Tag Archives: wisdom

Granados Plays Granados

Photo credit: Detail of (The White) Duchess of Alba, Goya, 1795

In a continuing quest for more information about Granados, yours truly found a more complete biographical article.  In addition to a lot more information in general, there are several photographs, and a more complete listing of his compositions.

The Wikipedia reference for Granados lists a number of references at the end, which yours truly looked through.  But having read so much about his pianistic abilities, and habit of composing during actual performances,  it seemed more prudent to try to locate recordings of Granados playing his own music.  Double-checking Amazon, this seemed a possibility.

There are echoes and themes from Granados’ Goyescas in his vocal compositions, or is it vice versa? And referring back to his opinion of the world’s concept of Spanish music, Granados wrote his music without a hint of tambourines or castanets.

To hear Granados, please scroll down this page to the second mp3 example, two photos down.  Their mp3 is embedded on their page, and to copy the file would probably be a copyright infringement.

After listening, dear Possums, you understand why Granados was considered such a virtuoso, composer, and musician, and why yours truly has taken such pains to find the real performer.

Can you hear the very subtle variances in tone, tempo, etc.? Then perhaps you understand why it’s so crucial to get the correct pianola version.

And why it’s taken 30-odd years, the latest technologies, and multiple experts around the globe to pull it all together for you, Dear Readers.

Viva Granados! (y viva el Internet, también)

 

Granados’ Tonadillas: Perquet & Goya

Photo credit: Detail of (The White) Duchess of Alba, Goya, 1795

Dear Readers, you might think the YouTube at the bottom doesn’t have anything to do with Granados.  It does!  And it’s another good bit of advice first seen on Ms. DiDonato’s blog.

Fernando Periquet, librettist
Fernando Periquet was purported to be a so-so journalist, owner of the newspaper El liberal, and self-proclaimed Man Who Knew Everything About Goya.

Curiously, not much is known about Perquet. His intense involvement with the works of the painter Goya is the important thing to know because it affected Granados thusly: Without Periquet we wouldn’t have Granados’ opera, Goyescas, and possibly not these tonadillas.  Certainly not in their present form.  Why not?  Ah! Do your own homework, Possums!  😉

Perhaps one has to be Spanish to understand the tremendous, continuing effect of Goya on Spanish life.  Also to be considered are the politics of Goya’s time, and what was happening simultaneously in France (very close to Spain), and America.

Referring to the previous post on Granados, understand that majo and maja were used in Goya’s time.  Wonder why Granados used them… After all, they don’t appear in Bizet’s opera Carmen… Perhaps because Bizet was French and wrote his “Spanish” music after visiting a French music library to collect a few Spanish folk music themes?

Here’s a quote, purported to be by Granados to the press when he was in New York City for the Metropolitan Opera premier of his opera Goyescas. It should help pull things together:

For you, like so many other people… know nothing about the real musical contributions of Spain.  The musical interpretation of Spain is not found in tawdry boleros and habaneras, in Moszkowski, in Carmen, in anything that has sharp dance rhythms accompanied by tambourines or castanets.  The music of my country is far more complex, more poetic and subtle.”   Enrique Granados, 2006, by Walter A. Clark

Now watch that YouTube video, which perhaps explains why yours truly writes to encourage each Gentle Reader to do their own digging into a subject.    😉

 

Composer Enrique Granados’ “Tonadillas”

Photo credit: Detail of (The White) Duchess of Alba, Goya, 1795

His strangely vivid music pursues you like certain perfumes, more persistent than strong.               Claude Debussy

To begin to understand these songs, one needs to  understand  what the words maja and majo mean, in context as well as definition.

This post isn’t about the techniques of how to sing these seemingly simple songs, or how to read the notes. It’s about understanding them via knowing more about the composer, this interpreting them more accurately.

Thirty years ago there wasn’t much available in English about any Spanish music or composers.  All one could do was go to the notes on the page for inspiration.  But what was found there, and is still being found, makes yours truly feel Granados is as much a genius as Mozart, and yours truly’s delighted to know there’s more than one that thinks so.

Thanks to the Internet, there have been major additions – in English – to aid performers in learning more about Spanish composers. And many Spanish composers that were unknown in America 30 years ago are now more widely performed. Progress has been a good thing.

Enrique Granados

Wikipedia has a fascinating little article about Granados, which referenced am extensive 2006 biography, Enrique Granados: Poet of the Piano, by Walter Aaron Clark.  Yours truly’s local library had a copy in the reserve section, which was immediately looked at.

Wow – what a gem! Notes include, from page 115:

  • His songs embody “majismo
  • They’re intimations of 18th century tonadillas (the era of majos, majas, & Goya)
  • En estilo antigua translates “in the old style” (18th cent.)
  • Spanish tonadillas cannot be compared to German lied
  • Granados didn’t want his tonadillas to be folk songs or lied, but his own particular style

Even more excellent comments are available in the book.  Coming soon are posts on Periquet, and then Goya.

Remember, if in doubt about anything, go to the black notes on the white page. Granados already wrote everything there.

Update 

Discovered are the following articles from The New York Times archives, one previewing and the other reviewing Granados’ opera, Goyescas.  Both are from 1916, only months before Granados died.

 

Interview: Director John Copley

Please take a listen to this 30-minute podcast with mezzo Joyce DiDonato and stage director John Copley.

It’s chock full of amusing anecdotes, historical facts, and their opinions of what makes good music matches yours truly’s.

Also mentioned, amongst others, are Victoria de los Angeles, Maria Jeretza, Beverly Sills, Dame Janet Baker, Monserrat Caballé, Maria Callas, and others.

If you’re a singer and don’t know these names, you need to learn!

All of them have clips on YouTube.

Happy listening!

 

Things to remember when rich & famous

From Miss Manners:

“Nosy people have already proven themselves to be rude, so you should hardly expect them to make tactful remarks. The important thing is to cut them off at the first question. The only explanation necessary is, “That’s personal.”

“But you must also … not [to] fall for two common arguments: that curiosity is natural and that people who don’t disclose personal information must be ashamed of it. Dignified people value their privacy, and being curious is no excuse for demanding that it be satisfied. Under such pressure, they should merely smile and repeat “That’s personal” as often as necessary.”

The complete context is here.

 

Frank Langella on acting & life

Recently, Charlie Rose and Frank Langella discussed, amongst other things, the current Frost/Nixon movie.

Langella works to get to the soul of his character, and playing Nixon for two years on Broadway gave him time to consider what to do in the movie.

Just as singers and other artists, serious actors are always working toward growth in their craft; which means growing their spiritual lives, because that feeds their craft. (As for all artists.)

It was also interested that both men discussed the current stage of their lives. Langella is now far less concerned with anything that doesn’t involve  the core of what one might term his spiritual identity.

He’s trying to learn how to love, both himself and others.  Making a clear distinction between that and lust, Langella told a story about a woman who’s sat with more than 500 dying people.

He asked her what she had learned from her experiences.  She told him that the ones who die peacefully are the ones who are loving – who allow themselves to love and to be loved.

The ones who are bitter are those who are not loving, who stubbornly hold onto their sense of hurt, betrayal, or anger.

Langella mentioned three things a baby wants: food, warmth, and to be held – all basic human needs. Rose agreed, saying he still enjoys all three very much!

Why do some people fight so hard against love? Who knows. There are too many others longing for these nutriments, and life is too fleeting to waste them where they’re refused.

Langella no longer has time for pettiness.  Who does?

 

Feeding One’s Soul, Mae West, & Dudamel

Why is it so difficult to feed one’s soul?  Julia Cameron speaks about this extremely important point at great length and makes it a weekly must in her book, The Artist’s Way.

Stick with your nose to the grindstone and never look up.  Where’s the inspiration in that?, she points out. Sounds more like martyrdom, and it’s self-martyrdom because it’s self-induced.

It’s bad enough the rest of the world constantly throws dirt into whatever art you pursue.  Don’t do it to yourselves!  And for heaven’s sake, get away from anyone who does it to you!  A toxic attitude will block or murder one’s positive impulses.

Consider Mae West.  In her 1935 movie Goin’ to Town, she astounds the viewer by singing the end of Mon coeur s’ouvre a ta voix( from Samson & Dalilah) “in delectable French” with tenor Vladimir Bykoff.  Mae West and opera??

The lady had class.  She had style.  She also knew exactly what she was doing as actor/writer/director/producer on Broadway and Hollywood.

To watch her fingering locks of Samson’s long curly wig while singing is priceless. So are her warmup arpeggios.

Many people feel the arts should and can uplift the human race, as in “music hath charms to sooth the savage breast.”  I think there’s a great deal to be said in that sense.

Did you know that an entire country in South America has embraced classical orchestra training as the way to lift their country’s economy, and they’ve been at it for 30-odd years?   How’s it working out?

60 Minutes did a review lately and thought things were going just swell.  A rising star of the program, Gustavo Dudamel,  just got hired by the L.A. Phil.  He’s a product of that program.

CLASSICAL music, as in strings and harps and stuff?  Yes!  It’s amazing to see the footage of the poverty in South American city slums, then see and hear classical music everywhere in those slums.   It changes the people.

Why?  How?

It lifts people up.  Above where they are.  To a higher level.  It gives them dreams, and discipline to reach them.  Then they’re no longer in the slums.

When mental self-image changes, the physical environment can change, too. Ms. West knew that decades ago.

A Tea Bag’s Tag

Photo credit: Good Earth site

In mathematics you don’t understand things.  You just get used to them.            

Johann von  Neumann (1903-1957)

Some people think music’s the same.

 

 

 

*Good Earth Herbal Tea original decaf

Spontaneity & MLK

  1. SPONTANEOUS, a. [L., of free will.]
  2. Voluntary; acting on its own impulse or will without the incitement of any thing external

Of free will.  No wonder so much stress is placed on it.  In an atmosphere of so many human wills trying to influence and/or control others, to practice true spontaneity is not easy.

All too often, one may doubt their own thoughts – which is exactly what those who want to control them desire.

Think about it.  If you’re busy worrying about whether an impulse is genuine, you’re not doing it.

That’s opportunity lost…

Martin Luther King, Jr. referred to this in a sermon as “the paralysis of analysis.