July 27th - five days ago - was the birthday of two very important musicians: Enrique Granados and Ernst von Dohnanyi. Forgive me for not writing this article five days ago, but as they say, ”the best laid plans of mice and men go oft awry.”
Enrique Granados (1867 - 1916) was a Spanish composer who was known for his Spanish composition styles and his predilection for the paintings of Francisco de Goya, the famed Spanish painter. In the past, I have played (or attempted to play) various movements of Goyescas, one of Granados’ piano suites. The piece is named for Goya, and modeled after some of his paintings. The first movement of Goyescas, called Los Requiebros, and the third movement, called El Fandango de Candil, are two of my favorite compositions of all time. They are both ripe with the traditional sounds of Spain. And yet, to play either of these movements requires a level of skill that I do not have. If I had to recommend a recording of Goyescas, I would recommend that of Alicia de Larrocha. In fact, whenever looking for a recording of any Spanish piece of music, look for the name of Alicia de Larrocha; she is perhaps the best performer of Spanish piano music alive today. However, back to Granados. Granados is also known for the story of his remarkable death… I personally did not believe the story until I visited his site on Wikipedia and found that it was true! Here is Wikipedia’s account of Granados’ death:
“In 1911 Granados premiered his suite for piano Goyescas, which became his most famous work… Such was the success of this work that he was encouraged to expand it; he wrote an opera based on the subject in 1914, but unfortunately the outbreak of World War I forced the European premiere to be canceled. It was performed for the first time in New York City on January 28, 1916, and was very well received. Shortly afterward he was invited to perform a piano recital for President Woodrow Wilson… Unfortunately the delay incurred by accepting the recital invitation caused him to miss his boat back to Spain. Instead, he took a ship to England, where he boarded the passenger ferry Sussex for Dieppe, France. On the way across the English Channel, the Sussex was torpedoed by a German U-boat, as part of the German unrestricted submarine warfare policy during World War I. In a failed attempt to save his wife Amparo, whom he saw flailing in the water some distance away, Granados jumped out of his lifeboat, and drowned. Ironically, he had a morbid fear of water for his entire life, and he was returning from his first-ever series of ocean voyages.”
The second musical birthday of July 27 was that of Ernst von Dohnanyi, also known as Dohnanyi Ernő (1877 - 1960). Dohnanyi created numerous operatic, choral, orchestral, chamber, and piano compositions. Yet, I must admit that I am not extensively familiar with the music of Dohnanyi. In fact, I am most familiar with his book of exercises, which I must admit, is one of the best collections of finger exercises for the advanced player. It is fashioned mostly around chords and arpeggiations of chords, as opposed to Hanon exercises, which are fashioned mostly around different scales.
Happy belated birthday to both Granados and Dohnanyi, two great men who have left their marks on the epic staves of musical history!Tags: album, baroque, best classical music, cd, classical, classical music, classical music cds, classical music composer, classical music Mozart, classical music online, classical piano music, composers, concert, dohnanyi, dohnanyi erno, enrique granados, ernst von dohnanyi, granados, instrument, met opera, metropolitan opera, music, opera, opera house, opera singers, piano, reviews