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ClassicsOnline Home » GRANADOS, E.: Piano Music, Vol. 10 (Riva) - In the Village
“The Riva series is essential for anyone interested in Spanish piano music." (MusicWeb International)
This final volume in the Naxos edition of Granados' complete piano music begins with the composer's final work, an impassioned and colourful transcription of the Intermezzo from the opera Goyescas. The disc also includes several youthful works dedicated to or inspired by women, as well as works inspired by Nature. The intricate Marchas militares for piano duet are among the composer's most delightful compositions, while the brilliant transcription of Albéniz's Triana from Iberia is his only work scored for two pianos.
By David Denton
By David Denton
Herbert Howells was a student of Stanford and Charles Wood
at London's Royal College of Music, yet, as this disc clearly exhibits, it was
the influence of Vaughan Williams - twenty years his senior - that was to colour
much of his music. You can almost feel the hand of the older composer guiding
Howells in Hymnus paradisi a superb choral score that still needs far
more performances on the international scene. Sir Patrick Spens, however,
is a real find, the history of the work starting with Howells writing his
first big choral work at the age of 25 to the words of a well-known Scottish
ballad relating the story of the famous sailor. It was many years later before
it was published, and then the only known performance was given by student performers
in Newcastle in 1930. So this recording is the first professional performance,
and a very worthy one it proves to be. Musically it abounds in brightly lit
colours, but there are also moments of quiet, London's Bach Choir fabulous when
the music is reduced to a whisper and complements their very solid and superb
tonal quality in the more outgoing moments. I am not going to say this is a
neglected masterpiece, but it comes very close. Hymnus paradisi is the
combination of two works, the first one intended as a conventional Requiem,
the second, written three years later, remembering his son who died at the age
of nine. His musical response was deeply felt but was intended only for his
own ears. It was eleven years later when the Three Choirs Festival asked him
for a new work that Howells revealed the existence of a score that combined
the two. Reluctant at first, he was persuaded by distinguished colleagues to
have it performed, the result being one of the finest English choral works in
the second half of the 20th century. If it harks back stylistically, its strongly
melodic character and innate Englishness making for a deeply moving piece perfectly
orchestrated. Here with all three soloists on stage - Sir Patrick only
calls for a baritone - the diction, projection and pure beauty of tone will
surely never be challenged on disc, while the Bach Choir is again everything
you could wish for. Add the Bournemouth orchestra playing for David Hill as
if these works are part of their standard repertoire, and you have a disc you
cannot afford to miss.
Enrique Granados (1867-1916)
Piano Music • 10
Enrique Granados was born on 27 July 1867 in Lleida, near Barcelona. After his family moved to Barcelona, Granados began piano study there in 1879 and the following year he continued with Joan Baptista Pujol (1835-1898). In 1883 he won a competition performing Schumann's Sonata, Op. 22. One of the jury members was the noted composer Felip Pedrell (1841-1922), who began giving Granados classes in harmony and composition the following year. In 1887 Granados went to Paris where he studied with Charles de Bériot (1833-1914). He was highly influenced by Bériot's insistence on tone-production and pedal technique. In addition, Bériot emphasized improvisation in his teaching, reinforcing his pupil's natural ability in the skill. After returning to Barcelona in 1889, Granados published his Danzas españolas, which brought him international recognition.
Both a pianist and conductor, during his career Granados performed concerts in Spain, France and New York collaborating with violinists Eugène Ysaÿe and Jacques Thibaud, pianists Mieczysław Horszowski and Camille Saint-Saëns and conductors such as Isaac Albéniz and Pablo Casals. Granados was also a fine teacher. In 1901 he founded the Academia Granados, which continues today as the Academia Marshall under the direction of Alicia de Larrocha.
In 1912 Granados met the American pianist Ernest Schelling, who was the first pianist to perform Granados's music outside Spain. Schelling arranged for his works to be published by G. Schirmer in New York and encouraged Granados in his plans to convert his piano suite Goyescas into an opera, later arranging for its première at the Metropolitan Opera. Terrified of the ocean, Granados nevertheless sailed to New York for the première of the opera on 28 January 1916. While in the United States he performed numerous concerts, made piano-roll recordings, and also performed at the White House. Granados and his wife set sail back to Europe via Liverpool but while crossing the English Channel on the British ship Sussex, their boat was torpedoed by a German submarine and they both perished.
About the year 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 Spain's 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 characterization adequately describes his personality, since 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, and, like most composers of his era, by Wagner. 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 commented that large forms such as sonatas and concertos did not attract Granados. His artistic personality was better suited to shorter, rhapsodic forms, especially those based on variations.
Granados's final work, the Intermezzo from the opera Goyescas, was composed less than two months before his tragic death. The original Intermezzo which he wrote for the opera Goyescas was found to be too short to accommodate a necessary scene change, requiring the composer to write a new and longer Intermezzo. The new Intermezzo, an inspired work containing one of Granados's most beautiful melodies, was written literally overnight. Since Granados had written the new Intermezzo in haste he feared that it might damage his reputation. Nevertheless, it remains one of his most frequently performed compositions. Granados's own piano transcription conveys all the passion and colour of the orchestral original.
The four Melodías, Mazurka alla polacca, Mazurka in A minor, Andalucía-Peterena, Canto del pescador, La Berceuse, three Marchas militares and En la aldea are all youthful works. In his early works the young Granados focused on his own personal inspirations, concentrating on works with similar titles such as Mazurkas and Marchas militares, works dedicated to or inspired by women and also works inspired by Nature. With the exception of En la aldea, for piano four hands, all of the early works are of brief duration. Many of these compositions are similar to one another, being sketches or brief compositions characterized by an unfocused formal structure and harmonic ambiguity. Very few are rooted in one tonality. Granados frequently vacillated from one tonality to another, usually without actually modulating between them.
Two of the Melodías were written "for the fan" of two sisters, Lola and Laura González. Ladies of the era carried fans and allowed special gentlemen to "autograph" them. Granados's works are clearly too long to have been written out on a fan, but they certainly convey his thoughts about the young ladies. The two Mazurkas reveal his early inspiration by the works of Chopin. Granados's father and brother were both army officers, probably inspiring him to compose the three early Marchas militares for piano solo as well as the two later ones composed for piano, four hands.
The manuscript of Andantino espressivo has the title Obras fáciles para educación del sentimiento (Simple Pieces for the Education of Feeling). Although not particularly simple, the four highly varied sections of the piece are united by Granados's Romantic lyricism.
Granados performed numerous concerts of works for two pianos and piano duet with Edouard Risler, Joaquín Malats and other pianists. Thus, it is somewhat surprising that he did not compose more works for either of these two formats. En la aldea is the most extensive composition of the 34 included in Álbum de Melodías, París, 1888, written during the composer's stay in Paris in 1888 (Naxos 8.557142). Both Granados and Isaac Albéniz were in Paris during that time and the two young musicians were often together for musical and social gatherings. Albéniz composed a work for piano solo entitled Fiesta de aldea (Village Festival) around the same time. It may be that the two young composers set themselves the task of composing a work inspired by a visit to a country village.
Granados's manuscript of En la aldea contains expressive marking such as Órgano (organ), Oboe, and Campanas (Bells). The most important marking, however, – Ruiseñor (nightingale) found in La siesta – marks the first appearance in Granados's music of an imitation of the song of a nightingale. Granados recalled a night in Paris that he, along with Ricardo Viñes and Joaquín Malats, spent copying Bériot's Concierto. With the arrival of dawn a nightingale sang. From this experience forward throughout his life Granados was inspired to incorporate the sound of a nightingale's song in other compositions such as El invierno - La muerte del ruiseñor from Libro de horas (Naxos 8.554628) and especially Quejas o la maja y el ruiseñor from Goyescas (8.554403), among others.
The two Marchas militares for piano duet are among the composer's most delightful compositions, quite different from the three written for piano solo. Granados requires that the two pianists cross hands between each other quite often. In addition the two pianists must play many notes in very close proximity, demanding careful coordination between the performers.
Granados's transcription of Albéniz's brilliant Triana from Iberia is his only work scored for two pianos. His transcription respects the construction and details of the original version for piano solo. The only changes Granados made to the work involve filling out the harmonies of some chords and dividing the themes between the two players so as to alternate their presentation and development, producing an impassioned and brilliant dialogue.
This performance follows the critical edition of the Complete Works for Pianoof Enrique Granados, published by Editorial Boileau, S.A., Barcelona, Spain, Alicia de Larrocha, Director and Douglas Riva, Assistant Director.
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