GRANADOS: Enchanted Palace in the Sea / Elisenda's Garden (Douglas Riva/ John Taylor) (Naxos: 8.555723)
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Enrique Granados (1867-1916)
Piano Music, Vol. 6
Enrique Granados was born on 27th July 1867 in Lérida, 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 Schumanns 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 him instruction in harmony and composition in 1884.
In 1887 Granados went to Paris, where he studied the piano with Charles-Wilfrid de Bériot (1833-1914). Granados was highly influenced by the latters 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, Granados published his Danzas españolas, which brought him international recognition.
In his lifetime Granados appeared in concerts in Spain, France and the United States, collaborating with conductors such as Isaac Albéniz and Pablo Casals, the violinists Eugène Ysaÿe 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 Madriguera, Conchita Badia and Frank Marshall.
In 1912 Granados met the American pianist Ernest Schelling, who was the first pianist to perform the music of Granados outside Spain. Schelling arranged for Granados 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 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. With his wife he set sail for Europe via England, but while crossing the English Channel on the British ship Sussex, their boat was torpedoed by a German submarine and they both perished.
In about 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 Spains 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 remarked that larger forms, such as those of sonatas and concertos, did not attract him. His artistic personality was better suited to shorter, rhapsodic forms, especially those based on variations.
Piezas sobre cantos populares españolas were composed about 1895 and dedicated to Cecilia Gómez de Conde, daughter-in-law of Granados patron, Eduardo Conde. The collection is clearly nationalistic in inspiration, written with a breadth of conception, romantic brilliance, and technical complexity which make it comparable to his Quinteto, Op. 49 and Trio, Op. 50, first performed the same year. No manuscript of the set is known to exist, but Granados made a piano-roll recording of Preludio for the Duo-Art Reproducing Piano in New York in 1916, which was issued under the title Prelude, María del Carmen.
The original version of the suite Elisenda, first performed on 7th July, 1912, included four movements scored for chamber orchestra, piano, harp and soprano. Later Granados made an arrangement for piano of the first movement of the suite, El jardí dElisenda. The work was dedicated to Pablo and Guillermina Casals, the cellist and his sister. The author of the text used in the fourth movement of the suite was the Catalan poet Apeles Mestres, one of the leading representatives of the cultural movement Modernismo, parallel to Art Nouveau. Apeles Mestres was also the librettist for four of Granados operas as well as the symphonic poem Liliana. The first edition of the piano version of El jardí dElisenda included a section of the Apeles Mestres poem of the same title:
The rising sun wakes Elisendas garden
which dreams as it rests in the shade of the palace;
rosebushes flower, drops of water sing as they leap
out of the fountain.
To calm her sorrows and soften her longing
Elisenda has come down to the silent garden;
her heart far, far away, on the battlefields where
they are fighting and dying. . .
The flowers perfume her as they open their petals;
the fountain adds sweet music;
and the day is beginning. . .and Elisendas world
is turning into perfume, harmony and light. . .
And behold, as if by magic, hope rises up
in her heart.
The manuscript of Parranda-Murcia is undated. Granados and his librettist José Feliu y Codina spent several weeks, however, about 1895-1896 in the province of Murcia gathering material for their opera María del Carmen. Parranda-Murcia may have been written at that time. This is the first recording of Parranda-Murcia and Pastoral, an atmospheric work first published in the Spanish magazine Mundial Musical around 1910.
There are two known manuscripts of Danza característica which are both undated and untitled. The first edition of Danza característica, published in 1973, gave the piece the present title. Granados may have originally conceived of Danza característica as one of the Danzas españolas, although it was not included in the final version of that collection.
Sardana, published in 1914, is Granados only piano work directly inspired by popular Catalan culture. It is dedicated to the American pianist, conductor and composer, Ernest Schelling. The sardana is a two-part group dance, typical of Granados native Catalonia, in which the dancers form rings. The steps, curts (shorts) and llarchs (longs), shape the music. Granados Sardana belongs to the genre of concert sardanas, not intended for dancing.
Granados composed Serenata as a gift to his wife. The manuscript is written on a parchment dated 20th May, 1893, and was inscribed by the composer: For the Album of my life-companion, Amparo, so beloved and good - Your husband. It is unlikely that Granados intended Serenata for publication or performance outside the family home.
Jácara, subtitled Danza para cantar y bailar, may have bee