GRANADOS: Romantic Waltzes / Poetic Waltzes / Aragonese Rhapsody (Douglas Riva/ John Taylor) (Naxos: 8.554629)
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Piano Music Volume 4
Enrique Granados was born 27th July 1867 in Lerida, near Barcelona. Sonof an army captain, he began piano study in 1879 and the following year hecontinued with Joan Baptista Pujol (1835-1898) at the Academia Pujol. Threeyears later he performed Schumann's Sonata, Op. 22, in anacademy-sponsored competition, for which one of the jury members was the notedcomposer Felipe Pedrell (1841-1922). The sixteen-year-old Granados won thecompetition and obviously impressed Pedrell, who began giving Granados classesin 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 Beriot's insistence on tone-productionand pedal technique. In addition, Beriot emphasized improvisation in histeaching, reinforcing Granados' natural ability in the skill. After returningto Barcelona in 1889, he published his Danzas espanolas, which broughthim international recognition.
In his lifetime Granados performed concerts in Spain, France and NewYork, collaborating with musicians such as Isaac Albeniz and Pablo Casals,violinists Eug?¿ne Ysaye and Jacques Thibaud, pianists Mieczyslaw Horszowski andCamille Saint-Sa?½ns. In addition to his numerous piano works he composedchamber music, vocal music, operas, and symphonic poems. Granados was also afine teacher and in 1901 he founded the Academia Granados, which produced suchnoted musicians as Paquita Madrigueta, Conchita Badia, and Frank Marshall.
In 1912 Granados met American pianist Ernest Schelling, who was thefirst pianist to perform Granados' music outside Spain. Schelling arranged forGranados' works to be published in New York and encouraged him in his plans toconvert the piano suite Goyescas into an opera, later arranging for itspremi?¿re at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.
Terrified of the ocean, Granados nevertheless sailed to New York for thepremiere of the opera on 28th January 1916. While in the United States heperformed numerous concerts, made piano-roll recordings, and also performed atthe White House in Washington. He and his wife set sail to Europe by way ofEngland but while crossing the English Channel on the British ship Sussex, theirboat was torpedoed by a German submarine and they both perished.
About 1912 Granados wrote: "My motto has always been to renounce aneasy 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 someNationalist characteristics. He has been variously described as "theSpanish Chopin", "the last Romantic", and by his compatriots as"our Schubert". No single characterisation adequately describes hispersonality. He had a distinctive voice that is instantly recognisable andentirely his own.
Granados was primarily influenced by mid-nineteenth century EuropeanRomanticism, especially the music of Schumann and Chopin. The introvertedluxuriance of his luminous harmonies, his rich palette of pianistic colour,loose formal structures and his vivid imagination, always tinged withnostalgia, place him firmly within the Romantic School. It has frequently beencommented that large forms such as sonatas and concertos did not attract Granados. His artistic personality was bettersuited to shorter, rhapsodic forms, especially those based on variations.
In a notation includedin the manuscript of Apariciones-Valses romanticos Granados indicatedthat he considered Apariciones to be a preliminary study for Valsespoeticos: "The first collection of the Valses poeticos was inthis form. Revise and Publish." Among the revisions that Granados made to Apariciones,he selected seven of the original eighteen waltzes, revised them andsubsequently published them as part of Valses poeticos. The remainder ofApariciones-Valses romanticos, Introduccion: Presto and the waltzeswhich were not subsequently incorporated into Valses poeticos were notpublished. Valses poeticos was written about 1893-94, consequently,Granados must have been working on Apariciones previously, probablybetween 1891 and 1893. This is the first recording of Apariciones-Valsesromanticos.
It is impossible toknow the exact date of composition of A la cubana since the manuscriptis not dated. The work was published in 1914, however, by the style of writingGranados must have composed A la cubana sometime earlier, possiblybefore 1898, the year when Spain lost control of Cuba.
Granados was highlyinfluenced by the music of Robert Schumann. Granados and Schumann shared asimilarity of outlook which led each of them to seek the universal within theparticular. Both composers based much of their music on constant alteration ofemotions, brought to life through richly coloured harmonies. Schumann's Scenesof Childhood, Op. 15, and Album for the Young, Op. 68, were theinspiration for Granados' Cuentos de la juventud and Escenasinfantiles-Miniaturas. The latter collection, Escenasinfantiles-Miniaturas, recorded here for the first time, was not publishedduring the composer's lifetime. Probably neither collection was intended forchildren to play but rather as recollections of childhood emotions andexperiences. The fifth piece of Cuentos de la juventud, Viniendo de lafuente evokes the time when water was carried from the local fountain tohomes for domestic use. The use of these three asterisks as a title in *** Lento con ternura was borrowed directly from Schumann's Albumfor the Young, Op. 68. Apparently representing a work so poetic and highlycharged in its emotion that it cannot be named, these asterisks were also usedby Granados as a title for several other pieces, most notably a movement of Escenasromanticos (Naxos 8.554628). The slightly awkward rhythm of Marcha remindsus of a somewhat lame soldier. The final piece of Escenasinfantiles-Miniaturas, El nino duerme recalls the conclusion of Schumann' sScenes of Childhood, Op. 15-The Poet Speaks.
Jota from Miel de la Alcarria is a piano soloversion, arranged by the composer, of a section of the incidental music whichGranados composed for the 1894 rural melodrama Miel de la Alcarria [Honeyfrom Alcarria] by Jose Feliu y Codina. Jota was probably composed circa1894.
Valses poeticos is one of Granados' earliest masterpieces. Thesub-titles of the individual waltzes were included in the programme of hisfirst performance of Valses poeticos in 1895. The subtitles were notincluded, however, in editions of the work published during his lifetime. He clearlyvalued Valses poeticos as one of his finest works, recording the workfor the Welte-Mignon Reproducing Piano and frequently performing Valsespoeticos in concerts, including one of his final recitals, New York, 23rdJanuary, 1916.
In the earliest knowncopy of Rapsodia aragonesa, a printer's proof dated 1901 corrected bythe composer, Granados crossed out the title and wrote: "no, no, no, no,no and no-this title was given by the publisher". However, since thecomposer did not suggest an alternate title, the publisher's title, Rapsodiaaragonesa has remained. The work is dedicated to G