Unlike de Falla (whom he influenced), Granados wished to compose essentially as an inheritor of the Spanish tradition. Born in Lleida, Catalonia, and taught in Paris by Felipe Pedrell who shared his nationalist dedication, his first success was at the end of the 1890s, with the zarzuela ‘Maria del Carmen’, which at a time when royal patronage mattered, earned the approval of King Alfonso XIII.
In 1911 he gave the first performance of his suite for piano Goyescas, which became his most famous work and which I am listening to as I write (Alicia de Larrocha’s recording). Granados was a painter as well as a musician, and this set of six pieces are based on the paintings of Goya, an artist whom he greatly admired. The work was a great success and, encouraged to expand it, in 1914, he wrote an opera based on the subject.
The outbreak of World Wall forced the opera’s European premiere to be canceled but it was performed for the first time in New York two years later. Whilst in the U.
S.A. he was asked to perform before President Woodrow Wilson which caused him to miss his passage back to Spain. Instead, he took a ship to England, and then a ferry to France which was torpedoed by a German submarine. In attempting to save his wife who was in the water, Granados jumped out of the lifeboat and drowned. The tragic irony of his death was that he had a morbid fear of water.
Granados’ music was mainly instrumental although he also composed several zarzuelas, an orchestral tone poem based on Dante’s Divine Comedy, and many songs. Much of his piano music has been transcribed for the classical guitar and was frequently played by Pablo Casals and his successors in the repertoire. Naxos in their Spanish series have produced ten discs of his music, the last of which will be published at the end of February 2008, and contains piano music (as most of the others), but for four hands or two pianos.
The details of the set of recordings can be found on the Naxos website.
As is so often the case of a composer’s early death, one can’t help but wonder at how his career might have developed, but also how much glorious music is lost to us.