Antonio José Martínez Palacios, who signed his works as Antonio José, was a composer born in Burgos (Spain) in 1902, who was murdered at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. This year, we're commemorating the eightieth anniversary of his death (in fact, he was executed a few weeks after Federico García Lorca) and several projects have been launched to recall him; among them: a documentary, some concerts and the video that we're introducing today. Or rather, the video that soprano Adriana Viñuela and pianist Elisa Rapado are introducing; they've been so kind as to write this post. They wrote the Spanish version and I did my best to produce an English version as accurate as possible... Thanks a lot, Adriana and Elisa!
Antonio José (Archivo Nacional de Burgos)
When we started to shoot El Molinero by Antonio José, not only did we think of spreading his most known work for voice and piano (it was published by the Unión Musical Española in 1935 and is performed quite often) but also and above all, for what remains to be done: the composer Antonio José was killed during the war and silence was imposed on his memory. Around the 80s, his figure and his music began to be recovered, mainly thanks to his biographer Miguel Ángel Palacios Garoz, but, in this instance, we’d like want to draw attention to musical institutions about one fact: many of his works haven't been premiered yet.
Before beginning our filming, we discussed with Ignacio Garcia, the director, our own interpretation of the poem. The piece, originally a folk song collected by Antonio José in the tiny village Merindad de Sotoscueva, is based on the following verses, that talk about a girl who doesn't want to get married to a miller but to a farmhand instead. Here the original verses and a rough translation:
Labrador, labrador a tu mies, labrador, labrador yo le quiero, no le quiero molinero y porque le llaman el maquilandero, que le quiero labrador que coja los bueyes y se vaya a arar y a la media noche me venga a rondar, que suba a aquella montaña y coja la rama del verde laurel y a la mi ventana la venga a poner. Yo le quiero labrador que me venga a rondar. Porque el molinero o el maquilandero yo sé que no llevaría los bueyes al campo p'arar labrador le quiero yo, que coja la rama, sí, y a la media noche me venga a rondar. ¡Molinero!
Farmer, farmer to your cornfields, farmer, farmer I want him to be, I don't want him to be a miller, because he is called "maquilandero", I want him to be a farmer, who takes the oxen and goes ploughing and at midnight, he comes to serenade me, who climbs that mountain takes the branch of green laurel, and brings it to my window. I want him to be a farmer that comes to serenade me. Because the miller or the "maquilandero", I know he wouldn't take the oxen and go ploughing, I want him to be a farmer, who takes the branch, yes, and at midnight comes to serenade me. Miller!
According to Adriana:
The miller is called "maquilandero" because he charges for the "maquila" (the share of grain, flour or oil corresponding to the miller for the grinding (1)), a share often outrageously overcharged. For this reason, as Mr Palacios Garoz told me, a miller didn't have a good reputation in folk songs. The poem says "no lo quiero molinero" (I don't want him to be a miller) and adds: "le quiero labrador" (I want him to be a farmer); the farmer is introduced as a more honest and hardworking man: "que coja los bueyes y se vaya a arar" (who takes the oxen and goes ploughing). The girl mentions evocative symbols like night and serenade: "y a la media noche me venga a rondar" (and at midnight he comes to serenade me). Probably, she wishes to meet him, maybe they met once, but she knows that it won't be possible anymore.
If I let my imagination run free when I listen to this text and its harmony, I sense what could be behind this traditional song, something that was common until not a long time ago in our country and, unfortunately, is still accepted in some countries as India: the marriage of convenience. We could understand that the girl, a fictitious peasant, regrets not being able to marry the farmer, his loved one, because she must marry the miller, a better catch. Our composer thought about this matter in 1929, concluding that the best, easiest solution to this "sexual problem" would be that women became economically independent (2), so he possibly had that in mind when he wrote this song.
According to Elisa:
"When Adriana told me her interpretation of this poetic text of El molinero, focusing on the dramatic elements, I thought she was right; the piano accompaniment itself represents the moving water around the water wheel, and we visually evoke this image several times (you can read herehere more about the different versions and interpretations of El molinero). Accepting this point of view, the film presented two problems: how to integrate a piano in a mill and also, how to integrate myself, the pianist; being a woman, I couldn't be the miller or the farmer. We decided I could be an imaginary character, a dark one, contrasting the innocent whiteness of the young woman. My character would be a kind of Bernarda Alba from García Lorca, the mother that imposes on her family the most conservative moral principles of society. When she appears, the image reminds the girl that her dreams and love for the farmer are in vain.
Finally, to avoid the problem of bringing a piano to a mill, the film alternates the concert on stage with the fantasy about the girl’s story. We thought it would be a nice way to show how the imagination of the performer works in a song recital: sometimes you're close to your audience in the hall, and other, you inwardly travel to those landscapes to live the characters’ feelings...
We would like to conclude with some Antonio Jose's words, where he tells how he understands song and music. We also invite you to discover more of his wonderful music: for voice and piano, piano, guitar, orchestra and choir.
"The traditional song is like the cheerful and colourful load of the golden butterfly dust, like the white dove flying between sky and sea, like the bustling veil of dawn that birds bring in their beaks at break of day, as the joyful freshness of early morning around the mill... The traditional song is also the good fairy who inspires Music. MUSIC, with capital letters. That real music that is much more than the combination of sounds and time. That music which is the principle of goodness and philosophy. Which is art and science, idea and spirit. Music is a universal language that harmoniously brings all the life feelings. Language is made of divine essence, because singing is as natural to man as words and screams. And music is the language of the universe. "
(1) I'm afraid I don't know how that share it's called in English. Anyone can help? (2) Manuscript from 1929, first published in 2002 by Miguel Ángel Palacios Garoz at En tinta roja (published by Instituto Municipal de Cultura de Burgos)