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Enrique GRANADOS (1867-1916)
Goyescas (1911) arranged for three guitars, by Christophe Dejour.
Los requiebros [9:40]
Coloquio en la reja [11:28]
El fandango de candil [7:07]
Quejas o la maja y el ruiseñor [6:17]
El amor y la muerte [13:11]
Epílogo: Serenata del espectro [8:13]
El Pelele (Escena goyesca) (1914) [5:49]
Trio Campanella: Christophe Dejour, Frank Massa, Thomas Winthereik (guitars)
rec. December 2005, April 2006, Torpen Chapel, Denmark.
NAXOS 8.557709 [61:47]

The work of Granados as both composer and concert pianist was cut short in 1916. He and his wife had crossed the Atlantic from America to Britain and missed their berths on a ship that would have taken them directly to Spain. This because of a recital at the White House, given at the special request of President Woodrow Wilson. In any event he and his wife took ship for Dieppe on the Sussex and that ship was torpedoed by a German submarine in the Channel. Granados initially clambered aboard a life-raft, but seeing his wife still struggling in the sea he dived in to try to save her and both were drowned. Purely in terms of music the loss was considerable. The work that Granados wrote in the years immediately preceding the war had a new maturity and gave promise of much more fine work.
The six pieces which make up the suite Goyescas are quintessential Granados. They have his slightly aristocratic air of distance, for all the rhetoric of romantic emotion. This is due in part to the composer’s own personality. As for the rest they are musical evocations of works of art, images by Goya, so that they are twice removed, as it were, from the flesh and blood of their subjects. I don’t say this with any intention to criticise negatively, merely to establish the character of the music. There is, by design, a retrospective cast to these pieces, as to much of his music. ‘His’ Spain was not so much the one he actually lived in, but the vanished Madrid of Goya, of the majos and majas, the stylish and handsome denizens of the artistic world of Madrid in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Granados had a great love of Goya’s work – though, interestingly, he shows no sign of responding to the crueller, more bitter side of that great artist’s representation of the Madrid of his time. So much did he love Goya’s work that Granados even made some drawings in the style of the great master, some of which are reproduced in José Subira’s Enrique Granados, published in Madrid in 1926.
So far as I am aware, Granados never wrote for the guitar. Discussing the Goyescas soon after their publication, Ernest Newman wrote in The Musical Times in 1917 that “above all the music is a gorgeous treat for the fingers, as all music that is the perfection of writing for its particular instrument is. It is difficult, but so beautifully laid out that it is always playable: one has the voluptuous sense of passing the figures through masses of richly coloured jewels … It is pianoforte music of the purest kind.” That sounds like a pretty good argument against any attempt to transcribe it for any other instrument(s). But it is worth noting that Granados’s score more than once – for example in the Coloquio en la reja (Lovers’ Dialogue at the Window) – requests that the player imitates the sound of the guitar. And several of the pieces make use of older materials, such as Blas de Laserna’s ‘Tirana del Trípili’ in Los requiebros (Flattery) which were often played on the guitar, or explore genres associated with the guitar, such as the fandango in El fandango de candil (Fandango by Candlelight) or the serenade in Epílogo: Serenata del espectro (Epilogue: The Spectre’s Serenade).
Without rehearsing either the larger arguments for and against transcription, or the issues raised by this particular transcription, let it suffice to say that the outcome is delightful and that much of the resultant music is quite lovely. The piano original holds Granados’s indebtedness to the classical keyboard tradition in a delicate balance with his borrowings from the specifically Spanish traditions. This arrangement tips the balance very much in favour of the Spanish sound-world. In one sense, of course, that is a loss and involves a certain simplification of the original’s complex nature and effect. One wouldn’t, certainly, want to know the Goyescas only through this transcription for three guitars; but for those familiar with the keyboard original – perhaps in Alicia de Larrocha’s classic recording, recently re-released on EMI Classics (3615142), or Douglas Riva’s very acceptable version on Naxos (8.554403) – will surely appreciate the fresh perspective offered in Christophe Dejour’s excellent transcription. The playing is exemplary and the recorded sound is eminently clear.
Naxos cannot be accused of neglecting the piano music of Granados, given the several volumes of the survey of his keyboard works played by Douglas Riva which they have already issued (see below). Here they pay another tribute to Granados, one which throws a refreshing, clarifying new light upon his finest work for piano.
Glyn Pursglove


Reviews of some of the Granados Naxos piano recordings
8.554628 - Volume 3 8.554629 - Volume 4 8.555325 - Volume 5
8.555723 - Volume 6 8.557141 - Volume 7 8.557142 - Volume 8

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