Canciones amatorias

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

Enrique Granados received most of his musical training in Barcelona, though 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 winning 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, though Granados was picked up by a lifeboat, he jumped into the water to save his wife 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, though 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 mía.”

“Descúbrase el pensamiento” (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 lloréis, 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 mía” (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


Texts and Translations

Canciones amatorios

Descúbrase el pensamiento
Descúbrase el pensamiento
de mi secreto cuidado,
pues descubren mis dolores,
mi vivir apasionado.
No es de agora mi pasión,
días ha que soy penado:
una señora a quien sirvo,
mi servir tiene olvidado.

Su beldad me hizo suyo,
el su gesto tan pulido
en mi alma está esmaltado.
¡Ah! ¡Ay de mí!
Que la miré, para vivir lastimado,
para llorar y plañir
glorias del tiempo pasado.
¡Ah! Mi servir tiene olvidado.

Love Songs

Discover the Thought
Discover the thought
of my secret care,
and reveal my anguish,
my passionate life.
My passion is not new;
I’ve been punished for days.
A lady whom I serve
has forgotten my service.

Her beauty made me hers,
her gesture so polished
is engraved in my soul.
Ah! Woe is me!
who gazed on her, only to live hurt,
to weep and lament
glories of times gone by.
Ah! She has forgotten my service.

Mañanica era

Mañanica era, mañana
de San Juan se decía al fin,
cuando aquella diosa Venus
dentro de un fresco jardín
tomando estaba la fresca
a la sombra de un jazmín:
Cabellos en su cabeza,
parecía un serafín.
sus mejillas y sus labios
como color de rubí,
y el objeto de su cara
figuraba un querubín.
Allí de flores floridas,
hacía un rico cojín,
de rosas una guirnalda
para el que venía a morir
¡ah! lealmente por amores
sin a nadie descubrir.

It Was Daybreak

It was daybreak, the morning
of St. John dawned at last,
when that goddess Venus
in a cool garden
taking the cool air
in the shade of jasmine;
with the hair on her head,
she resembled a seraph.
Her cheeks and her lips
were the color of ruby,
and the expression of her face
was that of a cherub.
There of blooming flowers,
she made a rich cushion,
a garland of roses
for the one who came to die
Ah! Loyally for a love
without anyone discovering.

No lloréis, ojuelos

No lloréis, ojuelos,
porque no es razón
que llore de celos
quien mata de amor.

Quien puede matar
no intente morir,
si hace con reír
más que con llorar.

No lloréis, ojuelos . . .
—Lope Félix de Vega Carpio (1562–1635)

Don’t Cry, Little Eyes

Don’t cry, little eyes,
for it is not right
to cry with jealousy
if you kill with love.

She who can kill
should not try to die,
if she can do more with laughing
than with crying.

Don’t cry, little eyes . . .

Llorad, corazón

Lloraba la niña
(y tenía razón)
la prolija ausencia
de su ingrato amor.
Dejóla tan niña
que apenas creo yó
que tenía los años
que ha que la dejó.
Llorando la ausencia
del galán traidor,
la halla la Luna
y la deja el Sol,
añadiendo siempre
pasión a pasión,
memoria a memoria,
dolor a dolor.
¡Llorad, corazón,
que tenéis razón!
— Luis de Góngora y Argote

Weep, Heart

The girl was lamenting
(and she had reason)
the long absence
of her ungrateful lover.
He left her so young
that I think it’s been just
as many years
as her age since he left her.
Weeping over the absence
of her faithless lover,
she is met by the Moon
and left by the Sun,
always adding
passion to passion,
memory to memory,
anguish to anguish.
Weep, heart,
for you have reason.

Gracia mía

Gracia mía, juro a Dios
Que sois tan bella criatura,
que a perderse la hermosura,
se tiene de hallar en vos.

Fuera bienaventurada
en perderse en vos mi vida,
porque viniera perdida
para salir más ganada.

¡Ah! Seréis hermosuras dos
en una sola figura;
que a perderse la hermosura,
se tiene de hallar en vos.

En vuestros verdes ojuelos
nos mostráis vuestro valor,
que son causa del amor,
y las pestañas son cielos,
nacieron por bien de nos.

Gracia mía, juro a Dios . . .

My Graceful One

My graceful one, I swear to God
that you are such a beautiful creature,
that if beauty were lost,
it would be found in you.

My life would be blessed
to be lost in you,
because I would be lost
in order to gain more.

Ah! You would be two beauties
in a single figure,
for if beauty were lost
it would be found in you.

In your little green eyes
you show us your value,
which are the cause of love,
and your eyelashes are heavens
born for our sake.

My graceful one, I swear to God . . .