Samuel Diz performing on Federico García Lorca’s guitar

Memoria de la MelancolíaSamuel Diz   Cover art: Naturaleza VI © María Marsilio Mártin

In March 2020, the Spanish guitarist Samuel Diz released Memoria de la Melancolía – a recording that is dedicated to the memory of the writer and feminist María Teresa León (1903–1988), exploring her biography through the music of the Generation of ‘27 and exiled Spaniards during the turbulent history of twentieth-century Spain – with Samuel Diz performing on Federico García Lorca’s own guitar.

This is a remarkable collection which has been extensively researched and selected by Samuel Diz with a number of pieces receiving their première recording, such as Berceuse (a la manera de M. Ravel) para dormir a Federico cuando se vuevla pequeño for viola and guitar, and three of his works for tenor and guitar: the haunting  Seguidillas de la noche de San Juan with words by Lope de Vega, El puerto de Guadarrama and Romance del cerco de Baeza all by Gustavo Durán, Capricho basko for solo guitar by the pianist and composer Emiliana de Zubeldía (1888–1987) – dedicated to Regino Sáinz de la Maza, So de Pastera by Baltasar Samper and Momento andaluz by the composer and violinist Simón Tapia Colman (1906–1993); it also includes some historic excerpts of María Teresa León speaking about Lorca: Ayer Federico García Lorca, recuerdos y testimonios de María Teresa León (1966); and in homage to Picasso (1961).

The other performers on Memoria de la Melancolía are the viola player Isabel Villanueva, the tenor Jonatan Alvarado and the guitarist Javier Riba, who joins Samuel Diz in the arrangement for two guitars of So de Pastera by Baltasar Samper – the arrangement is by Bartolomé Calatayud.

It is fifty years since María Teresa León published her autobiography Memoria de la Melancolía (Buenos Aires: Losada, 1970), eight years before her return to live in Spain, after thirty-eight years in exile. This recording offers detailed and interesting liners notes including essays, artwork, extracts and poems; they give a full background to the music, locating it in the artistic environment which nurtured it. Daniel Fortea (1878–1953) may be a Spanish guitarist and composer with whom we are more familiar, however, here Samuel Diz performs his unpublished Balada de la cárcel, written in April 1948 in Ocaña prison in Toledo – a work that was dedicated to his friend and student Felipe Ruiz. The recording also includes Cantilena by Regino Sáinz de la Maza, Romancillo by Adolfo Salazar, Se equivicó la paloma by Carlos Guastavino with words by Rafael Alberti and Nana by Manuel de Falla.

Samuel Diz followed a similar admirable approach in creating his earlier recording, Impresiones y paisajes, como el primer libro de Lorca (Poliédrica, 2015) – taking its name from the first published book by Lorca in 1918 – which includes unpublished music by Salvador Bacarisse, Juan José Mantecón and Regino Sainz de la Maza and beautifully prepared liner notes with art, poetry and texts by Christopher Maurer, Marco Antonio de la Ossa and Leopoldo Neri de Caso, offering much to enjoy.

Portrait of Federico García Lorca © Yolanda Dorda

Had the world been different in 2020, after the the release of this latest recording project – Memoria de la Melancolía – Samuel Diz would have spent the year on concert tours, including a performance at the Royal Academy of Art in London. Hopefully, these will be realised some time in the near future.

In the meantime, there are many fruits of Samuel Diz’s work that can be enjoyed. On 5 June 2020, to celebrate the 122nd anniversary of the birth of Federico García Lorca, they released this incredibly beautiful performance of Manuel de Falla’s Nana (a lullaby), which was recorded in Lorca’s room at the Huerta de San Vicente, with the viola player Isabel Villanueva, the tenor Jonatan Alvarado and Samuel Diz playing on Lorca’s guitar – built by José Ortega, Mesones 17, Granada in around 1906.

On 10 May 1995, the home of Federico García Lorca was inaugurated as a home/museum: Casa-Museo Huerta de San Vicente in Granada. In 2020, the museum is celebrating 25 years of existence and, with this in mind, it has invited artists to share in these celebrations at La Huerta de San Vicente. Samuel Diz has been a part of these celebrations and in October 2019, he was invited to spend three weeks at the Huerta de San Vicente, where he could play and perform on Federico García Lorca’s original guitar. The result of this artistic residency is his recording Memoria de la melancolía (Memory of Melancholy) – a homage to María Teresa León with Samuel Diz performing on Federico García Lorca’s own guitar.

Recorded at Huerta de San Vicente, Granada

Lorca’s guitar was restored in 1996 by Francisco Manuel Díaz. That instrument was made of a distinctive range of woods including cherry wood and black poplar. Since then, Samuel Diz has ordered a reproduction of Lorca’s guitar from Francisco Manuel Díaz.

For more details on Samuel Diz and his work, see Samuel Diz.

© Thérèse Wassily Saba 2020

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