GRANADOS: Album of Melodies / Cardboard Soldiers / The Mermaid (Douglas Riva) (Naxos: 8.557142)
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Enrique Granados (1867-1916)
Piano Music 8
Enrique Granados was born on 27th July 1867 inLerida, near Barcelona. Son of an army captain, hebegan his study of the piano in 1879 and the followingyear he continued with Joan Baptista Pujol (1835-1898)at the Academia Pujol. Three years later he performedSchumann's Sonata, Opus 22, in an academy-sponsoredcompetition, for which one of the jury members was thenoted composer Felipe Pedrell (1841-1922). Thesixteen-year-old Granados won the competition andobviously impressed Pedrell, who began givingGranados classes in harmony and composition in 1884.
In 1887 Granados went to Paris, where he studied withCharles de Beriot (1833-1914). He was highlyinfluenced by the latter's insistence on tone-productionand pedal technique. In addition, Beriot emphasizedimprovisation in his teaching, reinforcing his pupil'snatural ability in the skill. After returning to Barcelonain 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 conductorssuch as Isaac Albeniz and Pablo Casals, the violinistsEug?¿ne Ysa??e and Jacques Thibaud, pianistsMieczyslaw Horszowski and Camille Saint-Sa?½ns. Inaddition to his numerous piano works he composedchamber music, vocal music, operas, and symphonicpoems. He was also a fine teacher and in 1901 hefounded the Academia Granados, which produced suchnoted musicians as Paquita Madriguera, ConchitaBadia, and Frank Marshall.
In 1912 Granados met the American pianist ErnestSchelling, who was the first pianist to performGranados's music outside Spain. Schelling arranged forhis works to be published in New York and encouragedGranados in his plans to convert the piano suiteGoyescas into an opera, later arranging for its premi?¿reat the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Terrified of theocean, Granados nevertheless sailed to New York forthe premi?¿re of the opera on 28th January 1916. Whilein the United States he performed numerous concerts,made piano-roll recordings, and also performed at theWhite House in Washington. He and his wife set sail forEurope via Liverpool, but while crossing the EnglishChannel on the British ship Sussex, their boat wastorpedoed by a German submarine and they bothperished.
About the year 1912 Granados wrote: \My mottohas always been to renounce an easy success in order toachieve one that is true and lasting." Today he isuniversally recognised as one of Spain's most importantcomposers, with music that is multi-faceted, although itis essentially Romantic with some nationalistcharacteristics. He has been variously described as "theSpanish Chopin", "the last Romantic", and by hiscompatriots as "our Schubert", but no singlecharacterisation adequately describes his personality.
He had a distinctive voice that is instantly recognisableand entirely his own.
Granados was primarily influenced by midnineteenthcentury European Romanticism, especiallythe music of Schumann and Chopin. The introvertedluxuriance of his luminous harmonies, his rich palette ofpianistic colour, loose formal structures and his vividimagination, always tinged with nostalgia, place himfirmly within the Romantic School. It has frequentlybeen commented that large forms, such as sonatas andconcertos did not attract him. His artistic personalitywas better suited to shorter, rhapsodic forms, especiallythose based on variations.
All of the compositions recorded here are works ofGranados's juvenilia composed between 1884, the yearhe began studying with Felipe Pedrell in Barcelona(followed by further studies in Paris, 1887-1889), andending about 1895. As a group they are generallyimmature works of a young composer striving to findhis own individual artistic personality. Many of thesepieces are somewhat similar to one another, beingsketches or brief compositions characterized by anunfocused formal structure and harmonic ambiguity.
Very few of them are firmly rooted in one tonality.
Granados frequently vacillated from one tonality toanother and had a tendency to place the final cadence ofa given composition on the dominant, consequently notconcluding the work in the original tonality. The factthat many of these works were not highly developedwould tend to suggest that most were never revised bythe composer.
Granados's early works are typical of a youngcomposer focusing on his own personal inspirations,exploring themes of nature and varied emotions. Manyworks are written in salon-style. Quite a number of thecompositions are interrelated by style or by theme,including works with similar titles such as marches andmazurkas, pieces which include women's or composer'snames in the titles and works inspired by Orientalthemes, in which the Orient refers to countries whereArabic is the spoken language. It is impossible to knowthe exact order of composition of Granados's earlyworks since apart from the manuscript titled ?ülbum deMelodias, Paris 1888, only two other early works aredated, Elvira (1885, the earliest known publishedcomposition by Granados, dedicated to his piano teacherJuan B. Pujol) and Dans le bois (1888).
As a group the juvenilia give few indications of thequality of Granados's mature compositions. There are,however, two specific traits found in both his juveniliaand in his mature works alike. His inclination to have thefinal cadence of a work on the dominant of a tonality,rather than the tonic, may be heard in Track ??, Allegrovivace, as well as in masterworks such as Quejas o lamaja y el ruisenor and El fandango de candil fromGoyescas (Naxos 8.554403). Another unusual feature ofGranados's artistic personality which may be seen in hisjuvenilia as well as in his mature compositions is hisreliance on repetition as a means of development,frequently repeating a melody numerous times andvarying 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 carelessnesswith which he notated the early manuscripts, oftenneglecting to include a key signature or the requiredsharps and flats necessary for their proper performance.
With the exception of Elvira, Los soldados de cartonand La sirena none of the juvenilia were publishedaround the time of their composition. It is not known ifGranados lacked the opportunity to publish his otherjuvenilia or whether he did not consider themappropriate for publication.
Carezza was dedicated to the composer's studentPepita Conde, daughter of Granados's first patron. TheItalianised title conveys something of the tastes of theperiod for Italian music, especially opera. Granadosprobably intended Carezza and other salon-style workssuch as La sirena, Los soldados de carton, Elvira andClotilde for performance in the Conde family salon orother similar settings. The light-heartedness of theseworks is in contrast to the passionate and melancholyDolora. Dans le bois was included in a letter sent byGranados from Paris to fellow composer Amadeu Vivesin June, 1888 and was probably not intended forperformance or publication. Granados's arrangement ofMarcha Real, the Spanish national anthem, is aharmonization of the original melody written by ananonymous composer.
The manuscript titled ?ülbum de Melodias, Paris1888 is a fascinating document. Although the title wouldappear to date the works included in the manuscript ashaving been composed during Granados's stay in Parisbetween 1887 and 1889, the considerable stylisticdifferences found between them leads to speculation thatGranados might have written some compositions inBarcelona before leaving for the French capital. Themanuscript includes compositions for piano solo, bothcomplete and incomplete, musical sketches andmelodies without