Official Release: 10 December 2021
The familiar declaration that Enrique Granados’s suite Goyescas—Los Majos enamorados (The Majos in Love) and Isaac Albeniz’s Iberia form the twin peaks of Spanish keyboard music is accurate as far as it goes, but it does not go far. The good intentions behind this declaration ultimately parochialize, if not to say diminish, Goyescas as well as Iberia by qualifying them in relation to other piano works by composers from the Iberian peninsula, not in relation to the varied topographies of all piano works. From an international or cosmopolitan perspective, the Goyescas suite may be suituated between Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition (1874), a memorial to the work of the artist Victor Hartmann, and Maurice Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin (1917), a memorial to both Couperin “le Grand” (in particular, the French Baroque keyboard suite) and friends of the composer who died in the Great War. That is to say, Granados, like Mussorgsky (1839-1881), pays homage to a specific artist, and Granados, like Ravel (1875-1937), pays homage to a period. Part I (the first four pieces) of the Goyescas suite, completed in 1910, was premiered in Barcelona (Palau de la Musica) on 11th March 1911 by the composer himself. The French pianist Edouard Risler, the dedicatee of the second of the four (“Coloquio en la reja”), gave the first performance of them in Paris (Salle de la Géographie) on 5th June 1913. Part II (“Love and Death” and “Epilogue”), completed in 1911, was premiered in Paris (Salle Pleyel) on 4th April 1914 by the composer himself.
The six pieces of the Goyescas suite evoke scenes from the time and in the manner of Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (born in 1746, four years before the death of J. S. Bach, and died in 1828, the same year as Schubert), but not the sardonic aspect of the artist’s Caprichos, the works that particularly inspired Granados.
“Flatteries” is one of two pieces in Goyescas that corresponds to a specific work by Goya: his Capricho No. 5, titled “Tal para qual” (“Two of a Kind”). This engraving shows a majo flattering a maja, who is holding the requisite fan, while two elderly and ugly women (panders or passers-by?) look on. One of these, pointing to the young people, says “Tal para qual.” The flatteries of the majo are too rhapsodic, too blazing, too ardent, too ecstatic for the young woman to resist; witness, in Goya’s Capricho, her partially-open fan.
“Dialogue through a Grated Window” (“Love Duet”). The “picture” of this was not made by Goya, but by Granados in the manner of Goya. (It is one of nine sketches in the composer’s Apuntes para mis obras, which is held in the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York.) It shows a majo, whose back is to the viewer, and a maja, who is facing the viewer, talking through a grated window at street level. As a consequence, we see the woman as the man does, but not the man as the woman sees him. He is wearing a blue cloak, while she is either bare-shouldered (if not déshabille) or wearing a light-colored garment.
“Fandango by Lamp Light.” The Spanish title has been wrongly translated by those who have taken “candil” and “candle” to be synonymous when, in fact, they are false friends. (“Candil” translates as oil-lamp.) In any case, the light was soft! The fandango is a folk dance, often stylized, in triple meter. The shifting light refracted through the opaque glass of the oil-lamp would glint off eyes, shadow a mouth, …
“Laments, or the Maja and the Nightingale.” “Quejas” is literally a night piece—the nightingale, the most romantic of birds, does not sing by the light of day—and intimate with the nocturne from Chopin through Fauré. The piece, based on a folk song Granados heard sung by a girl in the province of Valencia, is the only one in the suite assigned a key signature—and an uncommon one at that: F-sharp minor. (Haydn, Mozart, Clementi and Beethoven each used this key for some of their most expressive music.) “Laments” is better known than its companions as a result of pianists playing it detached from the suite, though it is best heard in situ.
“Love and Death – Ballad” This is the other piece in the suite based on a specific work by Goya: his Capricho no. 10, which bears the same title. Goya’s engraving shows the dying majo supported in the maja’s arms, the sword with which he has fought and lost a duel at his feet, and his hat, too, on the ground. Goya invests the faces of the figures with intense pain and anguish; its concentrated emotion evokes Masaccio’s fresco of the Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden (Brancacci Chapel, Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence). It is generally accepted as Granados’s apotheosis as a composer.
“Epilogue: The Spectre’s Serenade.” This piece, which does not correspond to any work of Goya’s, is the only one with a supernatural element. The spectre who serenades his beloved in the “Epilogue” is as the Hurdy-Gurdy player is to Schubert’s Winterreise. The final chord the spectre plays on his guitar breaks the spell of the Goyescas, which may leave some listeners asking, “Was it a vision, or a waking dream? / Fled is that music:—Do I wake or sleep?” (Keats, “Ode to a Nightingale”).
After hearing Thomas Appleby Matthews (1884-1949) give the first complete performance of the two parts of the Goyescas suite in England (Birmingham, 27 November 1916), some eight months after the composer’s premature death (the “Sussex,” the ship on which he and his wife were crossing the English Channel, was torpedoed by the Germans), an impassioned Ernest Newman wrote for the Birmingham Daily Post (28 November 1916):
“To a public less slow-moving in artistic matters than ours, Granados would by now be a household name. He is … the greatest, the most variously endowed poet of the piano that we have had since Chopin; and the “Goyescas” are the greatest of his works. He is Chopin come to life again, but a Chopin who, while he has forgotten nothing of the grace of his own heredity and environment, has added to them the fruits of the finest culture of Spain. In his technique of the piano Granados is the heir and the consummator of Chopin. The idiom is a very copious one, but it is always pianistic; that is to say, it is not only one that could not be translated into another medium and retain the same values, but one that cuddles itself—if the expression may be permitted—into the fingers of the pianist. The “Goyescas” are extremely difficult, but they are always “playable” in the pianist’s sense of the term; there is not a bar in them that does violence to the genius of the piano. At the same time there is something in the genius even of the best piano that does violence to them. … The music of Granados, so far as texture is concerned, is to that of Chopin as a giant son to a graceful father. One would call the texture orchestral, were it not that the term sets up quite false connotations—suggestions of a straining after a non-pianistic idiom on the piano, as Busoni, for instance, occasionally indulges in. But indeed there is no effect in the whole range of the pure piano idiom that is not to be found in the “Goyescas,” from chords of the utmost richness achieved by the cunning spacing of perhaps only two notes with their supporting pedal to voluptuous masses of chords that seem to squeeze themselves out between the fingers like crushed strawberries. … And the themes are living things to [Granados] as Wagner’s were to him—presences that he could summon up again and again at will and set talking in ever new terms. After the processes through which his alchemy puts them in the first part [nos. 1-4] one would think that the last essence had been extracted from them; but that there is still an ultimate quintessence in them is shown by his fresh handling of them in the great movement that opens the second part [“Love and Death”]. Again one is reminded of Wagner; on its smaller scale, this movement is to the preceding one what the “Göttedämmerung” is to the three earlier operas of the “Ring”—a summing up lightened by many a new flash of poetry and wisdom. …
One can have nothing but praise for Mr. Matthews’ interpretation of the difficult work. There were a few wrong notes here and there; but in music that requires such an octopus-clutch as this we must not be too critical if here and there a note eludes the closing tentacles. Those who know the work best can best testify to the thoroughness of Mr. Matthews’ grasp of it—his bold and free sailing upon the heaving ocean of its harmony, his lover’s delight in the poetry of it, and, on the purely technical side, his quite remarkable evocation of the hundred tints that fleck the exquisite surface of the music.”
This recording brings together, for the first time, all of Granados’s piano works having to do with Goya—not the Goyescas suite alone. “Jácara” (a dance), “Twilight,” and “Serenade in the Style of Goya” contain material Granados used in the suite. The “Reverie,” an improvisation Granados recorded for the the Duo-Art Reproducing Piano in 1916, is based on “Twilight.” “The Straw Man,” the opening scene of the opera Goyescas (New York, 1916), is a translation of Goya’s brilliant painting of the same title in the Museo del Prado. (Following the composer’s precedent, pianists sometimes include “The Straw Man” in their performances of the Goyescas suite.) Granados composed the “Intermezzo” for the opera and transcribed it for piano himself. It is his last work.
For this recording, Mr. Caramiello, a musician of scrupulous taste and principle, uses the edition of Granados’s piano works directed by Alicia de Larrocha, with documentation and texts by Douglas Riva, and published by Editorial de Música Boileau (Barcelona) as well as the Henle edition.
Mark Mitchell © 2021
He was born in Naples in 1964 and took his diploma at the “San Pietro a Majella” obtaining top marks and distinction in piano, which he studied under Vincenzo Vitale and Massimo Bertucci, and in composition under the guidance of Bruno Mazzotta. He also studied with Piero Rattalino and Aldo Ciccolini. He has played with Philharmonia Orchestra, Nürnberger Philharmoniker, the Youth Orchestra of the Salzburg Mozarteum, the Sicilian Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestra of the “Teatro Comunale di Cagliari”, and has appeared at the Barbican Centre in London, at the Merkin Concert Hall of New York, the “Teatro Golden” of Palermo, the “Teatro di San Carlo” of Napoli, at “Festspillene” of Bergen (Norway), at Festival “En Blanco y Negro” in Mexico City and in Japan at the University of Chubu and in Nagoya.
He also gives concerts on period instruments. He has devoted attention to the discovery of Italian composers: amongst his recording stand out Sgambati’s complete piano works for Tactus (in seven cds) and his Piano Concerto and chamber works for ASV, works by Respighi and d’Avalos for Tactus, the Piano Concertos and piano works by Martucci in four cds for ASV, and works by Dohler, Paer, Ricci, ecc. played on a Pleyel of 1862 (Opus 111). He also recorded Copland and Carter’s Sonatas and Ives’ Piano Studies. He is professor at Conservatoire of Music “Domenico Cimarosa” in Avellino.
Enrique Granados: (b Lérida [Lleida], 27 July 1867; d at sea, English Channel, 24 March 1916). Catalan composer and pianist. Though he enjoyed considerable fame in his native Barcelona, within Spain as a whole his music was less well known than his enduring reputation as the composer of ‘La maja y el ruiseñor’ from Goyescas might suggest. Apart from Goyescas (in its original version for piano), only his Danzas españolas and his first opera María del Carmen brought him significant national acclaim, and relatively few of his 140-odd works were published or performed regularly in his lifetime. A comprehensive view of his work has been hampered by the prevailing but misconceived tendency to divide his music into three compositional periods – known, misleadingly, as the ‘Nationalistic’, the ‘Romantic’ and the ‘Goyesque’ – with a disproportionate emphasis on his Goyescas. Sadly, the greater part of his diverse and extensive output remains obscure and unpublished and, as yet, no detailed study has been made of his life.