top of page


love songs

April 23, 2017: Isabel Leonard, mezzo-soprano; Warren Jones, piano

Enrique Granados received most of his musical training in Barcelona, ​​although he did study in Paris for two years. On his return he began to achieve great acclaim as a pianist, but his intense dislike of travel limited his touring. He founded a concert society in Barcelona in 1900 and a music school, the Academia Granados, the following year. Essentially self-taught as a composer, he began gaining recognition with his colorful Spanish Dances (1892–1911), which were among his first published pieces. He considerably enhanced that reputation with Goyescas (1911), piano pieces inspired by the paintings and etching of Goya.

Tragically, travel was at the heart of his untimely death at age forty-nine. Accompanied by his wife, he had reluctantly made the sea voyage to attend the Metropolitan's premiere of his opera Goyescas in 1916, and had postponed his voyage home in order to play for President Woodrow Wilson. Having missed the ship to Spain, they sailed instead to Liverpool where they boarded the Sussex for Dieppe. The Sussex was torpedoed by a German submarine and, although Granados was picked up by a lifeboat, he jumped into the water to save his wife from him and they both drowned.

Granados published two important song collections: his Tonadillas and his Canciones amatorias, which show opposite sides of his song-writing art, although both are based on love poetry and both are indebted to his fascination with Goya. The Tonadillas , shorter by definition, link directly with the same eighteenth- and nineteenth-century majas and majos of Goya's paintings through the poetry of Fernando Periquet (1873–1940) and feature relatively spare, guitar-like accompaniments. ( Majas and majos were lower-class people of Spanish society distinguished by their elaborate dress and cheeky manners.)

The Canciones amatorias , settings of Renaissance texts, boast longer, imaginatively spun-out melodies and more elaborate accompaniments. They have been somewhat overshadowed by the overt link of the Tonadillas to Goya and to popular Spanish song, but the Canciones amatorios show a distinct affinity with Granados's Goyescas , the piano pieces that brought him so much recognition outside of Spain, and they get to the heart of his expressive capabilities—still incorporating folk idioms but in a highly personal style. The Canciones amatorios received their first performance in Barcelona on April 5, 1915, at the debut of soprano Conchita Badía, accompanied by the composer who dedicated two of the songs to her, “Llorad, corazón” and “Gracia mia.”

“Discover the thought ,” like many of the songs in this collection, is striking for its harmonic adventurousness. The song's anonymous poet, in the tradition of courtly love, pines for a woman above his social status. Granados provides “Mañanica era” (It was daybreak) with a delicate setting, befitting its images of blooms and seraphs. He gently shifts to a melancholy expressiveness toward the end for the lover who comes to die.

Characteristic “strumming” permeates the accompaniment of “No lloráis, ojuelos” (Don't cry, little eyes), whose melodic lines Granados embellishes gracefully. The middle section provides harmonic interest, and the return to the opening text receives a soaring variation. Granados enhances the bittersweet melancholy of “Llorad, corazón” (Weep, heart) with winding chromaticism. He also creates a special effect with the gently rising leaps in the first section. Today's selections conclude with the delightfully ornamented and flowing “Gracia mia” (My graceful one). Spanish rhythms, mixed meters, triplet embellishments, and mercurial shifts between major and minor provide native color—all with Granados's inspired personal stamp.

© Jane Vial Jaffe

bottom of page