Recensiones bibliográficas

The full extent of Granados’s genius will remain elusive for some time to come

Barry Ife
viernes, 9 de julio de 2021
Enrique Granados en contexto © 2020 by FIMTE Enrique Granados en contexto © 2020 by FIMTE

Over the past twenty years, Luisa Morales has built FIMTE (Festival Internacional de Música de Tecla Española) into the go-to forum for anyone interested in early (and not-so-early) Spanish keyboard music. Dr Morales is a distinguished harpsichordist and researcher, and in 2000 she set out to make the rich legacy of Spanish keyboard music much better known, and to attract scholars who are interested in the study of Spanish repertoire to her home town of Garrucha (Almería). 

The annual symposia organised by Dr Morales have resulted in six volumes of proceedings, published as FIMTE Studies on Spanish Keyboard Music, an impressive series that has collected together the work of leading international experts, ranging from the dawn of Spanish keyboard music to the national piano school.

 The most recent of these volumes, Enrique Granados en contexto, brings together fifteen papers read at two conferences held to commemorate the centenary of the composer’s tragically early death by drowning in 1916, following enemy action in the English Channel. The first ten papers were given at the 13th International Symposium of Spanish Keyboard Music held in Mojácar in September 2016 and the last five at events organised at the University of Melbourne during Dr Morales’s period in residence as a research fellow from 2015-2017. The international character of these studies, by scholars from several continents, was further underlined in 2017 by the 1st Global Granados Marathon, hosted by FIMTE, in which the complete works for piano were live-streamed over a period of 16 hours by students and professional musicians from around the globe.

Enrique Granados en contexto*is organised into three sections (‘Contexto cultural’, ‘Estilo musical’, and ‘Recepción, recuperación y difusión) but there are many intersections and cross-references between them. The first group of papers focuses on the roots of Granados’s pianism, from the influence of two of his teachers, Felipe Pedrell and Charles Wilfrid de Bériot, to the background provided by the Conservatorio de Madrid, to Granados’s 25-year career as a performer in Barcelona. 

Francesc Cortès (‘De pane lucrando a la agitación cultural: el peso de la ideología de Pedrell sobre Enric Granados’) analyses a wide range of Pedrell’s piano compositions, both published and unpublished, and argues that they demonstrate a much higher degree of French influence than hitherto recognised. But the requirements of the Spanish market obliged Pedrell to adjust his approach, with the result that much of his pianistic output is salon music aimed at an audience with limited technical ability. An interesting series of comparisons between genres favoured by Pedrell and Granados suggests (but does not quite demonstrate) some degree of pianistic influence: much of Pedrell’s music for piano is pretty dire, and it is difficult to see how Granados might have climbed from these low foothills to reach the peak of the piano repertoire. As Cortès implies, and other contributors confirm, Pedrell’s influence was more likely to have been ideological than musical.

Susanne Skyrm’s survey of Bériot’s teaching methods (‘An early Granados mentor: Charles Wilfrid de Bériot’) and Laura de Miguel’s account of Pedro Pérez de Albéniz’s role in the establishment of the piano faculty at the Conservatorio de Madrid (‘Raíces de la escuela española de piano’) both offer valuable insights into Granados’s musical and pedagogical hinterland without making an overwhelming case for direct influence. The result, in a way, is very much to Granados’s credit and makes his achievement as a composer stand out in even greater contrast.

Mutsumi Fukushima’s summary of Granados’s pianistic activity in Barcelona from 1890 to 1915 (‘La actividad pianística de Enrique Granados en el contexto musical de Barcelona’), highlights Granados’s leadership and organisational abilities, especially the founding of the Sociedad de Conciertos Clásicos in 1900, as well as the breadth and variety of the music he performed both as pianist and conductor. The appendix to her paper, which tabulates details of 14 major concerts during this period, gives a vivid impression of concert life in Barcelona at the turn of the twentieth century and the extracts from reviews in the press are eloquent testimony to contemporary appreciation of the passion and delicacy of Granados’s pianism. 

This paper makes an excellent pendant to Carolina Estrada’s expert analysis of his piano roll recordings (‘Granados secrets revealed by his piano rolls’), of which a comprehensive catalogue is given in an appendix. Research into the history of nineteenth- and twentieth-century concert programming and performance practice is still in its infancy but these papers demonstrate its potential to illustrate the complexities of cultural production and reception, and to chart shifts in taste across time and place.

 Luisa Morales herself introduces the second group of papers with a characteristically well researched and convincing account of Granados’s interest in early music in general and the eighteenth century in particular (‘Granados’s majismo and early music in fin-de siècle Barcelona’). She discusses the many opportunities that Granados had to study pre-classical repertoire under the influence of Bériot, Pedrell and Joan Baptista Pujol, and to hear the music of Bach, Handel, Scarlatti and Rameau performed by fellow students including Isaac Albéniz, Joaquim Malats, Ricard Viñes and Carles Vidiella. Granados himself played a great deal of Bach in his recitals, was familiar with the harpsichord, and in his transcriptions of 26 Scarlatti sonatas (1905) showed that he was ‘absolutely aware of the importance of the distinction between Scarlatti’s music and his own musical arrangements, showing a respect to the original source that was uncommon for pianists in those days’ (p. 94). Other important features of Granados’s sound world included the organ, harmonium, square piano and the Piano-Pedalier, an instrument first patented by the Catalan maker Baldomer Cateura in 1895. This upright piano with pedals that imitated the harpsichord and allowed a wide range of other effects gave Granados a much richer palette that, as Dr Morales argues, relates directly to a number of pieces composed for keyboard instruments other than the conventional concert grand piano.

After some agreeably detailed interpretative and textual analysis by Marco Fatichenti (‘”Epílogo” from Goyescas. A study of sources and style’), Xoán Carreira and Josep Rebés contribute an equally well-researched account of Granados’s friendship with Pau Casals. They provide an important appendix with details of the seven chamber pieces (a piano quintet, a cello quintet, a piano trio and four pieces for cello and piano) that Granados composed for and dedicated to Casals, six of which remain unpublished. This is clearly an important resource for string players that should take its place in Granados’s work list without further delay.

Miriam Perandones shifts the emphasis away from the solo piano works with a valuable essay on Granados’s vocal music (‘Sobre el control de la ideología política a través del cuplé: El caso de las Tonadillas de Enrique Granados’). This paper has its counterpart in the final chapter of the volume, by Geraldine Power (‘Raquel Meller: Maja in post-war Paris’), and the two essays can profitably be read together. Both chart the move away from the erotic cuplé to an altogether more respectable, dignified form that reflected both the general mood-shift in Europe caused by the first World War and, more particularly, the search for a more ‘authentic’ historical and cultural identity in Spain led by the Generation of ’98. For Miriam Perandones, this more serious turn in the national psyche finds its expression in Granados’s Tonadillas en estilo antiguo, settings of (sexually much more conservative) verses by Fernando Periquet who also wrote the libretto to the opera Goyescas. The Tonadillas ‘se entendieron como expresión de este ideal castellano y españolista’, the branch of Spanish music that for Granados was ‘la más pura, sin “mancillar” por mezcla alguna’ (p. 152). A detailed account of the early performance and reception of the Tonadillas en estila antiguo, by Lola Membrives in 1913 and Raquel Meller in 1914 makes it clear that these songs were presented and understood not just as exercises in antiquarianism, but a powerful statement of political and moral intent.

Walter Aaron Clark’s essay (‘Spain, the ‘Eternal Maja’: Goya, majismo, and the reinvention of Spanish national identity in Granados’s Goyescas’) represents a pivotal point in this important volume. Music has never figured as prominently in critical accounts of the Generation of ’98 as it should, perhaps because historians in general shy away from researching an art form that lies outside their comfort zone. Yet the aspirations of the writers and philosophers of that group (Unamuno, Ganivet, Azorín) find their most eloquent expression in the work of Albéniz, Granados and Falla. Musicologists, led by the example of Walter Clark, have become more alert to the linkage between politics and musical culture, but historians in the main have yet to exploit the full potential of this relationship. Needless to say, the notion that Castile and Madrid might represent ‘la fuente primigenia [del] esplendor presente y futuro [de España]’ is not a fashionable one in today’s climate; but the way in which Granados drew deeply on the inspiration of Goya to produce one of the great masterpieces of the piano literature demonstrates just how profound was the anxiety that coloured Spanish literature, thought and culture well into the twentieth century. And as Clark points out, there is a great irony in the fact that so many of the proponents of casticismo at the time, like Granados, were not themselves Castilian.

The final section of the book looks more closely at the events of 1916 and beyond. Elizabeth Kertesz (‘Goyescas and the landscapes of Spain in New York’) locates the relatively cool reception for the premiere of the opera Goyescas at the Met in a clash between Granados’s more austere take on the true heart of Spanish culture and the stereotypical view of ‘la España de pandereta’ encapsulated in Bizet’s Carmen

Richard Kagan, «The Spanish Craze». © 2020 by University of Nebraska Press.Richard Kagan, «The Spanish Craze». © 2020 by University of Nebraska Press.

Granados’s visit to the USA coincided with the opening of Cecil B. de Mille’s film of Carmen and a revival at the Met with the film’s star Geraldine Farrar in the title role. Nevertheless, disappointing though the reception of Goyescas may have been, Granados contributed significantly to the ‘Spanish Craze’ that swept the USA, as documented in The Spanish Craze: America's Fascination with the Hispanic World, 1779–1939* a recent book-length study by Richard Kagan

Ken Murray’s account of the repercussions of the tragic death of Granados and his wife (‘The death of Enrique Granados, Anglo-Spanish relations and Spanish music in London’) provides valuable evidence that its impact on English society was significant. High-level protests were registered at the attack on a civilian vessel and steps were taken to provide financial support for Granados’s orphaned children. While hardly a ‘Spanish Craze’ there was nevertheless a marked increase in performances of music by Spanish composers in England in the wake of Granados’s death, a movement that undoubtedly paved the way for the spectacular success of El sombrero de tres picos in London in 1919. 

This break-through in the understanding and appreciation of Spanish music is documented very persuasively by Michael Christoforidis (‘In the wake of Granados: Manuel de Falla’s artistic reorientation (1916-1919)’) who shows how Falla’s artistic journey was profoundly realigned following his engagement with the music of Scarlatti and the renewed interest in ‘las reinterpretaciones de lo goyesco en la música y el arte’ (p. 221). 

Carina Ann-Tara Nandlal’s analysis of Picasso’s drop curtain for the 1919 production (‘Goyesque elements in Pablo Picassos’s curtain and Manuel de Falla’s overture for The Three-cornered Hat (1919)’) is a welcome reminder, if we needed one, of how the convergence of art forms in opera can convey a powerful political and cultural message, in this case ‘a deft critique of two prominent and intersecting contemporary discourses on Spain: the internal resurrection of a romanticised Goya as the hero of a movement, and the prevailing French imagination of Spain as a site of primitivism represented by Bizet’s Carmen’ (p. 232).

In their introductions to Enrique Granados en contexto, the editors all comment on the fact that Granados has traditionally been overshadowed by both Albéniz and Falla in accounts of Spanish music in the early twentieth century. Granados comes across as, perhaps, a less colourful personality, more reticent, more thoughtful, more evolutionary than revolutionary, and even Walter Clark admits that he found Granados more difficult to capture in his biography (Enrique Granados: Poet of the Piano (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005) than had previously been the case with Albéniz. 

But the essays in this volume show how much more there is to learn about Granados, as a composer, performer and musical thinker. Taken together, they add up to a significant re-appraisal of this relatively neglected figure and point the way to further research as the riches of Spanish archives become ever more accessible. Yet, I suspect, the full extent of Granados’s genius will remain elusive for some time to come.


Luisa Morales, Michael Christoforidis and Walter Clark (ed.), «Enrique Granados en contexto. Enrique Granados in Context», Almería: FIMTE, 2020, xxviii+265 pp. ISBN 978-84-09-20632-2

Richard Kagan, «The Spanish Craze: America's Fascination with the Hispanic World, 1779–1939», Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2019, 640 pages, 8 color plates, 50 photographs, 40 illustrations, 2 maps, index. ISBN 978-1-4962-0772-2

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