Story and photos by Manos Angelakis
Real Alcázar de Sevilla
My love affair with Andalucía started in the late 1950s, when I heard for the first time Andrés Segovia play Enrique Granados’ Danzas Españolas (Andaluza) on a guitar and then I heard Arthur Rubinstein play Manuel de Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain (Noches en los jardines de España), a symphonic impression piece for piano and orchestra.
At the time, the Athenian neighborhood of Plaka was the center of cultural life and entertainment for the “upper class” Athenians, and a number of the bars and boîtes in the area were owned by expats from other European countries. One of the boîtes I used to hang out at was Arturo’s.. Arturo, the owner, was Spanish and a classic Spanish guitar aficionado and at the end of the evening -- around 2 or 3 in the morning -- he would take out his guitar and start playing. I always admired his virtuosity and I was hooked by the divine melodies!
Ever since, my dream has been to spend some time in Andalucía and visit the gardens referred to in the de Falla work: Palacio de Generalife in Alhambra; an unidentified distant garden in which there is an exotic dance; and Los Jardines de la Sierra de Córdoba.
A few weeks ago my dream was, in a way, partially fulfilled. On a trip to Seville, we visited the Alcázar gardens that, even thought it is not mentioned as part of de Falla’s musical description of Spanish Royal Moorish gardens, is a truly delightful way to spend time in Seville in a notable example of the Spanish patrimony, and revel in the emotional impact of an exotic Andaluz setting. And during the visit, the music I had loved for so many years played in my mind as we wandered through the spaces and trees.
The initial palace dates back to the time when North-African Moorish sultans ruled over Andalucía, and is now a small part of a notable monumental compound with numerous esthetically delightful buildings and varied gardens and water fountains in a city and country full of monumental buildings dating from the Arabic period to the Baroque era and the end of the 19th century. In actuality, the current Moorish-style main building was built for a Christian king Pedro the Cruel of Castile who lived there with his mistress Maria de Padilla, starting in the 1360s. The upper floor of the Alcázar is still part of the Royal Residences when the King of Spain visits Seville.
The beauty of the graceful arches, brilliant tile work, reflecting water pools and diverse statuary is such that one could and should spend days there exploring and admiring.
In the gardens themselves the aroma of jasmine perfumes the atmosphere; the tinkling of the water flowing through the air in the fountains lulls the senses; the breeze through the palm tree fronds cools the languid air; and my mind was filled with striking beautiful Spanish harmonies and rhythms.
It was a spellbinding afternoon in one of the most beautiful Andaluz settings.
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