- Enrique Granados: Poet of the Piano
Following his groundbreaking study of Isaac Albéniz (Isaac Albéniz: Portrait of a Romantic (Oxford, 1999)), Walter Aaron Clark has turned his attention to another of the key figures of Spanish musical nationalism. Enrique Granados: Poet of the Piano constitutes the first major critical monograph on a composer who has attracted relatively little attention in the musical scholarship of the English-speaking world. While the title may suggest an emphasis on the pianism of Granados, this is only one of the dimensions explored. Clark presents us with a multifaceted appreciation of Granados that combines biographical and analytical approaches, as well as deftly incorporating cultural history and critical reception of the works into the narrative. He does so in a beautifully presented book that is meticulously documented (including a genealogy of the composer and a revised list of works) and includes a generous number of photographs, illustrations, and musical examples. Commentary is also included on some lost Granados scores that have been unearthed by Clark and Douglas Riva.
Clark situates Granados within the panorama of fin de siècle debates on Spanish identity that became particularly pronounced in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War in 1898. One of the defining features of this volume is its use of interpretative strategies that seek to frame Granados’s aesthetic outlook and music in relation to competing constructions of regional and national identity, ranging from the Catalan Renaixença to Madrid-based Casticismo and a variety of Castilian ideals held by members of the so-called Generation of 1898. Clark presents a lucid exposition of these movements for a non-Hispanic audience, in contrast to the facile presentations of Spanish identity that still permeate some discussions of Hispanic music.
The stage is set with a discussion of nineteenth-century Catalan identity and the cultural renaissance in Barcelona. Clark [End Page 270] rightly argues that this background is vital to an understanding of the various facets of Granados’s production: in particular, as an introduction to Granados’s lesser-known Catalan stage works, which set texts by one of the leading figures of Catalan modernisme, Apeles Mestres. Written in the first decade of the twentieth century, these works include the operas Petrarca and Follet, and are characterised by the moderniste fascination with nature, medieval settings, and aspects of Wagnerian music drama. Despite the occasional recourse to Catalan folksong, they eschew the typical musical markers of Spanishness that had been disseminated primarily through exotic dancers in the nineteenth century. In this chapter, Clark acknowledges his debt to the pioneering work of Mark Larrad in exploring this relatively unknown part of Granados’s output.
Barcelona was also the main focus of Granados’s activities, and Clark traces his involvement with its institutions and the networks of Catalan bourgeois patronage through his activities as a pianist, teacher, conductor, and organizer. Perhaps on a par with his compositional activities, Granados’s legacy in Barcelona rested as much on his establishment of the Acadèmia Granados (in 1901), his involvement with musical institutions such as the Orfeó Català—the vanguard choral association of the Catalan Renaixença—and the founding of orchestras and chamber music series. There is a fascinating discussion of Granados as pedagogue and the training regime instituted at his academy, which offered a ‘complete musical education’. Former pupils of the Academy include the soprano Conxita Badia and Alicia de Larrocha, who provides a foreword to the volume.
Needless to say, Clark does not neglect the pianism and keyboard compositions of Granados. There is lucid commentary on the composer’s best-known and most extensive piano works, which ranges from discussion of questions of conception to influence, folk models, and analysis of passages of the music. In this regard he builds on the earlier descriptive analysis of Granados’s piano music by such scholars as Linton Powell and Antonio Iglesias. We are also provided with insights into the nature of Granados’s performance style and his gift for...