About this Recording
8.572262 - GRANADOS, E.: Piano Trio / Piano Quintet (LOM Piano Trio)
English  Spanish 

Enrique Granados (1867–1916)
Piano Trio, Op. 50 • Piano Quintet in G minor, Op. 49
Goyescas: Intermezzo (arr. Gaspar Cassadó)

 

Enrique Granados, along with Manuel de Falla and Isaac Albéniz, was one of the most outstanding Spanish musicians of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, “musician” being the apposite word—Granados was a key figure in each of the three fields that made him the well-rounded artist he was: performance, composition and teaching. While Falla made his name principally as a composer and Albéniz as a performer, Granados divided his time and efforts equally: as a pianist he was renowned across Europe (achieving notable success in Paris), as a composer he was known as the “Spanish Grieg”, making a name for himself with Goyescas in particular, and as a teacher he left an indelible mark on the Spanish piano school by creating the Academia Granados and publishing pioneering works on piano technique.

Granados was born in Lleida (Catalonia) in 1867. He studied piano in Barcelona and at the age of twenty travelled to Paris where he worked with musicians such as Fauré, Debussy, Ravel and Saint-Saëns. On his return to Spain he consolidated his position as the greatest pianist of the day. He played with Pau Casals, Jacques Thibaud, Emil von Sauer and Camille Saint-Saëns, wrote scores of piano pieces, stage and orchestral works, vocal and chamber music. In 1901 he founded the Academia Granados (later the Academia Marshall), through whose doors would pass dozens of pupils who later became great performers. Granados and his wife were killed at sea in 1916, when a German submarine torpedoed the ship on which they were returning from New York, where his opera Goyescas had had its première and he had given a private recital for the president.

Though Granados’s music is often associated with the Spanish nationalism of Albéniz and Falla, the term “Neoromantic” would perhaps be better suited to his highly expressive style. Among his most significant works are the Danzas españolas, the piano version of Goyescas—the latter inspired by the world created by the great Spanish artist Francisco de Goya—and the Intermezzo he wrote for the opera of the same title. He wrote a dozen or so chamber works, of which two in particular stand out, both dating from 1894: the Piano Quintet, Op. 49 and the Piano Trio, Op. 50.

Following his years of study in Paris (1887–89), Granados settled in Barcelona and began his professional career there, dividing his time between performing, composing and teaching. In 1892 he gave the Spanish première of Grieg’s Piano Concerto; by this time his own Danzas españolas were becoming known around Europe and his reputation as a fine teacher was growing. In 1893 he married Amparo Gal, with whom he was to have six children. Realising that his career was unlikely to flourish in Barcelona, he later travelled to Madrid to seek his fortune there, but the two chamber works featured on this recording were written in the Catalan capital. They were composed not with the intention of making his name, but of filling a gap in the market and obtaining paid employment (which soon arrived in the shape of commissions for stage works).

The piano writing in both the Quintet and the Trio reveals the hand of a virtuoso performer. There are touches of the salon music of the day, as well as melodic turns of nationalistic inspiration. Nonetheless, these are not works with a marked Spanish accent—this is music steeped in Romanticism more than in Hispanic folk traditions.

The Trio, Op. 50 is made up of four movements. Key to the first of these is the imitative play between the three instruments and the broad and generous melodic lines. Dance tunes underlie the Scherzetto, while string pizzicati and piano staccati lend particular emphasis to the rhythmic content. In a second section, folk elements come to the fore with an imitation of the drone of traditional instruments such as the gaita. This leads into an interlude in which the piano toys with a Moorish air, in anticipation of a warm and rhythmic closing section. By contrast, in the Duetto, a dialogue between violin and cello provides the intimate, emotional heart of the work. The folk elements return, if discreetly, for a dazzling Finale that demands absolute mutual support and communication from its three players.

The Quintet, Op. 49, while never claiming to be a score of great consequence, nonetheless seduces the listener with its grace and spontaneity. The opening phrase is played in unison and immediately introduces the rhythmic elements that define Granados’s writing. If the initial atmosphere is one of passion and a certain tension, the second section is more intense and expressive. The movement ends with an energetic return to the principal motif. Beauty, taste and refinement are the hallmarks of the second movement. The use of mutes creates a remote, bucolic sound and, thanks to the triple-time rhythm, a light, almost magical rocking motion. Contrast is provided in the final movement by the prominence given to what is now a clearly defined rhythm, and by the use of modal harmonies that give a gypsy air to a lively main theme that reappears in the manner of a rondo.

The famous Intermezzo from the opera Goyescas was written in a single night, not long before the première in New York and has become without any shadow of a doubt the most frequently performed piece of the composer’s catalogue. The opera was to have had its première in Paris, but this was prevented by the outbreak of the First World War. At the request of some of Granados’s friends, arrangements were made to stage the work in New York instead, and there Pau Casals, the great Catalan cellist and conductor, became closely involved with the production. A few days before the first performance, Granados was asked to add an instrumental interlude, a work he completed in a matter of hours. As he himself admitted to Casals, “I’ve written something rather commonplace…I’ve produced an Aragonese jota!” To which Casals’ response was, “Perfect: wasn’t Goya from Aragón?” Many arrangements have been made of the Intermezzo, of which two stand out, both by Gaspar Cassadó: one for piano and cello and this version for piano trio. Cassadó was one of the most talented of the hundreds of cellists taught by Casals. He formed a duo with pianist Alícia de Larrocha (while they were students at the academy founded by Granados) and together they performed his transcription of the Intermezzo on numerous occasions. Notable features of the trio version include the unison introduction (recalling the opening bars of the Piano Quintet), the cantabile theme introduced by the cello before being passed to the violin, and the first notes of the central theme (the jota), again played in unison by the stringed instruments.

It is often the case that one hugely successful piece can overshadow the rest of a composer’s production. This is certainly true of Granados’s inspired Goyescas, whose popularity has led to his other works falling into undeserved neglect. More than nine decades on from his tragic death, recordings such as this are helping to rectify this situation, reviving both his memory and, above all, his music.


David Puertas Esteve
English version: Susannah Howe


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