Joaquin Turina y Perez was born in Seville, Spain, on December 9, 1882. He began to study music in his native city with the
organist and choirmaster of the cathedral. He then entered the Madrid Conservatory, where he specialized in the piano with Jose Targó. In 1905, Turina went to Paris and enrolled at the Schola Cantorum. His musical studies ended there with various teachers, one of whom, Vincent D'Indy, had a profound influence upon him.
Turina remained in Paris for a decade. His close association with most of the leading young French composers inevitably affected him, and he began to write music in their style and idiom. Fortunately, his meeting and friendship with his celebrated compatriot, Isaac Albeniz, turned his thinking in the direction of musical nationalism. He was able to combine French impressionistic tendencies with Spanish folk idioms.
Turina came to the attention of the Parisian music public with a Piano Quintet that the Quatuor introduced in 1907. Four years after this excellent chamber music work was given in Paris, his String Quartet, introduced by the Quatour Touche. Both these works are distinguished by a sureness of form, articulateness, and keen sensitivity. These qualities are also found in Turina's next important work, the one in which his musical personality revealed itself fully developed for the first time.
It was La Procesion del Rocio,
a musical description of a religious procession in Seville, written in 1912, and introduced that year by the Orquestra Sinfonica in Madrid. La Procesion del Rocio
, which Debussy likened to a luminous fresco, made Turina an important figure in the Spanish nationalist school; to this day, it remains one of his most notable works.
Turina returned to Spain in 1914, settling in Madrid. From then until the time of his death he
played a major role in his country's musical life. He was the pianist of an important chamber music ensemble, the Quinteto de Madrid. He was professor at the Madrid Conservatory. He directed performances of the Ballet Russe in Spain. He wrote music criticism. And, he was a member of the Spanish Academy of Arts.
But his principal significance rested with his creative work. Beginning with the premiere of his opera, Margot
, in Madrid in 1914. His place with the foremost Spanish nationalist composers was never in dispute. Several of his works are among the proudest achievements of this school of composers. These include La Oracion del Torero,
for string quartet, the Sinfonia Sevillana,
which won first prize in a competition conducted by the San Sebastian Casino in 1920; and the Danzas Fantasticas
, a glorification of authentic Andalusian rhythms.
Pedro Morales divided Turina's music into three groups. "First, those bearing no distinctive mark of nationalism; second, those in which it predominates; and third in which the idiom is a blending of Spanish and foreign elements."
In his most important music, Turina is, according to Leigh Henry, "a musical impressionist of fine sensibility, both spiritually and musically. His music however, differs in constructive methods from that of those generally termed Impressionists. He tends towards the rather literary type of poetic expression exemplified in Albeniz's Iberia
or in Images
of Debussy, but his treatment of sound and rhythm is more objective in the strictly aural sense, and more full of feeling for pure musical design than that of the elder Spaniard. Viewed as a whole, the general character of his work is subjective and impressionistic and has a certain flavor of romanticism."
Joaquin Turina died in Madrid on January 14, 1949.