Room 87--Tears and laughter

Enrique Granados (1867-1916) was a formidable Spanish pianist. He first studied keyboard in his native country with Pujol. He went on to Paris to study composition with Charles Auguste de Beriot who was a great violinist who had been married to the illustrious soprano Maria Malibran. His piano music reflects closely the folk idioms of Spanish music, and it is extremely virtuosic.

One of his greatest piano works is entitled Goyescas, and it reflects the paintings of Spanish painter Francisco Goya. He went on to create an opera with the same title and it was premiered by the Metropolitan Opera in New York on January 24, 1916. That was when a series of unfortunate incidents began.

He was delayed from leaving New York because he was invited to give a recital for President Woodrow Wilson. In addition he also stayed long enough to punch a few player piano rolls for the New York-based Aeolian Company. He had missed his boat to Spain and instead came back by way of England. While taking the passenger ferry, the Sussex to France, the boat was torpedoed by a German U-boat, and Granados drowned while trying to save his wife Amparo who was struggling against the waters of the English Channel.

In a few moments we will hear an instrumental excerpt from Goyescas, but let’s think about the lighter side of things for a few moments. The performance we will hear features one of the greatest American cellists of the last 30 years, Lynn Harrell.
In the late 1990s we had an opportunity to talk with him and asked what was the most humorous thing that had ever happened to him during a concert. He related a story about having to play the Dvorak cello concerto one summer with an orchestra in Alabama. It was a warm day and at the afternoon rehearsal, Harrell felt that the podium and chair on which he was sitting was a little shabby. He talked to the stage manager of the hall, who promised him that something would be done about it. That night when Harrell emerged on the stage, he found a shiny new black podium and chair before the orchestra. He sat down and played the concerto, and as he put it, “You tend to break a sweat while playing that piece. It was after he finished that he knew something was amiss. It turned out that the podium and chair were freshly painted and not quite dry. When he stood to take a bow, the entire seat of his pants was torn out and stuck to the chair. He said, “After that, I had to hold the cello behind me as I made my exit.

Now you will be able to hear him play the Intermezzo from Goyescas by Granados. Listen!

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