Thursday, March 24, 2016

Enrique Granados: Centennial Commemoration

NOTE: This is an updated version of an older post.

On this day one hundred years ago (March 24, 1916), the composer Enrique Granados met an untimely, tragic and ironic end when the passenger ferry Sussex, on which he and his wife were traveling, was torpedoed by a German U-boat in the English Channel.

Granados was a virtuoso pianist and composed primarily for that instrument, though a number of his works have been transcribed for the guitar, for which they seem exceptionally well-suited. His Twelve Spanish Dances are particularly delightful, and I especially recommend the 2003 recordings by father and son Celadonio and Angel Romero. The most famous of the twelve is No. 5, Andaluza, though I am especially fond of No. 12, Danza Triste (aka Melancholia), No. 4, Villanesca, and No. 7, Valenciana. (His Ideal Waltz, No. 8 among his Valses Poeticos, has become another favorite of mine.)

At forty-eight years old, his career was just beginning to blossom and his mind brimming over with unrealized musical ideas. In January of 1916, he reluctantly agreed to make a first-ever trans-Atlantic voyage (he was terrified of water) in support of his opera Goyescas, which premiered in New York. It was on the final leg of the return journey back to his beloved Spain that tragedy overtook him. Following the torpedo strike, Granados made his way to a lifeboat, and from there he caught sight of his wife struggling in the water. Despite his acute aquaphobia, he jumped in to try and rescue her. Both drowned, and his body was never recovered. They left behind six children. (To further underscore the irony, the ship had broken in two, and the portion which remained afloat, which included Granados’ own cabin, was later towed to port with the greater number of its passengers still safely aboard.)

Granados was apparently also a painter of some repute, after the fashion of his countryman Francisco Goya, whom he much admired. (He dedicated both an opera, as mentioned above, and a suite of piano compositions to Goya's memory.) I have not, however, been able to find any examples of his work as a visual artist.