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Granados "Goyescas"
 


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At age 43 Granados wrote in his diary: 'Finally I have had the good fortune to write something important - Goyescas'. Subtitled Los majos enamorados ('The Majos in Love'), Goyescas was published in two books, the first in 1909-1910 and the second in 1913-1914, along with a separate piece El pelele: Escena goyesca, traditionally considered as apart of Goyescas. The work is possibly unique in that the suite was subsequently transformed by the composer into an opera.

Goyescas, the title meaning Goya-esque or Goya-like, is highly unusual in the complex nature of its inspiration. Through the influence of writer Fernando Periquet, Granados became inspired by the Spanish painter Francisco Goya (1746-1828). Granados drew inspiration from the painter's ability to depict what Granados saw as the essence of the Spanish character. It was the atmosphere, the people and the details of their lives within the context of Goya's Madrid, which spoke to Granados. He explained his fascination in a 1910 letter: '…I fell in love with the psychology of Goya and his palette… that rosy-whiteness of the cheeks contrasted with lace and jet-black velvet, those jasmine-white hands, the colour of mother-of-pearl have dazzled me…'

Goyescas is one of the truly great effusions of Romantic pianism and one of the most important Spanish keyboard works. Goyescas is a cyclical suite unified by thematic material and by its brilliant colour. Its jewel-toned harmonies, violent mood swings, and post-Romantic fervour led the critic Ernest Newman to describe Goyescas as '...the finest piano music of our day... a gorgeous treat for the fingers…' giving the performer and listener alike the '… voluptuous sense of passing the fingers through masses of richly-coloured jewels'. Indeed, the work is a formidable challenge for the performer - its complex passagework and rich texture require a virtuoso level of pianistic technique.

Los requiebros ('Flattery'), inspired by Goya's Capricho, Tal para cual, was written as ajota, a dance-form from Goya's native Aragón. Los requiebro, is a set of variations based on two phrases of an eighteenth century tonadilla, Tirana del Trípili, by Blas de Laserna.

In Coloquio en la reja - Dúo de amor ('Dialogue at the window' - love duet) Granados creates a mood of veiled mystery filled with romantic yearning depicting a lady inside her house speaking with her suitor though the iron window-grill.

El fandango de candil ('Candlelit fandango'), described by the composer as a 'scene to be sung and danced slowly and rhythmically', is suffused with nocturnal revelry.

Quejas, o la maja y el ruiseñor ('Laments or the Maja and the nightingale'), based on a folk-song from Valencia, is one of the most poetic pieces of Spanish piano music. Granados transforms the melody through a series of variations, each more highly perfumed than the previous, culminating in a cadenza imitating the song of a nightingale.

El amor y la muerte - Balada ('Love and death' - ballade), a work of profound richness and dignity, both savage and mysterious, is possibly Granados's greatest individual composition. The title and inspiration are from one of Goya's Caprichos. According to Granados: 'All of the themes of Goyescas are united in El amor y la muerte... intense pain, nostalgic love and the final tragedy - death. The middle section is based on the themes of Quejas o la maja y el ruiseñor and Los requiebros, converting the drama into sweet gentle sorrow...the final chords represent the renunciation of happiness.'

Epílogo: Serenata del espectro ('Epilogue' - The ghost's serenade) is the only piece of the suite not incorporated into the opera. In Serenata del espectro Granados made use of Dies Irae, the Roman Catholic chant for the dead. At the conclusion the score indicates that the 'ghost disappears plucking the strings of his guitar.'

El pelele - Escena goyesca ('The straw man'- scene from Goya), inspired by Goya's painting of the same title, depicts a group of Majas tossing a straw man into the air. This piece served as the opening scene of the opera.

Douglas Riva

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