About this Recording
8.554628 - GRANADOS, E.: Piano Music, Vol. 3 (Riva) - Escenas Romanticas / Allegro de concierto / Capricho espanol

Enrique Granados (1867-1916)

Preludio en re mayor • Danza lenta • Escenas románticas • Barcarola
Capricho español • Libro de horas • Paisaje • Allegro appassionato

Allegro de concierto

Enrique Granados was born 27th July 1867 in Lérida, near Barcelona. Son of an army captain, he began piano study 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, Op. 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 Bériot's insistence on tone-production and pedal technique. In addition, Bériot emphasized improvisation in his teaching, reinforcing Granados' natural ability in the skill. After returning to Barcelona in 1889, he published his Danzas españolas, which brought him international recognition.

In his lifetime Granados performed concerts in Spain, France and New York, collaborating with musicians such as Isaac Albéniz and Pablo Casals, violinists Eugène Ysäye 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. Granados was also a fine teacher and in 1901 he founded the Academia Granados, which produced such noted musicians as Paquita Madrigueta, Conchita Badia, and Frank Marshall.

In 1912 Granados met American pianist Ernest Schelling, who was the first pianist to perform Granados' music outside Spain. Schelling arranged for Granados' works to be published in New York and encouraged him 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. Granados and his wife set sail to Europe via London but while crossing the English Channel on the British ship Sussex, their boat was torpedoed by a German submarine and they both perished.

In around 1912 Granados wrote: "My motto has always been to renounce an easy success in order to achieve one that is true and lasting." Today, Granados is universally recognised as one of Spain's most important composers. His music 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". No single characterisation adequately describes his personality. Granados had a distinctive voice that is instantly recognisable and entirely his own.

Granados was primarily influenced by mid-nineteenth 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 Granados. His artistic personality was better suited to shorter, rhapsodic forms, especially those based on variations.

The manuscript of Preludio en re mayor (‘Prelude in D major’) is undated. In a letter written in August, 1913, Granados mentions that he was preparing several works for publication, among them Preludio en re mayor. Nevertheless, this composition was not published. This is the first recording of Preludio en re mayor.

Danza lenta (Slow Dance), published in 1914, is an inspired and intimate work, dedicated to the memory of Vicente Esteve, one of the composer's students.

One of Granados's finest works is the lyric and emotionally charged suite Escenas románticas (‘Romantic Scenes’), premièred in 1904. Escenas románticas, with its combination of elegance and passion, reveals the extent to which Granados was influenced by Schumann and Chopin. The curious title of the fourth movement, derived from Schumann's Album for the Young, Op. 68, represents an emotion so intense it cannot be named. Epílago-Andante spianato, which uses a tempo indication copied after Chopin's Op. 22, Andante spianato et Grande Polonaise Brilliante, is one of Granados's most emotional works, pouring forth poetic exaltation.

Barcarola(‘Barcarole’), which is almost as brooding and sensitive as it is compelling, was dedicated to the eminent French composer Jules Massenet (1842-1912).

Capricha español (‘Spanish Caprice’), written about 1890, was dedicated to Eduardo Conde, whose generosity enabled Granados to study in Paris. The opus numbers given to some of Granados's works are completely unreliable. For example, Capricho español was published as Op. 37, the same opus number later assigned to Danza lenta and Sardana.

Libra de horas (‘Book of Hours’) represents Granados's closest association with the cultural movement in Barcelona known as Modernismo, parallel to Art Nouveau. The modernismo concept of beauty, which was inspired by Nature and filled with longing for the past, was expressed by curving lines joining together in gradual undulations, akin to the sinuous melodic curves of En el jardín (‘In the Garden’). Throughout his life Granados was captivated by the song of the nightingale and incorporated an evocation of the bird's song in El invierno-La muerte del ruiseñor (‘Winter-Death of the Nightingale’) as well as in his masterpiece Quejas o la maja y el ruiseñor from Goyescas (Naxos 8.554403). Al suplicio (‘Praying’), full of fervent devotion, contains a melody virtually identical to one from another of the Goyescas-EI amar y la muerte.

Paisaje (‘Landscape’) is an Impressionist-style tone painting, written in about 1912 and dedicated to Ernest Schelling.

The undated manuscript of Allegro appassionato was found in the Granados Archive. For this performance, which is the first recording of Allegro appassionato, the final chord was added.

Allegro de concierto (‘Concert Allegro’), is one of Granados's most popular compositions. In 1903 Tomás Bretón, then Director of the Madrid Conservatory announced a competition for composers to write an Allegro de concierto to be used as an examination work for graduating piano students. There were twenty-four entries. Granados was declared the winner and Manuel de Falla was recognized with an honorable mention. Allegro de concierto is one of Granados's most brilliant and virtuosic compositions.

Douglas Riva

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