The Four Seasons in the Basque Country

Medium: Concert Band/ Wind Ensemble

The Four Seasons in the Basque Country was commissioned by and composed especially for the Municipal Band of Bilbao, Rafael Sanz-Espert, Principal Conductor; Txomin Mujika Latxa, Director of Bilbao Musika, Bilbao, Spain. It depicts four different places in the Basque country that the composer feels best show the changes of season. The first movement is “Winter in the Costa Norte (Galerna)”. Galerna is on the northern coast and is subject to harsh storms in the winter. As the piece starts off with a light-hearted dance in the piccolo, a storm is approaching from afar. At first the storm seems to be in the distance but as it comes closer it overtakes the festivities in a bluster. For a short time two conductors are needed as the concert band is split into two groups – one showing the light-hearted dance led by the piccolo, the other the cacophony of the storm led by the percussion. The storm overtakes everything as it ends the movement with a flourish. The second movement “Spring in Rioja Alavesa” is a calming contrast to the first movement like the freshness of a spring day. The sun rises and shines beams of light onto the acres of grape vines. After a time a short rain comes to refresh and clean the plants. The third movement “Autumn at the Guggenheim Museum” is in a traditional 3rd movement form of a symphony, minuet and trio, but the harmonies sometimes use bitonality, having the melody in one key while the accompaniment is in another to suggest surrealism. The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao is one of the world’s most famous museums, not only for the surreal art inside, but also because of the architecture of the building itself. The fourth movement “Summer in Bilbao” is based on a dance melody composed in the Ezpata- dantza Basque style. It employs a rhythmic element with alternating 6/8 and 3⁄4 meters where the eighth notes are basically equal, but in the dance the 3⁄4 meter is actually a little bit longer. This type of subtle manipulation of rhythm is used similarly in the Viennese Waltz, when the 3rd beat would be stretched out to accommodate the dancers. The Ezpata-dantza dance continues until the “Altza Gastiak”, the official song of the Bilbao Athletic Club, the local soccer team of Bilbao, is heard. After this the Ezpata-dantza melody is transformed from a happy dance to a triumphant melody and rousing finale. In The Four Seasons in the Basque Country all of the themes are original except for the short excerpt of “Altza Gastiak”in the 4th movement. Some themes are composed in the style of Basque folk dances. It is scored for Piccolo, 2 Flutes, 2 Oboes, 2 Bassoons, Eb Clarinet (optional), Principal Clarinet, 3 Clarinets, Bass Clarinet, 2 Alto Saxophones, 2 Tenor Saxophones, Baritone Saxophone, 3 Trumpets in Bb, Flugelhorn, 4 Horns in F, 2 Trombones, Bass Trombone, 2 Euphoniums, Tuba, Timpani, Percussion (4 players) – Snare Drum, 2 Bass Drums, 4 Roto Toms, 5 Temple Blocks, 3 Suspended Cymbals, Wind Machine, Thunder Sheet, Gong, 8 Tenor Drums, Triangle, Crotales, Orchestra Bells, Chimes, Vibraphone and Xylophone. It was the 3rd Prize Winner of the American Prize in Composition 2020.

Commissioned by

Rafael Sanz-Espert


Third Prize The American Prize in Composition - Band Division 2020