July 23, 2012. Enrique Granados was born on July 27, 1867 in a Catalan town of Lleida (or Lerida, as it’s known in Spanish). As a young man he studied piano in Barcelona with Joan Baptista Pujol, one of the most important Catalan pianists and teachers of that time (Isaac Albéniz was also Pujol’s student). When Granados was twenty he went to study music in Paris; in Spain in the late 19th century, one had to go to Paris to make a name in classical music. Alas, he was rejected by the Paris Conservatory. Instead, Granados began his studies with Charles de Bériot, a Conservatory professor, among whose students were Maurice Ravel and Ricardo Viñes. Viñes, who like Granados hailed from Lleida and also studied with Pujol, became famous as an interpreter of the music of Ravel, Granados, Albeniz, and other contemporary composers.
Granados returned to Barcelona in 1889, after just two years in Paris. He played concerts and composed: his opera Maria del Carmen was well received. In 1911 he wrote and premiered what was to become his most popular composition, the piano suite Goyescas. It’s comprised of two "books," each containing three pieces. Book 1: Los Requiebros (The Complimets); Coloquio en la Reja (Conversation at the Grille); El Fandango del Candil (The Oil Lamp Fandango). Book 2: Quejas o la Maja y el Ruiseñor (Complaints or the Maiden and the Nightingale); El Amor y la Muerte: Balada (Love and Death: a Ballad); and Epílogo: Serenata del Espectro (Epilogue: Specter's Serenade). Even though the suite was inspired by the paintings of Francisco Goya, there are no direct links between individual pieces and specific paintings. Goyescas became very successful, and Granados wrote an opera on the same subject.
In 1915, in the midst of the Great War, Granados, accompanied by his wife, went to New York where his opera Goyescas had a successful premier.. Granados also played a number of concerts, both piano recitals and accompanying his friend, the great cellist Pablo Casals. On their way back Europe, Granados and his wife traveled to England first, and then took a ferry, the Sussex, for Dieppe, France. As they were crossing the Channel, the Sussex was attacked by a German submarine and a torpedo broke the ship in two. The story goes that Granados made it to the lifeboat but without his wife. When he saw her flailing in the water, he jumped in and attempted to save her. They both drowned.
We’ll hear three excerpts from Goyescas. First, the Chinese pianist Jie Chen plays Los Requiebros, from Book I (here). Then the South Korean pianist Yoonjung Han plays El amor y la muerte, from the second book (here). Finally, the Spanish pianist Gabriel Escudero plays Quejas, o la Maja y el Ruiseñor, also from the second book (here).
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