About this Recording
8.557141 - GRANADOS, E.: Piano Music, Vol. 7 (Riva) - Sentimental Waltzes / 6 Expressive Studies

Enrique Granados (1867-1916)
Piano Music • 7

Enrique Granados was born on 27th July 1867 in Lerida, 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 Beriot (1833-1914). He was highly influenced by the latter's insistence on tone-production and pedal technique. In addition, Beriot emphasized improvisation in his teaching, reinforcing his pupil's natural ability in the skill. After returning to Barcelona in 1889, Granados published his Danzas espanolas, which brought him international recognition.

In his lifetime Granados gave concerts in Spain, France and New York collaborating with conductors such as Isaac Albeniz and Pablo Casals, the violinists Eugene Ysaye and Jacques Thibaud, pianists Mieczyslaw Horszowski and Camille Saint-Saens. 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' 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 premiere at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Terrified of the ocean, Granados nevertheless sailed to New York for the premiere 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.

The manuscript of Valses sentimentales does not have a general title The individual waltzes, however, have some of the most romantic and evocative titles used by the youthful composer. Granados' teacher, Felipe Pedrell made an isolated reference to Valses sentimentales while mentioning other works by his student. The first critical edition of Granados' piano works therefore took the liberty of using the same title for this collection of waltzes, in the belief that Pedrell's reference, as well as the titles given by the composer to the individual waltzes justify this action. Valses sentimentales was composed about 1890, possibly as a preliminary study for another collection of waltzes, Cartas de amor (Tracks 30--33). In two instances Granados used melodies which he had first written for Valses sentimentales as melodic material for Cartas de amor. A melody found in Allegro appassionato, the fifth waltz of Valses sentimentales, became the principal melody of Suspirante, the second waltz of Cartas de amor, and the conclusion of Allegro final from Valses sentimentales was transformed into the opening melody of Cartas de amor.

While Granados is known universally as a composer and pianist, it is often forgotten that he was also a highly esteemed teacher. He took his pedagogic responsibilities very seriously and was highly successful as a teacher, renowned for his own distinctive method of teaching. He wrote numerous works for his students including Bocetos, 6 Estudios expresivos en forma de piezas faciles, 7 Estudios, Cuentos de la juventud (Naxos 8.554629), and Allegro appassionato (Naxos 8.554628).

The manuscript of 7 Estudios is untitled and undated. Each of the 7 Estudios was intended to develop specific technical skills at the keyboard. The level of difficulty of the individual studies, however, is quite varied, ranging from elementary to moderately complex.

6 Estudios expresivos en forma de piezas faciles, composed about 1905, were written for Granados' students as studies in musical expression. The melancholy character of No. 3, El caminante, contrasts with the tranquil rural landscape depicted in No. 4, Pastoral, which is interrupted by a rustic dance. No. 5, La ultima pavana, was inspired by a poem written by Apeles Mestres (librettist for several of Granados' operas) with the title La condesa enferma (The Ill Countess):

The Countess is ill with a strange illness; her eyes once shining now dull...her feet have no will to serve her...

Three of the four pieces of Bocetos, Despertar del cazador, El hada y el nino and La campana de la tarde, were inspired by specific scenes each with a unique atmosphere, and they are among Granados' most expressive pedagogical works. Granados published Exquise...! Vals tzigane in an unknown magazine about 1900 under the pen name "Henri Gaziel", an amalgam of his name in French and the title of one of his operas whose main character bears the same name. The opera Gaziel, first performed in 1906, was inspired by Goethe's Faust. Despite the use of the pen-name, this thoroughly engaging waltz does not seem to have any relationship to the opera Gaziel.

Granados wrote L'himne dels morts at the request of his colleague Eduard Lopez Chavarri (1875¡V1970) for a special publication prepared by the Circulo de Bellas Artes, Valencia, to raise money for the victims of the flood of the Turia river in 1897. Owing to the nature of the composition it is unlikely that it was ever performed in public. Writing in 1916, shortly after Granados' death, Lopez Chavarri commented that L'himne dels morts is a "hymn for the drowned" and represented a "terrible coincidence, [an] anticipation of fate. . [as if Granados] was writing his own hymn!"

One of Granados' most intimate compositions, Cartas de amor, was written about 1892 as an engagement present for Amparo Gal Llovera, the composer's fiancee. The couple were married in 1893 and had six children. Granados dedicated two other works to his wife, Serenata (Naxos 8.555723) and his masterpiece, Quejas o la maja y el ruisenor from Goyescas (Naxos 8.554403).

The Catalan instrument maker Baldomero Cateura presented his Piano-pedalier Cateura in Barcelona and Paris in 1898. Although no surviving examples of the instrument are known to exist, it was a piano equipped with four pedals used to alter the timbre of the standard piano to create special effects, such as prolonging certain notes, augmenting the sound quality of the strings, and imitating the timbre of the harpsichord. Granados composed four works for this instrument, A la Antigua -- Bourree (Track 34), Minuetto (Track 35), La gondola -- Escena poetica (Track 36) and Apparicion (Naxos 8.554629). A la Antigua -- Bourree was dedicated to the composer Antonio Noguera and La gondola - Escena poetica was dedicated to the pianist Montserrat Sampere. The longest and most significant of the four pieces, La gondola - Escena poetica, was long considered to be a lost work. The only known extant copy was discovered in 2001 by the musicologist Laura Guastevi at the Conservatori Superior de Musica del Liceu, Barcelona. The score contains the following text without attribution:

A tranquil night, moonlit night, Venice sleeps while the lover's gondola crosses the silver lake.

Douglas Riva

This performance follows the critical edition of the Complete Works for Piano of Enrique Granados, published by Editorial Boileau, S.A., Barcelona, Spain, Alicia de Larrocha, Director and Douglas Riva, Assistant Director.

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