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ClassicsOnline Home » GRANADOS, E.: Piano Music, Vol. 2 (Riva) - Goyescas
Goyescas – Suite for
Enrique Granados was born in Lérida, near Barcelona. Son of an army
captain, Granados began piano study with Joan Baptista Pujol (1835-1898) and
subsequently studied harmony and composition with composer Felipe Pedrell
The young Granados realised that in order to achieve his professional
aspirations he would need to leave Spain. In 1887 he went to Paris where he
studied with Charles de Bériot (1833-1914). After returning to Barcelona in
1889 Granados published his Danzas españalas, which brought him
From 1890 until his death Granados performed concerts in Spain, France
and the United States collaborating with Isaac Albéniz, Pablo Casals,
violinists Eugène Ysaÿe and Jacques Thibaud, pianists Mieczyslaw Horszowski and
Camille Saint-Säens. 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 Granados's music outside Spain. Schelling arranged for
the composer's works to be published in New York and encouraged Granados in his
plans to convert the piano suite Goyesca, 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 the 28th January, 1916. While in New York he performed
numerous concerts, made piano-roll recordings, and performed at the White House
in Washington. Granados and his wife returned to Europe via Liverpool but while
crossing the English Channel on the British ship The Sussex, their boat was
torpedoed by a German submarine and they both perished.
At age 43 Granados wrote in his diary: 'Finally I have had the good
fortune to write something important – Goyescas'. Subtitled Los majos
enamorados (‘The Majos in Love’), Goyescas was published in two
books, the first in 1909-1910 and the second in 1913-1914, along with a
separate piece El pelele: Escena goyesca, traditionally considered as
apart of Goyescas. The work is possibly unique in that the suite was
subsequently transformed by the composer into an opera.
Goyescas, the title meaning Goya-esque or Goya-like, is highly unusual in the
complex nature of its inspiration. Through the influence of writer Fernando
Periquet, Granados became inspired by the Spanish painter Francisco Goya
(1746-1828). Granados drew inspiration from the painter's ability to depict
what Granados saw as the essence of the Spanish character. It was the
atmosphere, the people and the details of their lives within the context of
Goya's Madrid, which spoke to Granados. He explained his fascination in a 1910
letter: '…I fell in love with the psychology of Goya and his palette… that
rosy-whiteness of the cheeks contrasted with lace and jet-black velvet, those
jasmine-white hands, the colour of mother-of-pearl have dazzled me…'
Goyescas is one of the truly great effusions of Romantic pianism and one of the
most important Spanish keyboard works. Goyescas is a cyclical suite
unified by thematic material and by its brilliant colour. Its jewel-toned
harmonies, violent mood swings, and post-Romantic fervour led the critic Ernest
Newman to describe Goyescas as '...the finest piano music of our day...
a gorgeous treat for the fingers…' giving the performer and listener alike the
'… voluptuous sense of passing the fingers through masses of richly-coloured
In Coloquio en la reja – Dúo de amor (‘Dialogue at the window’ –
love duet) Granados creates a mood of veiled mystery filled with romantic
yearning depicting a lady inside her house speaking with her suitor though the
El fandango de candil (‘Candlelit fandango’), described by the composer as a
'scene to be sung and danced slowly and rhythmically', is suffused with
Quejas, o la maja y el ruiseñor (‘Laments or the Maja and the nightingale’), based
on a folk-song from Valencia, is one of the most poetic pieces of Spanish piano
music. Granados transforms the melody through a series of variations, each more
highly perfumed than the previous, culminating in a cadenza imitating
the song of a nightingale.
El amor y la muerte – Balada (‘Love and death’ – ballade), a work of profound
richness and dignity, both savage and mysterious, is possibly Granados's
greatest individual composition. The title and inspiration are from one of
Goya's Caprichos. According to Granados: ‘All of the themes of Goyescas
are united in El amor y la muerte... intense pain, nostalgic love and
the final tragedy – death. The middle section is based on the themes of Quejas
o la maja y el ruiseñor and Los requiebros, converting the drama
into sweet gentle sorrow...the final chords represent the renunciation of
Epílogo: Serenata del espectro (‘Epilogue’ – The ghost's serenade) is the only
piece of the suite not incorporated into the opera. In Serenata del espectro
Granados made use of Dies Irae, the Roman Catholic chant for the
dead. At the conclusion the score indicates that the 'ghost disappears plucking
the strings of his guitar.'
El pelele – Escena goyesca (‘The straw man’– scene from Goya), inspired by
Goya's painting of the same title, depicts a group of Majas tossing a straw man
into the air. This piece served as the opening scene of the opera.
Serenata goyesca (‘Serenade in the style of Goya’) is an unpublished
work found in the Granados Archive, Barcelona. Although the manuscript is
undated, most likely the piece was composed around 1909 as a preliminary sketch
for Goyescas. This is the first recording of Serenata goyesca.
This performance follows the critical edition of Granados's piano works,
directed and revised by Alicia de Larrocha, prepared and compiled by Douglas
Riva, published by Editorial Boileau, Barcelona, which presents Granados's
music as the composer himself passed his music down to his principal disciple
and foremost student, Frank Marshall, who in turn passed the Granados legacy to
Alicia de Larrocha.
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