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Anthony Clarke
Limelight, May 2007

Enrique Granados is today best remembered for his piece for solo piano, Goyescas: The Majos in Love. The work, which evokes the life and times of the great Spanish painter Goya, is here transcribed for three guitars by Christophe Dejour, who performs it with his partners in Trio Campanella, Franck Massa and Thomas Winthereik. So successful is his transcription that we quickly forget the original piano work, and become immersed in this world of eloquent, plangent Spanish guitar. The pieces are performed with great tenderness, but also with expressive brio, even outright swagger. The six pieces making up Goyescas are here supplemented by another work by Granados inspired by goya, el Pelele (The Straw Man). It shares the same care in transcription which makes these performances worthwhile in their own right, as evocative complements to the original work. Naxos found a wonderful venue for this 2006 recording: the Torpen Chapel in Denmark. The acoustic result is astonishing. The chapel provides tactile warmth and resonance, while the engineers have captured the full dynamism of the instruments, from the deepest rich bass notes to the highest plucked notes. Trio Campanella seems to play as a single person, with its six hands creating richer textures than a single player could produce. We’re not swamped with over-elaboration of Granados’ original themes; these are deceptively simple arrangements which get to the heart of the music. Lovers of guitar and lovers of Granados have equal cause to rejoice.

American Record Guide, April 2007

The piano music of Albeniz and Granados has been raided often by guitarists, and those transcriptions are an important part of the repertory. Indeed, many of the less weighty pieces actually benefit from being recast. What can sound inconsequential on piano may be more congenial when returned to the medium the works evoke. But the 500-pound gorillas, the really big masterworks have usually been avoided. You need a certain amount of sheer sonic weight and virtuosic intensity to play those.

Segovia used to tell composers that they should consult a guitarist to see what is possible to play, but for two guitars, they could write what they wished. So, how effective is this transcription for three guitars of Granados's most important, most ambitious piano work?

Very effective, I'd say. These are three virtuoso players with plenty of technique and sensitivity, a trio that plays with a single mind. They are beautifully coordinated in timbre, dynamics, and rhythm. The transcription is by Dejour, and it is so well executed that one can forget the echoes of the piano and enjoy the wider timbral range of the guitars. I will say that I sometimes miss the bass sonority of the piano, which is simply impossible for the guitar, even in multiples. But the expressive phrasing, masterly rubato, and evocative colors of the Campanella makes for a memorable performance. Listen to 'El Amor y la Muerte' for an example of what the sounds of the guitar can add to this piece.

The Campanella has already recorded a transcription of Albeniz's Iberia for Naxos.

Robert Schulslaper
Fanfare, March 2007

The Trio Campanella plays with impressive unanimity. They’re artistically attuned to one another, so much so that I was tempted to label their sound that of a hyper-guitar, except that that term might connote a torrent of electrified, feedback-laden distortion that couldn’t be further from their suave and often tender performance. Lest you suppose that every interpretation is merely pretty and poetically lyrical, the Trio understands tension as a musical component, and their “Fandango” steps forth with a steady, almost menacing tread that’s mesmerizing. © 2007 Fanfare  Read complete review

Kevin Sutton
MusicWeb International, January 2007

A couple of years ago, the Trio Campanella came out with a striking recording of Albeniz’s Iberian an arrangement for three guitars. Although I did not review that recording, I have heard it many times and have found it one of the more enjoyable discs in my collection. With this recording of Goyescas, the trio, aided by Christophe Dejour’s marvelously idiomatic arrangements proves itself to be a musical force with which to be reckoned. To put it simply, this is the finest recording of music for guitars that I have ever heard.

To begin with, the material is beyond reproach. Granados’s musical renderings of Goya’s portraits of eighteenth century life in Madrid> are amongst the finest compositions in the piano literature. Dejour has sensitively adapted the music for his ensemble, and none of the striking piano colors are lost. Too complicated for a single guitar, this ensemble idea fits the music like a glove, and the sound is divine.

Of equal importance is the quality of the playing. These three musicians play together with the perfection of a Swiss timepiece. The palette of tonal color that they achieve is almost orchestral.

Best yet, the recording is devoid of all the things that I hate in guitar recordings. There are no incessantly squeaking strings. I am told that guitarists often restring their instruments just before a recording session, and that the new strings tend to squawk with every change of hand position. Gone also is the maddening sniffing and snorting for which guitarists - and string quartets - are notorious.

What is left is a beautiful sound, warmly recorded and oh my, what splendid music! There are some purists who will fuss at the transcription idea, but there should be no reason to quibble here. The rich warm tone of the three guitars is perfectly suited to the vivid colors and sophisticated rhythms of the music. There is little to say other than “go buy this disc and enjoy it.” It makes me anxious to revisit their earlier recording of the Albeniz mentioned above (Naxos 8.557064), and anxiously to await what will come next from this outstanding ensemble.

Glyn Pursglove
MusicWeb International, November 2006

The work of Granados as both composer and concert pianist was cut short in 1916. He and his wife had crossed the Atlantic from America to Britain and missed their berths on a ship that would have taken them directly to Spain. This because of a recital at the White House, given at the special request of President Woodrow Wilson. In any event he and his wife took ship for Dieppe on the Sussex and that ship was torpedoed by a German submarine in the Channel. Granados initially clambered aboard a life-raft, but seeing his wife still struggling in the sea he dived in to try to save her and both were drowned. Purely in terms of music the loss was considerable. The work that Granados wrote in the years immediately preceding the war had a new maturity and gave promise of much more fine work.

The six pieces which make up the suite Goyescas are quintessential Granados. They have his slightly aristocratic air of distance, for all the rhetoric of romantic emotion. This is due in part to the composer’s own personality. As for the rest they are musical evocations of works of art, images by Goya, so that they are twice removed, as it were, from the flesh and blood of their subjects. I don’t say this with any intention to criticise negatively, merely to establish the character of the music. There is, by design, a retrospective cast to these pieces, as to much of his music. ‘His’ Spain was not so much the one he actually lived in, but the vanished Madrid of Goya, of the majos and majas, the stylish and handsome denizens of the artistic world of Madrid in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Granados had a great love of Goya’s work – though, interestingly, he shows no sign of responding to the crueller, more bitter side of that great artist’s representation of the Madrid of his time. So much did he love Goya’s work that Granados even made some drawings in the style of the great master, some of which are reproduced in José Subira’s Enrique Granados, published in Madrid in 1926.

So far as I am aware, Granados never wrote for the guitar. Discussing the Goyescas soon after their publication, Ernest Newman wrote in The Musical Times in 1917 that “above all the music is a gorgeous treat for the fingers, as all music that is the perfection of writing for its particular instrument is. It is difficult, but so beautifully laid out that it is always playable: one has the voluptuous sense of passing the figures through masses of richly coloured jewels … It is pianoforte music of the purest kind.” That sounds like a pretty good argument against any attempt to transcribe it for any other instrument(s). But it is worth noting that Granados’s score more than once – for example in the Coloquio en la reja (Lovers’ Dialogue at the Window) – requests that the player imitates the sound of the guitar. And several of the pieces make use of older materials, such as Blas de Laserna’s ‘Tirana del Trípili’ in Los requiebros (Flattery) which were often played on the guitar, or explore genres associated with the guitar, such as the fandango in El fandango de candil (Fandango by Candlelight) or the serenade in Epílogo: Serenata del espectro (Epilogue: The Spectre’s Serenade).

Without rehearsing either the larger arguments for and against transcription, or the issues raised by this particular transcription, let it suffice to say that the outcome is delightful and that much of the resultant music is quite lovely. The piano original holds Granados’s indebtedness to the classical keyboard tradition in a delicate balance with his borrowings from the specifically Spanish traditions. This arrangement tips the balance very much in favour of the Spanish sound-world. In one sense, of course, that is a loss and involves a certain simplification of the original’s complex nature and effect. One wouldn’t, certainly, want to know the Goyescas only through this transcription for three guitars; but for those familiar with the keyboard original – perhaps in Alicia de Larrocha’s classic recording, recently re-released on EMI Classics (3615142), or Douglas Riva’s very acceptable version on Naxos (8.554403) – will surely appreciate the fresh perspective offered in Christophe Dejour’s excellent transcription. The playing is exemplary and the recorded sound is eminently clear.

Naxos cannot be accused of neglecting the piano music of Granados, given the several volumes of the survey of his keyboard works played by Douglas Riva which they have already issued (see below). Here they pay another tribute to Granados, one which throws a refreshing, clarifying new light upon his finest work for piano.

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