Enrique Granados, born July 27, 1867, in Lérida, Spain, is the pianist and composer who was a leader of the movement toward nationalism in late 19th-century Spanish music.
Granados made his debut as a pianist at 16. He studied composition in Barcelona with Felipe Pedrell, the father of Spanish nationalism in music. He studied piano in Paris in 1887. Returning to Barcelona in 1889, he established himself as a pianist of the front rank, and his 12 Danzas españolas achieved great popularity. The first of his seven operas, María del Carmen, was produced in 1898. In 1900 Granados founded a short-lived classical-concerts society and his own piano school, which produced a number of distinguished players. His interest in the 18th century is reflected in his tonadillas, songs written “in the ancient style.” He wrote extensively and fluently for the piano, in a somewhat diffuse, Romantic style. His masterpieces, the Goyescas (1911–13), are reflections on Francisco de Goya’s paintings and tapestries. They were adapted into an opera that received its premiere in New York City in 1916. Returning home from this performance, Granados drowned when his ship, the Sussex, was torpedoed by a German submarine.
Opera, Blood, and Tears
The Life You Give: Enrique Granados
in celebration of his life in music
July 28 at 7:30pm EST
One of the most colorful turn-of-the-century Spanish musicians, composer and pianist Enrique Granados is best remembered for his evocative solo piano works; his output also includes a great deal of orchestral music and six operas (only the last of which has gained any fame). Born in 1867 to an officer in the Spanish army, Granados received his first musical instruction from an army bandmaster. Further studies in Barcelona with Jurnet (piano) and Pedrell (composition) prepared the young musician for a brief but highly influential stay in Paris (1887-1889), during which Granados worked under well-known Parisian pianist and teacher Charles de Bériot (son of the famous violinist of the same name). Granados’ earliest mature work, the Valses poéticos of 1887, was completed around this time.
After returning to Barcelona in 1890, Granados 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. His first opera, Maria del Carmen, was well received at its premiere in 1898, after which 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 the following year (known as the Granados School, or Academia Granados). The school was a success, and Granados maintained his involvement with it until his death.
Granados was one of the great pianists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Virtually all his music relies heavily on the Catalan and Spanish folk idiom (e.g. Twelve Spanish Pieces, or Six Pieces on Spanish Popular Songs), which, along with fellow Spaniard Isaac Albéniz, Granados was instrumental in bringing to the attention of the contemporary European musical establishment. Goyescas, begun in 1902 but not finished until 1911, is perhaps his mightiest achievement. (Granados also produced an opera by the same name — both the pianistic and operatic incarnations of the work take the striking visuals of Goya as their inspiration.)
In 1916, while returning from the U.S.A. (where the opera Goyescas had received a New York premiere on January 26, 1916, and where Granados had performed in the White House for President Wilson), the liner Sussex was torpedoed by a German U-boat. Among the casualties were Granados and his wife of 24 years.
By Blair Johnston / Source: all music
María del Carmen — opera in three acts
Time: late 19th century
Place: a rural village in the Spanish province of Murcia
Pencho, a peasant farmer, and María are in love. Pencho had wounded the wealthy Javier in a fight over water rights and fled to Algeria. In order to save Pencho’s life when he returns, María nurses Javier back to health, only to find that he has fallen in love with her too. The action of the opera begins with Pencho’s return to the village. To Pencho’s dismay, María tells him that she has agreed to marry Javier in order to save him from prosecution. Pencho protests that his honour cannot allow such a sacrifice. During a village fiesta there is a confrontation between Pencho and Javier and the two agree to fight a duel which becomes the focus of the third act.
As the duel approaches, Maria is distraught. While she still loves Pencho, she feels affection for Javier and does not wish to see him killed. Javier’s father arrives and unsuccessfully tries to persuade Pencho to relinquish his claim on María. Javier appears and the duel is about to begin. However, tragedy is averted with the arrival of the local doctor, Don Fulgencio. He tells Domingo that Javier is already dying of tuberculosis and nothing can be done to save him. Javier then realizes the futility of the duel, reconciles with María and Pencho, and helps them to escape. Source: opera-arias