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Enrique Granados and his Spanish Dances

Enrique Granados Campiña (July 27, 1867–March 24, 1916) was a Spanish pianist and composer whose music in a uniquely Spanish style is representative of musical nationalism. He was born in Lérida, Spain, the son of Calixto Granados, a Spanish army captain who had been born in Cuba, and Enriqueta Campiña, and received his first musical instruction from an army bandmaster. As a young man he studied piano in Barcelona, where his teachers included Francisco Jurnet and Joan Baptista Pujol. In 1887 he went to Paris to study. He was unable to become a student at the Paris Conservatoire, but he was able to take private lessons with a conservatoire professor, Charles-Wilfrid de Bériot, whose mother, the soprano Maria Malibran, was of Spanish ancestry. Bériot insisted on extreme refinement in tone production, which strongly influenced Granados’s own teaching of pedal technique. He also fostered Granados’s abilities in improvisation. Just as important were his studies with Felip Pedrell. Granados’ earliest mature work, the Valses poéticos of 1887, was completed around this time.

Granados returned to Barcelona in 1889 and spent the next decade building a dual career as pianist and composer, forming a successful piano trio with Belgian violinist Crickboom and the young Pablo Casals. Virtually all his music relies heavily on the Catalan and Spanish folk idiom. His first successes were at the end of the 1890s, with the zarzuela Maria del Carmen (1898), which attracted the attention of King Alfonso XIII. Following this, the Order of Carlos III (a Spanish knighthood) was bestowed upon Granados by a supportive government. Granados was quick to follow up on this success, and two more operas were produced in the next five years. For the 1900 season Granados founded the Society of Classical Concerts (Sociedad de Conciertos Clásicos) in Barcelona, which, although short-lived, gave him the confidence to create his own piano school, known as the Granados School, or Academia Granados, the following year. The school was a success, and Granados maintained his involvement with it until his death.

Though he began it in 1902, in 1911 Granados premiered his suite for piano Goyescas, which became his most famous work. It is a set of six pieces based on paintings of Francisco de Goya. Such was the success of this work that he was encouraged to expand it. He wrote an opera based on the subject in 1914, but the outbreak of World War I forced the European premiere to be canceled. It was performed for the first time in New York City on January 28, 1916, and was very well received. Shortly afterwards, he was invited to perform a piano recital for President Woodrow Wilson. Prior to leaving New York, Granados also made live-recorded player piano music rolls for the New-York-based Aeolian Company’s “Duo-Art” system, all of which survive today and can be heard – his very last recordings.

The delay incurred by accepting the recital invitation caused him to miss his boat back to Spain. Instead, he took a ship to England, where he boarded the passenger ferry Sussex for Dieppe, France. On the way across the English Channel, the Sussex was torpedoed by a German U-boat, as part of the German World War I policy of unrestricted submarine warfare. In a failed attempt to save his wife of 24 years Amparo, whom he saw flailing about in the water some distance away, Granados jumped out of his lifeboat and both drowned. He had a morbid fear of water for his entire life, and he was returning from his first-ever series of ocean voyages. The ship broke in two parts and only one sank (along with 80 passengers). Ironically, the part of the ship that contained his cabin did not sink and was towed to port, with most of the passengers on board. Granados and his wife left six children: Eduard (a musician), Solita, Enrique (a swimming champion), Víctor, Natàlia, and Francisco.

Granados wrote piano music; chamber music, including a piano quintet, a piano trio, music for violin and piano; songs; zarzuelas (Spanish operas); and an orchestral tone poem based on Dante’s Divine Comedy. Many of his piano compositions have been transcribed for the classical guitar: examples include Dedicatoria, Danza No. 5, Goyescas. His music can be divided into basically three styles or periods. The first is a romantic style including such pieces as Escenas Romanticas and Escenas Poeticas. The second is a more typically nationalist, Spanish style including such pieces as Danzas Españolas (Spanish Dances), and 6 Piezas sobre cantos populares españoles (Six Pieces based on popular Spanish songs). The final or Goya period includes the piano suite Goyescas, the opera Goyescas, various Tonadillas for voice and piano, and other works. Granados was an important influence on at least two other important Spanish composers and musicians, Manuel de Falla and Pablo Casals. He was also the teacher of composer Rosa García Ascot. The personal papers of Enrique Granados are preserved in, among other institutions, the Biblioteca de Cataluña.

My collection includes the following works by Granados:

Danzas Espagnoles (Twelve Spanish Dances, 1890; orchestrated by Rafael Ferrer).

—material taken, adapted, and edited from several different sources

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