GRANADOS: Spanish Dances (orch. Ferrer) (Barcelona Symphony-National Orchestra of Catalonia/ Peter Newble/ Salvador Brotons) (Naxos: 8.555956)
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Enrique Granados (1867-1916)
Spanish Dances (orchestrated by Rafael Ferrer)
Enrique Granados was born in Lérida on 27th July 1867. During his childhood he spent some years in the Canary Islands, a period that he always fondly remembered as a lost paradise. His leaning towards music became apparent at an early age, but he owed his main academic training to Joan Baptista Pujol. Felipe Pedrell, one of the founding fathers of contemporary Spanish music, took an interest in the boy when he heard him play in a competition. In 1886 Granados had to earn his living as a café pianist, but in 1887 he moved to Paris, where he undertook further study with Bériot. He met the pianist Ricardo Viñes, with whom he gave various duo concerts, and also fell under the conservative influences of the Schola Cantorum. Some, like Collet, maintain that the Danzas españolas (Spanish Dances) date from his stay in Paris. On his return to Spain the Dances were published one by one until 1890 and won their composer international recognition. He made appearances as a pianist in recitals and with orchestra, and spent 1892 and part of 1893 in Madrid, where he introduced two of his major chamber works, the Quintet, Opus 49, and the Trio, Opus 50. On his return to Barcelona, in 1895 he played the piano part in the Rapsodia española (Spanish Rhapsody) of Albéniz, under the composers direction. His opera María del Carmen, given in Madrid in 1898, had a modest reception and has now fallen into oblivion. Other stage works of the end of the nineteenth century still await possible attention. A historical event of major importance was the foundation of the Academia Granados, to which Frank Marshall would belong and which now has Alicia de Larrocha as one of its leading figures. In 1903 Granados won a composition prize from Madrid Conservatory with his Allegro de concierto, in competition with Falla himself. One of his most important orchestral compositions, the symphonic poem Dante dates from 1908; in the following years he wrote his indisputable masterpiece, Goyescas, for piano, performed in Barcelona in August 1911. In this composition Granados showed his affinity with the eighteenth-century world represented by Goya in his paintings. In 1912 the North-American pianist Ernest Schelling persuaded him to compose an opera from this piano work. For this purpose he used a libretto by Periquet. The stage version of Goyescas was to be his last great work, although mention should also be made of the songs under the title Tonadillas escritas en estilo antiguo (Tonadillas written in the old style), that share a very similar atmosphere. The opera Goyescas was given at the Metropolitan Opera in New York on 26th January 1916. On the voyage home to Spain Granados and his wife were drowned, on 24th March, when the British ship, the Sussex, was torpedoed by a German submarine.
It has not been possible to establish absolutely the date of composition of the Danzas españolas para piano. Granados himself claimed to have written them in 1883, which would make them a work of extreme youth. The other possibility is that he edited them in Paris in 1888, or at least that there they took on their definitive form, since the first performance was given in Barcelona in 1890 by the composer. Whatever the case, the Danzas represent the most obviously nationalist music of Granados, a notable example of the influence of Pedrells principles. The popular inspiration is, however, dressed in completely romantic musical language. Granados is not here harmonizing folk motifs, since his themes are original, although the connection with popular tradition may be evident. The Danzas are probably not an expression of great music, but are written with elegance and finesse.
The Danzas had a great effect in their time; thus César Cui, a member of the Russian nationalist group, the Five, wrote of them to Granados, expressing his appreciation: Thank you for your Danzas españolas, they are excellent, charming as much for the melody as for the harmonization. It is strange that all these rich, authentic examples of certain nations have an air of family resemblance. There followed editions of varying reliability, so that the titles differ greatly one from the other, although the titles of Nos. 2, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 11 are considered authentic. In view of the popularity of the dances various musicians have attempted the partial orchestration of the collection, among others García Farià and Lamote de Grignon; the orchestration used for the present recording is by the composer, violinist and conductor Rafael Ferrer.
Danza No. 1, in G major, is dedicated to Amparo Gal, wife of the musician. It appears in some publications with the wrong title, Galante. Rather than a courtly atmosphere, it approaches a certain purity of style with a rhythm like that of a bolero. The following Danza No. 2, in C minor, Oriental, is dedicated to Julián Martí. Its simple, plaintive and somewhat exotic melody recalls Arab music. Danza No. 3, in D major, dedicated to Joaquín Vancells, starts with a delicate theme in octaves; its general mood is similar to that of the tonadillas. It sometimes appears under the spurious title Fandango. Danza No. 4, in G major, sounds more old-fashioned; under the title Villanesca, it is dedicated to T. Tasso, not the Italian writer but the father of a pupil. Danza No. 5, in E minor, Andaluza, dedicated to Alfredo García Farià, suggests the guitar in its writing; the full, melancholy phrase of the opening is followed by a calmer central episode. The very brilliant Danza No. 6, Aragonesa, in D major, dedicated to D. Murillo, suggests a fairy tale. Sometimes it is played with a continuous crescendo that does not conform to the original directions of Granados, who has Allegretto poco a poco accelerando. The central part, Molto andante espressivo, is a spectacular jota. In Danza
No. 7, Valenciana, in G major, the composer offers a Homage to César Cui. In spite of the title it is another extravert jota, but now the stylization of the popular musical language is at its greatest. Danza No. 8, in C major, Asturiana in some editions, Sardana in others, offers a pleasing rhythmic swing. In Dance No. 9, in B flat major, there is interplay between a duple pattern within a triple metre scheme. Danza No. 10, in G major, with the apocryphal title Melancólica, is dedicated to Her Royal Highness the Infanta Doña Isabel de Borbón, and again suggests the sonority of the guitar. Orientalism returns in Danza No. 11, in G minor, Arabesca, marked Largo a piacere. The series ends with Danza No. 12, in A minor, in some editions given the title Bolero, since this is in effect the dance rhythm on which it is based, forming a symmetrical conclusion to the whole set of dances.
Enrique Martinez Miura
English version by Keith Anderson