About this Recording
8.557142 - GRANADOS, E.: Piano Music, Vol. 8 (Riva) - Album of Melodies / Cardboard Soldiers / The Mermaid
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Enrique Granados (1867-1916)
Piano Music • 8

Enrique Granados was born on 27th July 1867 in Lérida, near Barcelona. Son of an army captain, he began his study of the piano in 1879 and the following year he continued with Joan Baptista Pujol (1835-1898) at the Academia Pujol. Three years later he performed Schumann’s Sonata, Opus 22, in an academy-sponsored competition, for which one of the jury members was the noted composer Felipe Pedrell (1841-1922). The sixteen-year-old Granados won the competition and obviously impressed Pedrell, who began giving Granados classes in harmony and composition in 1884. In 1887 Granados went to Paris, where he studied with Charles de Bériot (1833-1914). He was highly influenced by the latter’s insistence on tone-production and pedal technique. In addition, Bériot emphasized improvisation in his teaching, reinforcing his pupil’s natural ability in the skill. After returning to Barcelona in 1889, Granados published his Danzas españolas, which brought him international recognition.

In his lifetime Granados gave concerts in Spain, France and New York collaborating with conductors such as Isaac Albéniz and Pablo Casals, the violinists Eugène Ysaÿe and Jacques Thibaud, pianists Mieczyslaw Horszowski and Camille Saint-Saëns. In addition to his numerous piano works he composed chamber music, vocal music, operas, and symphonic poems. He was also a fine teacher and in 1901 he founded the Academia Granados, which produced such noted musicians as Paquita Madriguera, Conchita Badia, and Frank Marshall.

In 1912 Granados met the American pianist Ernest Schelling, who was the first pianist to perform Granados’s music outside Spain. Schelling arranged for his works to be published in New York and encouraged Granados in his plans to convert the piano suite Goyescas into an opera, later arranging for its première at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Terrified of the ocean, Granados nevertheless sailed to New York for the première of the opera on 28th January 1916. While in the United States he performed numerous concerts, made piano-roll recordings, and also performed at the White House in Washington. He and his wife set sail for Europe via Liverpool, but while crossing the English Channel on the British ship Sussex, their boat was torpedoed by a German submarine and they both perished.

About the year 1912 Granados wrote: “My motto has always been to renounce an easy success in order to achieve one that is true and lasting.” Today he is universally recognised as one of Spain’s most important composers, with music that is multi-faceted, although it is essentially Romantic with some nationalist characteristics. He has been variously described as “the Spanish Chopin”, “the last Romantic”, and by his compatriots as “our Schubert”, but no single characterisation adequately describes his personality. He had a distinctive voice that is instantly recognisable and entirely his own.

Granados was primarily influenced by midnineteenth century European Romanticism, especially the music of Schumann and Chopin. The introverted luxuriance of his luminous harmonies, his rich palette of pianistic colour, loose formal structures and his vivid imagination, always tinged with nostalgia, place him firmly within the Romantic School. It has frequently been commented that large forms, such as sonatas and concertos did not attract him. His artistic personality was better suited to shorter, rhapsodic forms, especially those based on variations.

All of the compositions recorded here are works of Granados’s juvenilia composed between 1884, the year he began studying with Felipe Pedrell in Barcelona (followed by further studies in Paris, 1887-1889), and ending about 1895. As a group they are generally immature works of a young composer striving to find his own individual artistic personality. Many of these pieces are somewhat similar to one another, being sketches or brief compositions characterized by an unfocused formal structure and harmonic ambiguity. Very few of them are firmly rooted in one tonality. Granados frequently vacillated from one tonality to another and had a tendency to place the final cadence of a given composition on the dominant, consequently not concluding the work in the original tonality. The fact that many of these works were not highly developed would tend to suggest that most were never revised by the composer.

Granados’s early works are typical of a young composer focusing on his own personal inspirations, exploring themes of nature and varied emotions. Many works are written in salon-style. Quite a number of the compositions are interrelated by style or by theme, including works with similar titles such as marches and mazurkas, pieces which include women’s or composer’s names in the titles and works inspired by Oriental themes, in which the Orient refers to countries where Arabic is the spoken language. It is impossible to know the exact order of composition of Granados’s early works since apart from the manuscript titled Álbum de Melodías, París 1888, only two other early works are dated, Elvira (1885, the earliest known published composition by Granados, dedicated to his piano teacher Juan B. Pujol) and Dans le bois (1888).

As a group the juvenilia give few indications of the quality of Granados’s mature compositions. There are, however, two specific traits found in both his juvenilia and in his mature works alike. His inclination to have the final cadence of a work on the dominant of a tonality, rather than the tonic, may be heard in Track º, Allegro vivace, as well as in masterworks such as Quejas o la maja y el ruiseñor and El fandango de candil from Goyescas (Naxos 8.554403). Another unusual feature of Granados’s artistic personality which may be seen in his juvenilia as well as in his mature compositions is his reliance on repetition as a means of development, frequently repeating a melody numerous times and varying it only by tonal colour as may be heard in Track 0, Andante.

A curious characteristic of his early manuscripts, differing from his later ones, is the extreme carelessness with which he notated the early manuscripts, often neglecting to include a key signature or the required sharps and flats necessary for their proper performance. With the exception of Elvira, Los soldados de cartón and La sirena none of the juvenilia were published around the time of their composition. It is not known if Granados lacked the opportunity to publish his other juvenilia or whether he did not consider them appropriate for publication.

Carezza was dedicated to the composer’s student Pepita Conde, daughter of Granados’s first patron. The Italianised title conveys something of the tastes of the period for Italian music, especially opera. Granados probably intended Carezza and other salon-style works such as La sirena, Los soldados de cartón, Elvira and Clotilde for performance in the Conde family salon or other similar settings. The light-heartedness of these works is in contrast to the passionate and melancholy Dolora. Dans le bois was included in a letter sent by Granados from Paris to fellow composer Amadeu Vives in June, 1888 and was probably not intended for performance or publication. Granados’s arrangement of Marcha Real, the Spanish national anthem, is a harmonization of the original melody written by an anonymous composer.

The manuscript titled Álbum de Melodías, París 1888 is a fascinating document. Although the title would appear to date the works included in the manuscript as having been composed during Granados’s stay in Paris between 1887 and 1889, the considerable stylistic differences found between them leads to speculation that Granados might have written some compositions in Barcelona before leaving for the French capital. The manuscript includes compositions for piano solo, both complete and incomplete, musical sketches and melodies without accompaniment. In addition it contains many drawings by the composer (a cannon, silhouettes of tiny soldiers, two typical Parisians, among others) as well as spontaneous commentaries such as ‘Primero yo, después yo, y luego…naide [sic]’ (First me, then me and then…no one) and ‘Viva la alegría!!’ (Long live happiness). There are also numerous titles for works for which no music was composed: Marcha fúnebre (Funeral March), Viva tu cuerpo sandunguero – Sevillanas (Long live your graceful body – Sevillanas) and Para el abanico de La Srta. xxx P.B (For the fan of Miss xxx P.B.) Only complete original compositions found in the manuscript are recorded here.

The works Beethoven?, Chopin...! – Mazurka and Wagner – Melodrama are Granados’s engaging studentimitations of the compositional styles of the three composers. In Preludio en fa Granados would appear to have been influenced by Chopin’s Prelude, Op. 28, No. 3, and the further influence of Chopin is also clear in Granados’s Mazurkas. Primavera, sub-titled Romanza sin palabras (Romance Without Words) could have been inspired by Mendelssohn’s Songs Without Words. Allegro vivace, dedicated to Granados’s colleague, the brilliant pianist Joaquim Malats, is the finest work included in Álbum de Melodías, París 1888, revealing the direction which Granados’s later compositions would take and hinting at his future artistry.

Douglas Riva


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