String Quartet, “Quijotadas”
Gabriela Lena Frank
Length: c. 22 minutes
Orchestration: string quartet
About this Piece
Quijotadas (2007) for string quartet is inspired by El Ingenioso Hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547–1616). Widely considered the first modern novel, this tale satirizes post-Conquest Spain by relating the tale of a middle-aged lesser nobleman who undertakes absurd adventures in pursuit of romantic—and seriously outdated—knightly ideals. Cervantes’ brilliant and colorful resulting social commentary still reverberates for us today in the arts and popular culture at large. Quijotadas, which is the Spanish word for extravagant delusions wrought in the Quixotic spirit, is in five movements.
I. Alborada: Traditionally a Spanish song of welcome or beginnings, this is in the style of music for the chifro, a small high-pitched wooden panpipe played with one hand. It is often employed by a traveling guild worker to announce his services as he walks through the streets of town.
II. Seguidilla: This free interpretation of the spirited dance rhythms of Don Quijote’s homeland of La Mancha also evokes two typical instruments—the six-stringed guitar, and its older cousin, the bandurria, which finds its origins in Renaissance Spain.
III. “Moto Perpetuo: La Locura de Quijote”: This movement is inspired by an early chapter in the novel that describes Don Quixote sequestering himself in his hacienda, reading nothing but novels of chivalry, the pulp fiction of his time. The teasing promises of grandeur make him dizzy and he eventually goes mad.
IV. “Asturianada: La Cueva”: The style of this traditional mountain song (whereby a young male singer issues forth calls that rise and fall with great emotion and strength) is used to paint a portrait of the Cave of Montesinos. In an important episode of the novel, Don Quijote fantasizes about the legendary hero Montesinos trapped under enchantment in a highland cave.
V. “La Danza de los Arrieros”: Throughout the tale, Don Quijote is constantly rubbing up against arrieros (muleteers) who, for Cervantes, are the embodiment of reality in contrast to Don Quijote’s fantasy world. The encounters with these roughnecks are always abrupt and physical, usually resulting in a sound thrashing for Quijote. Each beating brings him closer to reality, and in the end, he must poignantly reconcile himself to the fact that his noble ideals do not find a hospitable home in the contemporary world.
—Gabriela Lena Frank