Video Pick of the Week: Isabella Selder Plays ‘La Muerte’ by Eduardo Sáinz de la Maza

Here’s a really beautiful piece of music by the Spanish composer-guitarist Eduardo Sáinz de la Maza (1903–1982), who is perhaps best known for writing the much-played Capanas del alba (and for being the younger brother of the acclaimed guitarist Regino Sáinz de la Maza, who famously was the dedicatee of Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez and popular worldwide beginning in the 1920s and continuing for decades).

This piece, played so wonderfully by German guitarist Isabella Selder (a prodigy who has grown to be one Europe’s finest players, as well as a teacher), is called “La Muerte,” and it’s the seventh of eight movements of a work titled Platero y yo, written in 1968 by Eduardo Sáinz de la Maza to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the death of the Nobel Prize–winning  poet Juan Ramón Jiménez (1881–1958). Jiménez’s 1914 prose-poem Platero y yo (Platero and I in English) is a fond, nostalgic, and marvelously evocative work—“where joy and grief are twins,” the author wrote in the introduction—about a writer and his donkey roaming Andalucia. The Jiménez work actually consists of 63 short vignettes which capture so much of the essence of the land and people of that region, all through the eyes of the narrator over the course of about a year, traveling through towns, encountering or observing all sorts of different people, and admiring the varied flora and fauna and changing seasons. The 60th vignette, “La Muerte,” sad to say, depicts the death of the donkey (Platero). It’s a terrific book! —Blair Jackson