Enrique Granados: Poet of the Piano

Enrique Granados: Poet of the Piano

Enrique Granados: Poet of the Piano

Enrique Granados: Poet of the Piano

Synopsis

Enrique Granados (1867-1916) is one of the most compelling figures of the late-Romantic period in music. During his return voyage to Spain after the premiere of his opera Goyescas at New York's Metropolitan Opera in 1916, a German submarine torpedoed the ship on which he and his wife were sailing, and they perished in the waters of the English Channel. His death was mourned on both sides of the Atlantic as a stunning loss to the music world, for he had died at the pinnacle of his career,and his late works held the promise of greater things to come. Granados was among the leading pianists of his time, and his eloquence at the keyboard inspired critics to dub him the "poet of the piano." In Enrique Granados: Poet of the Piano, Walter Aaron Clark offers the first substantive study in English of this virtuoso pianist, composer, and music pedagogue. While providing detailed analyses of his major works for voice, piano, and the stage, Clark argues that Granados's art represented aunifying presence on the cultural landscape of Spain during a period of imperial decline, political unrest, and economic transformation. Drawing on newly discovered documents, Clark explores the cultural spheres in which Granados moved, particularly of Castile and Catalonia. Granados's best-known music was inspired by the art of Francisco Goya, especially the Goyescas suite for solo piano that became the basis for the opera. These pieces evoked the colorful and dramatic world that Goya inhabited and depicted in his art. Granados's fascination with Goya's Madrid set him apart from fellow nationalists Albeniz and Falla, who drew their principal inspiration from Andalusia. Though he was resolutely apolitical, Granados's attraction to Castile antagonized some Catalan nationalists, who resented Castilian domination. Yet Granados also made important contributions to Catalan musical theater and was a prominent figure in the modernist movement in Barcelona. Clark also explores the personal pressures that shaped Granados's music. His passionate affair with a wealthy socialite created domestic tensions, but it was also a source of inspiration for Goyescas. Persistent financial difficulties forced him to devote time to teaching at the expense of composition, though as a result Granados made considerable contributions to piano pedagogy and music education in Barcelona through the music academy he founded there. While Granados's tragic and early demise casts a pall over his life story, Clark ultimately reveals an artist of remarkable versatility and individuality and sheds new light on his enduring significance.

Excerpt

The first notes that I learned to play on the piano and that I presented in my first public recital were those of “The Afternoon Bell” from Sketches, which Enrique Granados had written for the students at his music academy and which I learned from his foremost disciple, Frank Marshall.

My musical and pianistic formation followed the pedagogic model that Granados had created and that my mother and aunt also learned as his direct disciples. It was they who introduced me to the piano and led me to maestro Marshall. As I matured musically and personally, I immersed myself in Granados’s piano compositions, which form a major part of the foundation of modern Spanish music. My identification with his artistic temperament and his musical sensibility has profoundly influenced my career, and as often as I could, I have tried to familiarize the world with his music.

The spirit of Granados is inextricably bound up with European Romanticism, with an adoration of Schumann, and with the soul of Spain’s immemorial folkloric traditions, which the composers of his generation discovered and which he knew how to transform with his instinctive musical genius.

The life and work of this great composer demand an exhaustive and detailed study, and I congratulate Walter Aaron Clark and Oxford University Press for making this biography a reality and thereby contributing to the preservation of Granados’s music for succeeding generations.

Alicia de Larrocha (trans. Walter Aaron Clark) . . .

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