El paño moruno (The Moorish Cloth)

This song originates from the Murcia, one of the 17 independent Autonomous Communities of Spain. The story is fairly trivial: a shop reduced the price of a cloth because it had a stain on it. The structure keeps very basic: A, A1, coda; where A1 essentially repeats section A in the relative D major key.

So, what makes this piece interesting?

 

The accompaniment: with a series of rhythmic variations, the tone of the song changes, the underlying material that is usually “just” an accompaniment gains more importance than it would normally have.

The “trick” used by De Falla is at the same time simple and brilliant. Folksongs are usually accompanied by the guitar: so why not translate the typical guitar figures on the piano? Granted, it’s hell to play – and not just technically – but it certainly gives the audience an immediate feeling of the provenience of the material, remaining true to its roots while elevating it to classical standards: the technique, used especially in the left hand, reminds of the punteado (when a guitar player plucks the notes one by one), short staccato notes, single or double

El paño moruno - sample 1

El paño moruno – sample 1

where a mix of the two hands in arpeggios, upwards and downwards,  evokes a classic of the Flamenco, the rasgueado

El paño moruno - sample 2

El paño moruno – sample 2

This material is base for the introduction as well as the small interlude that leads to the end of the song. Genuinely, the singer’s last line is a typical lament on the word “ay”, with crescendo and diminuendo indicating the suffering for the diminished value of the cloth. It’s not a tragedy, after all, and De Falla places a B major chord five bars to the end, leaving the last three bars in open fifths.

El paño moruno - sample 3

El paño moruno – sample 3

Click here to listen to this fabulous interpretation by Conchita Supervia from 1930: it keeps all the flair of the folk tradition.

A version with a guitar accompaniment can be found here, sung by Teresa berganza with Gabriel Estarellas at the guitar.

And here is an arrangement for string orchestra that can be performed with or without the voice.

Lyrics

Al paño fino, en la tienda,
una mancha le cayó;
Por menos precio se vende,
Porque perdió su valor.
¡Ay!

The fine cloth in the shop
got stained;
It will be sold at a cheaper price
Because it has lost its value.
Ah!

Here you can find all the articles related to the Siete canciones populares españolas:

Opera Odissey

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