Michael McCooe – Composer: Granados

Enrique Granados Campiña (27th July 1867 – 24th March 1916) was a Spanish pianist and composer of classical music. His unique style of Spanish music is closely linked to representations of musical nationalism.

Early life

Granados was born in Lleida and his father was a former Spanish army captain. He studied piano in Barcelona after finishing his education, before moving to Paris at the age of 20 to continue his studies.

He missed out on becoming a student at the Paris Conservatoire but took private lessons and learned various musical skills before returning to Barcelona in 1889. His first successes were at the end of the 1890s with the opera Maria del Carmen, which attracted the attention of King Alfonso XIII.

Establishment of Granados

By 1911, Granados premiered his suite for piano Goyescas, which would become his most famous works. It is a set of six pieces, based on paintings of Francisco Goya, which proved so successful that he was asked to expand the works.

He wrote a further opera on the subject in 1914, but the outbreak of the First World War postponed its release for two years. It was performed in 1916 in New York, which led to him being invited to perform for then President Woodrow Wilson.  Granados also made live-recordings on the piano in New York before he left, all of which survive today and can be heard – including his very last recordings.

Later life

His recital for the President meant he missed his boat back to Spain, and he instead took a ship to England before boarding a ferry to France. On the way across the English Channel, his boat was torpedoed by a German U-boat, splitting it in two. He jumped out of his lifeboat in an attempt to save his wife, mparo, and the two sadly drowned.

The side of the boat where his cabin and his six children were did not sink and was towed safely to shore. Ironically almost all of the passengers from that side of the ship survived aside from Granados and his wife.

Granados’ compositions for piano, chamber music and violin have been popular in the century since his death, and many have been transcribed for the classical guitar in Spanish culture. It is believed that he had a large impact on Manuel de Falla, as well as various other Spanish composers in later generations.

You can listen to some of my favourite classical pieces on my Michael McCooe SoundCloud profile, which is updated regularly.