• Los requiebros
  • Coloquio en la reja 
  • El fandango de candil
  • Quejas, o La Maja y el ruiseñor
  • El Amor y la muerte (Balada)
  • Epilogo: Serenata del espectro 


Early years

Enrique Granados was born in Lleida on July 27, 1867 to Calixto Granados and Enriqueta Campiña. His father was an army captain of Cuban descent and, shortly after Enrique was born, was nominated to be military governor of Santa Cruz de Tenerife in the Canary Islands. The first environment of the future maestro (as he would recall many years later) was a little garden of orange and lemon trees that he could see and whose flowers he could smell from the window of his house. He liked to say of those first years that it was like living in paradise itself.

In 1874, when Enrique was only seven years old, his father suffered a fall from his horse during a cavalcade, and as a consequence the family had to move to Barcelona. His parents noticed that their boy reacted in a special way when he heard music and enjoyed it more than usual for a youth. One of Enrique’s father’s friends offered to give him his first music theory lessons. The boy progressed rapidly, and soon it was obvious the family needed to move closer to a piano teacher to develop the young Granados’ innate musical ability. He then enrolled in the Escolonia de la Mercé, where Francesc Xavier Jurnet taught. After a very short while, Jurnet was confounded by the advances his pupil had made under his tutelage, during which he had taught Granados absolutely everything he knew.

Perhaps the recent death of his father (which affected him in deeply) awakened in him a sense of responsibility – he was now one of the heads of a large family – and stimulated him to give all that he could of himself. He would study up to ten hours a day, with his mother at his side, reviewing over and over again all the piano pieces that Jurnet had been able to teach him. He also often performed for his friends and acquaintances who visited him in order to hear the “child prodigy,” as a young pianist named Picó (who attended these private concerts assiduously) had nicknamed Granados. It was Picó who spoke to Enrique’s mother of the qualities that he saw in young Granados and who made her see the great necessity of going to visit Pujol, the master.

The Pujol Academy

At that time, Joan Baptista Pujol was considered the best piano instructor in Barcelona. His pupils included Albéniz, Malats, and Vidiella who would develop a profound friendship and mutual admiration with Granados. The “Pujol Academy” was the forge of Catalan pianists, and there Granados and his mother presented themselves to see the director who asked Granados to play, following which Pujol immediately agreed to take him under his wing.

Granados studied assiduously, with a keenness and innate ability that did not pass unnoticed by his teacher. The master immediately thought about presenting his most advanced student in one of the competitions for young pianists held by the academy – one of those rights of passage for young prodigies. He told his pupil to learn Schumann’s Sonata in G minor, to which Granados dedicated himself heart and soul. It was 1882, and Granados was fifteen years old when he took part. As expected, Granados was awarded first prize and as he would say years later — that Schumann sonata was the first “decent” work that he had ever played.

Working to Survive

In order to help his family, Granados found a position as pianist in the “Café de las delícies” (later the Golden Lion), entertaining patrons with music, quite fashionable in elegant locales around Barcelona. He earned 100 pesetas per month which went to supporting the ten siblings and cousins under his mother’s care. Granados also worked for the Café Filipion on Carrer Hospital, where he would accompany patrons spontaneously singing or playing various instruments.

Later on, Granados gave music lessons to the children of Eduard Conde, owner of the El Siglo department stores, thanks to the intervention both of his sister Zoe and the Schumann Sonata in G minor, which he played to prove himself to Sr. Conde; needless to say, the businessman was impressed by the young master’s genius. 

Meanwhile Granados wrote his first compositions. His famous Twelve Spanish Dances date from 1883 — a fact Granados liked to emphasise years later when they finally became known to the public. That same year was one of transcendental importance for Granados’ career as a composer; he deepened his musical knowledge under Felip Pedrell, the most important contemporary musicologist and pedagogue in Catalonia. 

The Parisian Years

Sr. Conde was a megalomaniac who recognised the value of Granados from the very first, self-proclaiming his unconditional patronage. It was decided that he needed to spend some time in Paris, to be at the heart of all musical innovation. Conde took it upon himself to take Granados. At the same time in the French capital was Ricard Viñes, the great pianist and former classmate of Granados at the Pujol Academy, also from Lleida. They shared rooms for a large part of their stay at the Hotel of Cologne and Spain. Thanks to Viñes we know many anecdotes from that era. Another inseparable companion was Malats, and they all studied under Charles de Bériot with fanaticism. Those times in Paris were the happiest of the three young men’s lives.

Conservatory students auditioned at the Salle Erard, and there Granados and Viñes played together publicly for the first time — piano duets, along with music by Chopin, Schumann, Grieg, and Bizet. Despite having to study many hours a day, they also frequented the Concerts Lamoreux and the Comédie Française, and pedalled throughout Paris on a rented tricycle.

Granados was also an aficionado of painting, and on weekends he dined at the house of Francesc Miralles, already a dear friend and childhood neighbour from La Rambla de Catalunya, where he snooped around the paintings and easels. Later on in life, these lazy afternoons would serve as ideas for some his musical sketches.

By July 1889 Granados had learned all that he needed to know musically to be able to complete his development into a composer of great breadth who would come to be known by a wide public. Upon his return to Barcelona, Granados was already equally a great pianist and a great composer.

The Granados-Gal Family

As a professional, Granados gave a concert at the Teatro Lírico on April 19, 1890, the first in an important series of recitals that made him known in Barcelona. He then embarked on a tour of several Catalan towns, as well as Madrid. But soon a special event came into his life: Empar Gal  Llobera, the daughter of a minor industrialist. Granados lost no time, and in June 1893 the two married in the Església de la Mercè in Barcelona. The following July, their first child was born, whom they named Eduard in honour of Granados’ benefactor, Sr. Conde. Later came more: Solita, Enric, Víctor, Natàlia, and Paquito — the last born in 1901 — a family whom Granados loved deeply.

Granados’ close friends were the families of Conde, Miró, Pi i Sunyer, and Andreu, who were his second greatest patrons. The daughters of this latter — Carme, Madronita, and Paquita — were gifted piano students. During this time he worked on the opera Maria del Carmen (premiered in Madrid 1898), the Serenade for Two Violins, a Trio for Violin, Cello, and Piano, Carta d’amor (Love Letter, dedicated to Empar), and the suite Poetic Waltzes, dedicated to Joaquim Malats. 

In order to create his most popular work of this period, the piano suite Goyescas, he first looked back at pieces inspired by Goya and his era. In light of the suite’s universal success, his friend Ernest Schelling suggested that Granados write an operatic version, not completed until 1913, when the master was at the highest peak of his fame. For a long time, Granados lived a family life and composed – spending less of his time giving concerts.

He returned again to the public in November 1895, when he played Albéniz’ Spanish Rhapsody at a particularly regionalist concert, more than memorable for the huge number of notable personalities who attended. Among them were Albéniz, Nicolau, and Morera. Granados confirmed himself as a master. Between 1896 and 1897 he performed sonatas with the Belgian violinist Mathieu Crickboom and became part of his quartet; Granados and Casals were the first virtuosos invited to join.

In 1899, Granados founded the Society of Classical Concerts. The intense activity set him back for a season and prevented him from completing qualification exams for a professorship at the Madrid Conservatory.

Granados as Teacher


In 1901, Granados created the Granados Academy, first on Carrer Fontanella and later on the corner of Carrers Girona and Casp. This event displeased Crickboom, since Granados began to spend more time teaching than in collaboration with the quartet. The school’s philosophies included paying attention from the very first day to the position of the arm, the wrist, and the fingers; giving special consideration to use of the pedal (which  resulted in “A Practical Theoretical Method for the Use of the Piano Pedals”). Granados made his disciples repeat Bériot’s Exercises for Five Fingers ad nauseam, since he considered them an ideal warm-up; he himself said that he always practiced them before playing.

A very sensible man, he taught patiently, trying not to antagonise his students. More than once, in the middle of a lesson, Granados begged a student to excuse him while he jotted down an idea or a passage that in that very moment had popped into his head, or even while he played a passage himself. These interruptions soon became widely known, even internationally, where Granados was highly esteemed as a teacher. Henri Collet in Les Maitres de la Musique had this to say: “The dual talent of Granados to teach both virtuosity and composition grew larger and larger and developed in such a way that it became the crowning feature of a truly international reputation.” A number of artists graduated from his Academy, including Mercè Moner, Anna March, Paquita Madriguera (who later married Andrés Segovia), Ferran Via, Franck Marshall, Juli Pons, Baltasar Samper, Ricard Vives, Josep and Empar Iturbi and Josep Caminals.

Even with the premature death of Granados in 1916, the Academy neither closed nor slowed down. Granados’ son, Eduard, headed the school for only three years before he succumbed to typhoid fever at the age of 34. Franck Marshall successfully assumed the role of director, and at that time it came to be known as the Marshall Academy, teaching Alicia de Larrocha, Rosa Sabater, María Vilardell, Carlota Garriga, Joan Torra, and many others. Later known as the Granados School it can be said that – together with Isaac Albéniz – Granados was the founder of the modern Catalan school of piano.


                                                           Alicia de Larrocha

The Fullness of Life

The musical activity of Granados coincided with the triumph of Catalan modernisme. His refined harmony was at the service of a romantic aesthetic influenced by Schumann and Liszt, impregnated with an aristocratic air and a smooth, unbridled elegance. As an interpreter he was restrained, without arrogance or affectation, with a classic posture and the head erect. His personal sensibilities translated to his behaviour at the piano. 

On April 1, 1911, Goyescas was performed to great acclaim at the Salle Pleyel in Paris. Mr. Pleyel asked Granados to repeat the recital four days later, again with great success. Enchanted, he gave him the grand piano on which he had played, today to be found at the Generalitat de Catalunya — Centre for Musical Documentation.

From that moment Goyescas attracted special attention in musical circles. Joaquim Malats, Alfred Cortot, Edouard Risler, and other artists mentioned it in their correspondence. In a letter to Joaquim Malats, Granados declared: “Goyescas is the reward for all my efforts and they say that I have arrived. In Goyescas, I have found my whole personality; I fell in love with the psychology of Goya and his palette; his lovers’ quarrels, his loves, his flirtations. That pale blush on his cheeks, contrasting with the blondes and the black velvet with elegant clasps… those trembling, corseted bodies, mother-of-pearl and crimson hands folded over jet black; they have transformed me, Joaquín. At last you will see if my music evokes its colour.”

Ernest Schelling suggested that he stage the work and Granados accepted and orchestrated it immediately. At the same time, he asked Fernando Periquet – his former collaborator on the Tonadillas – to write the libretto.

Completed by the end of 1913, the work  was set to premiere at the Paris Opera House in early 1915, as director M. Jacques Roucher confirmed in a letter dated June 22, 1914. The wheels were in motion for what would have been Granados’ international baptism.

The Premiere of Goyescas, the Great War and Its Consequences

The European war broke out the same year, causing enormous repercussions, including those for the debut of Goyescas, which could no longer be in Paris as planned. Schelling moved quickly and searched for the opportune moment and the right people, as he himself had a vested interest in the work’s success. As a result the Metropolitan Opera House in New York included the work in its 1915-1916 season. 

Finally, Granados and Empar weighed anchor from Barcelona in November 1915 on the SS Montevideo; the guitarist Miguel Llovet was sailing on the same vessel, which allowed them to make the crossing slightly more entertaining by sharing stories of Barcelona. They left from Cadiz and on November 30 entered the high seas. In a letter written to his children, he describes the voyage: “we have been at sea for ten days, and it takes fifteen. Some calm hours and the rest never-ending storms. We think we will not see you again. One afternoon, your mother and I held each other and prayed that God guide you…” They arrived in New York on December 15.

Rehearsals began immediately, with Pau Casals conducting as planned. Before the premiere, on January 23, Granados gave a concert with the famous cellist at the Friends of Music Society. He found time to record pianola rolls for the Aeolian company in addition to fulfilling all his social and musical obligations. Having a European artist in North America at that time was quite rare, and he was showered with flattering compliments. A few days before the premiere the impresario realised the worked lacked an interlude. In one night, the composer wrote what would be his last work, and one of his most famous, but it did not satisfy him. He told Casals, “I have written a thing of bad faith, a vulgar thing, a common thing. I’ve created a jota!” Casals’s response calmed him: “Perfect,” he said.“Wasn’t Goya from Aragon?” Joan Alavedra wrote later, “each time that Casals played that interlude, that sad sigh that began the work, it seemed that he was saying ‘good-bye’ to his friend.” 

The long-awaited day of the premiere arrived. Gaetano Bavagnoli conducted the orchestra, Giulio Setti directed the choir, and Antonio Rovescalli oversaw the costumes and decorations. Applause prolonged the night, but the next day part of the criticism was directed at Rovescalli, accusing him of being presumptuous and devaluing the work, which they said was more a symphonic poem than an opera, “with a more or less happy vocal part, adapted from a poor libretto.” Others spoke of “energy, of the poetry, mysterious charm, richness and colour, polyphonic skill …” Finally, Goyescas was performed only five times. Economically, the result was catastrophic, but that did not detract from Granados’ skill as an artist: President Wilson invited him to the White House.

To honour the invitation, Granados and his wife were obliged to change their passage back to Europe. In the rush to see their children, whom they had not seen for three months, they booked passage on two separate vessels: the SS Rotterdam to Falmouth, England, and the SS Sussex from Folkestone to Dieppe, France. On March 7, Granados gave the concert at the White House and later attended a dinner at the Spanish Embassy. There Ambassador Joan Riaño impressed upon Granados the dangers of returning on a British, and therefore belligerent, vessel. Attempts were made to change his tickets, but it was too late, and shortly thereafter, on March 11, the couple departed from New York.

The farewell before boarding was impressive. Many friends and artists were there, among them Schelling, Kreisler, and Paderewski. They presented him with a commemorative silver cup to mark the occasion on which were engraved all their signatures and a passage from Goyescas, with four thousand dollars inside. They arrived in Falmouth on the 19th and visited London. On the 24th, they left from Folkestone. In a tragic twist of fate – or destiny – two hours later, the ship was torpedoed by a German submarine.

According to what can be read in the June 1916 Boletín de información para España y América del Sur, the ship’s clocks stopped at 2:50 p.m., which must have been the time of the catastrophe. The ship was split down the middle, and the prow rapidly sank while the stern stayed erect; it was later towed to shore in Boulogne. About twenty lives were lost, among them Granados and Empar, whose bodies were never found. Joan Alavedra explained that of all the memorials left to Granados, the most emotional one was the one Pau Casals organised at the Metropolitan in New York, where Granados had bid farewell to his public only days before. Performing with him were Kreisler, Paderewski, Maria Barrientos, Julia Culp, and the tenor McCormack. As a farewell, with great respect and with everyone standing, Paderewski played Chopin’s Marche Funèbre, with all the theatre lights extinguished except for a candelabra near the piano. Granados died only a few months before celebrating his 49th birthday. His great friend Albéniz had died only a few years earlier.

Frank Marshall

                                         Frank Marshall