antonio Picasarri (b. Segura, 1769; d. Buenos Aires, 1843), who — forced to leave Argentina because of his loyalty to the crown during the struggle for the nation’s independence — took him to Europe. Between 1818 and 1822 they visited the Basque Country, Madrid, Paris, Rome, Naples, Vienna, studying counterpoint under several leading maestros of the day. When they returned to Buenos Aires, Esnaola and his uncle set up an academy of music that they used as a platform for the Latin American launch of the works of their contemporaries Dussek, Rossini and Paër, among others.
Despite his precocious talents as a pianist and singer, he still found time at the age of only 16 to compose his own liturgical works including masses, a requiem, psalms, lamentations, hymns and motets. In 1833 he began to set to music poems by contemporaries such as Vicente López, Juan Cruz Varela and Esteban Echeverría, giving birth to Argentina chamber song. From 1842 onwards his imagination seems to have been focused on composing for piano, with his output featuring a number of heavily stylised salon dances, including his quadrilles and “Federal Minuet “or Montonero.
His circumstantial output includes several hymns in praise of Manuel de Rosas, who for two decades was the dictator of Argentina, and his daughter Manuelita, who was one of Esnaola’s pupils. Yet such shoulder-rubbing with the powers that be did not discourage him from including some of the regime’s opponents among his friends, such as Mariquita Sánchez de Thompson, and he continued to hold several public posts after the dictator was ousted in 1852. In 1855 he performed a two-piano concert with the famous Geneva-born pianist Sigismund Thalberg. In 1860 he revised the Argentine national anthem by Blas Parera, and his version would later be adopted as the official one, not only because of its musical quality but also because of his handling of the anthem’s sources. He died in the city of his birth, which he rarely left, on 8 July 1878. His greatest merit is that without breaking completely free from tradition (Basque religious music) and while remaining open to the dominant contemporary influence of bel canto, he managed to stamp upon his scores a personal style that has made him the most eminent Argentinean composer of the 19th century.
The poetic sources
Esnaola’s “other” poets were also contemporaries of his: lawyers, journalists and politicians of note whom he had met and got to know, such as Juan Cruz Varela, considered to be the leading representative of neoclassicism in the River Plate area, and Vicente López, who wrote the Argentine national anthem.
In two cases Esnaola puts to music works by writers from Spain: The Inopportune Dream by Juan Bautista Arriaza, the favourite poet of King Ferdinand VII, and To Laura, taken from "La Marcela", or Which of the Three? by Manuel Bretón de los Herreros. The latter, dated 11 June 1833, demonstrates how quickly comedy crossed the ocean, since it had been premiered in Madrid on 30 December 1831.
The Italian texts used by Esnaola include La partenza (1746) by Metastasio, who also inspired Rossini for his “Musical Soirées” (Paris, 1830–1835), and Hear the Last Accent, a translation of Odi d’un uom che muore by Giovanni Antonio Luigi Redaelli, also set to music in its original language by Donizetti (“Soirées d’automne”, 1837) and Rossini (“Péchés de vieillese”, 1857).
The musical style
Judged from the viewpoint of late-19th-century nationalism, Esnaola has been considered as a pioneer of Argentinean music, together with Juan Bautista Alberdi and Amancio Alcorta, whose origins were also Basque. Really, we should consider his works to be a product of their time, inheriting and to a certain extent continuing the colonial Hispano-American Baroque tradition, particularly as far as his significant output of music is concerned.
The composer mastered the language of both Viennese classicism and Italian opera, using them as the basis to define his own style. Esnaola’s melodies teem with poetic emotion. His phrasing recalls that of Belini, Donizetti or Rossini, while his preference for stanza-based songs, influenced by the French “Romance”, is a tribute to the ambit that they were written for: the Romantic salons of the River Plate area. Without ever clearly declaring himself as a regionalist, his writing gives off a certain local scent rather than being firmly rooted in place.
Aware of European trends from the Restoration, Esnaola became a seeker not only of a personal style but also of a truly national music through a clearly defined aesthetic project.
* ”River Plate Musical Romanticism” Songs by J.P. Esnaola based on poems by E. Echeverría. E. Jáuregui (soprano) N. Broggini (Traumann fortepiano, originally owned by Esnaola). Tradition, Buenos Aires, TR050412.
Elena López Jáuregui and Norberto Broggini
1. A LAURA (11-VI-1833)
Manuel Bretón de los Herreros (Quel, La Rioja, 1796 - Madrid, 1873)
2. OH! ALMAS CARIÑOSAS (6-XII-1833)
Pablo Delgado (Argentina s.XIX)
3. LA PUBERTAD (11-IX-1835)
Vicente López (Buenos Aires, 1785 - 1856)
4. MI RUEGO (23-X-1835)
Rufi no Varela (Buenos Aires, 1815 - Quebracho Herrado, 1840)
5. ELISA (c. 1836)
José Rivera Indarte (Córdoba del Tucumán, 1814 - Isla de Santa Catalina, 1845)
6. EL SUEÑO IMPORTUNO (11-VI-1835)
Juan Bautista Arriaza (Madrid, 1770-1837)
7. COMO EL SENCILLO UTUGÁMIZ (1-XII-1836)
Manuel José de Ocampo (Buenos Aires, 1810-1895)
8. LA ELMIRA (1835)
José Barros Pazos (Córdoba del Tucumán, 1808 – Buenos Aires, 1877)
9. HUYO POR QUE TE AMO, ¡AY! ¡TRISTE DE MI! (18-05-1833)
Esteban Moreno (c.1800- post 1851)
10. LA PARTENZA (05-VI-1835)
Pietro Metastasio (Roma, 1698 – Viena, 1782)
11. OYE EL ÚLTIMO ACENTO (c. 1836)
Giovanni Antonio Luigi Redaelli (Cremona, 1785-1815)
12. EL DESENGAÑO (1833)
Henrique Rodríguez (Córdoba del Tucumán, 1809-1891)
13. A LA MEMORIA DE MI AMIGA (c. 1836)
Juan Cruz Varela (Buenos Aires, 1794 – Montevideo, 1839)
"En un mercado saturado de grabaciones discográficas repetidas, éste parece contar, sin embargo, con el atractivo de la exclusividad, puesto que llena un vacío discográfico que muchos argentinos podrán llenar (así como los musicólogos interesados en la música burguesa de principios del siglo XIX)"
(Enrique Sacau MUNDOCLASICO.COM)
"Son excelentes intérpretes del mismo la soprano guipuzcoana Elena López Jáuregui y el pianista argentino Norberto Broggini. Es un conjunto de trece canciones sobre poemas de autores argentinos de la primera mitad del siglo XIX, aunque hay uno de Metastasio La partenza y de algunos notables poetas españoles como Bretón de los Herreros y Juan Bautista Arriaza. Entre los argentinos citemos al neoclásico Juan Cruz Varela y a Vicente López, autor de la letra del Himno Nacional de su país, del que, por cierto, Esnaola publicó en 1860 una versión corregida que, con leves variantes, es hoy la oficial"
(Andrés Ruiz Tarazona DIVERDI)