GRANADOS: Sentimental Waltzes / 6 Expressive Studies (Douglas Riva/ John Taylor) (Naxos: 8.557141)
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Enrique Granados (1867-1916)
Piano Music 7Enrique Granados was born on 27th July 1867 inLerida, near Barcelona. Son of an army captain,he began his study of the piano in 1879 and thefollowing year he continued with Joan BaptistaPujol (1835-1898) at the Academia Pujol. Threeyears later he performed Schumann's Sonata,Opus 22, in an academy-sponsored competition,for which one of the jury members was the notedcomposer Felipe Pedrell (1841-1922). Thesixteen-year-old Granados won the competitionand obviously impressed Pedrell, who begangiving Granados classes in harmony andcomposition in 1884. In 1887 Granados went toParis, where he studied with Charles de Beriot(1833-1914). He was highly influenced by thelatter's insistence on tone-production and pedaltechnique. In addition, Beriot emphasizedimprovisation in his teaching, reinforcing hispupil's natural ability in the skill. After returningto Barcelona in 1889, Granados published hisDanzas espanolas, which brought himinternational recognition.
In his lifetime Granados gave concerts inSpain, France and New York collaborating withconductors such as Isaac Albeniz and PabloCasals, the violinists Eugene Ysaye and JacquesThibaud, pianists Mieczyslaw Horszowski andCamille Saint-Saens. In addition to his numerouspiano works he composed chamber music, vocalmusic, operas, and symphonic poems. He wasalso a fine teacher and in 1901 he founded theAcademia Granados, which produced such notedmusicians as Paquita Madriguera, ConchitaBadia, and Frank Marshall.
In 1912 Granados met the American pianistErnest Schelling, who was the first pianist toperform Granados' music outside Spain.
Schelling arranged for his works to be publishedin New York and encouraged Granados in hisplans to convert the piano suite Goyescas into anopera, later arranging for its premiere at theMetropolitan Opera in New York. Terrified of theocean, Granados nevertheless sailed to New Yorkfor the premiere of the opera on 28th January1916. While in the United States he performednumerous concerts, made piano-roll recordings,and also performed at the White House inWashington. He and his wife set sail for Europevia 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: \Mymotto has always been to renounce an easysuccess in order to achieve one that is true andlasting." Today he is universally recognised asone of Spain's most important composers, withmusic that is multi-faceted, although it isessentially Romantic with some nationalistcharacteristics. He has been variously describedas "the Spanish Chopin", "the last Romantic",and by his compatriots as "our Schubert", but nosingle characterisation adequately describes hispersonality. He had a distinctive voice that isinstantly recognisable and entirely his own.
Granados was primarily influenced by midnineteenthcentury European Romanticism,especially the music of Schumann and Chopin.
The introverted luxuriance of his luminousharmonies, his rich palette of pianistic colour,loose formal structures and his vivid imagination,always tinged with nostalgia, place him firmlywithin the Romantic School. It has frequentlybeen commented that large forms, such as sonatasand concertos did not attract him. His artisticpersonality was better suited to shorter, rhapsodicforms, especially those based on variations.
The manuscript of Valses sentimentales doesnot have a general title The individual waltzes,however, have some of the most romantic andevocative titles used by the youthful composer.
Granados' teacher, Felipe Pedrell made anisolated reference to Valses sentimentales whilementioning other works by his student. The firstcritical edition of Granados' piano workstherefore took the liberty of using the same titlefor this collection of waltzes, in the belief thatPedrell's reference, as well as the titles given bythe composer to the individual waltzes justify thisaction. Valses sentimentales was composed about1890, possibly as a preliminary study for anothercollection of waltzes, Cartas de amor (Tracks30--33). In two instances Granados usedmelodies which he had first written for Valsessentimentales as melodic material for Cartas deamor. A melody found in Allegro appassionato,the fifth waltz of Valses sentimentales, became theprincipal melody of Suspirante, the second waltzof Cartas de amor, and the conclusion of Allegrofinal from Valses sentimentales was transformedinto the opening melody of Cartas de amor.
While Granados is known universally as acomposer and pianist, it is often forgotten that hewas also a highly esteemed teacher. He took hispedagogic responsibilities very seriously and washighly successful as a teacher, renowned for hisown distinctive method of teaching. He wrotenumerous works for his students includingBocetos, 6 Estudios expresivos en forma de piezasfaciles, 7 Estudios, Cuentos de la juventud (Naxos8.554629), and Allegro appassionato (Naxos 8.554628).
The manuscript of 7 Estudios is untitled andundated. Each of the 7 Estudios was intended todevelop specific technical skills at the keyboard.
The level of difficulty of the individual studies,however, is quite varied, ranging from elementaryto moderately complex.
6 Estudios expresivos en forma de piezasfaciles, composed about 1905, were written forGranados' students as studies in musicalexpression. The melancholy character of No. 3, Elcaminante, contrasts with the tranquil rurallandscape depicted in No. 4, Pastoral, which isinterrupted by a rustic dance. No. 5, La ultimapavana, was inspired by a poem written by ApelesMestres (librettist for several of Granados'operas) with the title La condesa enferma (The IllCountess):
The Countess is illwith a strange illness;her eyes once shiningnow dull...her feet have no will to serve her...
Three of the four pieces of Bocetos, Despertardel cazador, El hada y el nino and La campana dela tarde, were inspired by specific scenes eachwith a unique atmosphere, and they are amongGranados' most expressive pedagogical works.
Granados published Exquise...! Vals tziganein an unknown magazine about 1900 under thepen name "Henri Gaziel", an amalgam of hisname in French and the title of one of his operaswhose main character bears the same name. Theopera Gaziel, first performed in 1906, wasinspired by Goethe's Faust. Despite the use of thepen-name, this thoroughly engaging waltz doesnot seem to have any relationship to the operaGaziel.
Granados wrote L'himne dels morts at therequest of his colleague Eduard Lopez Chavarri(1875?íV1970) for a special publication prepared bythe Circulo de Bellas Artes, Valencia, to raisemoney for the victims of the flood of the Turiariver in 1897. Owing to the nature of thecomposition it is unlikely that it was everperformed in public. Writing in 1916, shortlyafter Granados' death, Lopez Chavarricommented that L'himne dels morts is a "hymnfor the drowned" and represented a "terriblecoincidence, [an] anticipation of fate. . [as ifGranados] was writing his own hymn!"One of Granados' most intimate compositions,Cartas de amor, was written about 1892 as anengagement present for Amparo Gal Llovera, thecomposer's fiancee. The couple were married in1893 and had six children. Granados dedicatedtwo other works to his wife, Serenata (Naxos8.555723) and his masterpiece, Quejas o la majay el ruisenor from Goyescas (Naxos 8.554403).
The Catalan instrument maker BaldomeroCateura presented his Piano-pedalier Cateura inBarcelona and Paris in 1898. Although nosurviving examples of the instrument are knownto exist, it was a piano equipped with four pedalsused to alter the timbre of the standard piano tocreate special effects, such as prolonging certainnotes, augmenting t