Enrique Granados

Portrait of composer Enrique Granados seated in armchair

Biography of Enrique Granados

Pantaleón Enrique Joaquín Granados Campiña, known as Enrique Granados, was born in Lerida in Catalonia, Spain on July 27, 1867. His father was part of the Spanish army and served in Cuba. As a child, Granados was often sick, so he spent most of his time at home practicing the piano. He began studying with pianist Juan Bautista Pujol in 1880. In 1886 Granados became a café pianist a piano teacher.

A year later, Granados moved to Paris to further his musical studies. Unfortunately, he couldn’t gain access to the Conservatory because he was sick during the exams. Instead, he studied privately with Charles Wilfrid de Bériot, who influenced his pedals and piano technique.

Granados returned to Spain a couple of years later. He published several pieces and founded the Granados Academy (which became the Frank Marshall Academy after his death). Establishing this school helped him become one of Spain’s most important pedagogues. This academy influenced pianists such as Paquita Madriguera and Alicia de Larrocha, a student of Frank Marshall.

Goyescas, written in 1915, became Granados’s most important work for piano.  Its success gave him the opportunity to compose an opera based on this suite. After the opera premiered in New York, he was invited to the White House to play for President Wilson. This invitation caused him to delay his trip home. Sadly, he and his wife were killed before reaching Spain after their ship was attacked by a German submarine. Enrique and Amparo Granados died on March 24, 1916.

Granados’s Pedagogical Approach

Enrique Granados started his pedagogical career due to economic necessities after the death of his father in 1886. In 1900 he started forming his own school, but what he created was more than just a school. The Granados Academy became the main point of reference and gathering place for musicians, especially pianists in Barcelona. Granados wrote pedagogical works, one about legato, another about ornaments, and, most importantly, methods of pedaling. Only one method about pedaling was published. He also created a series of conferences about music and piano. He gave weekly presentations on his ideas about legato and pedal and Felipe Pedrell presented numerous lectures about Spanish music. Granados was worried about the music education in Spain and sought to address these deficiencies through the offerings at his academy.

Granados’s pedagogy was different from traditional teaching styles. He started by observing his students, then developed an individualized pedagogical curriculum focused on proper technical approaches based on the characteristics of each student. He also worked on artistic and expressive elements from an early stage to ensure that the students had their own expression. According to his student Boladeres Ibern, the main things Granados wanted to teach his students was:

Seal of the Academia Granados Reglamento. Image from the collection of Centro Documental de la Academia Marshall.
Image from the collection of Centro Documental de la Academia Marshall.

“seriousness of purpose in study, with the maximum rigor and permanent dissatisfaction with the result; a view of technique as related to the requirements of each composition and, especially, in relation to the expression necessary; a concept of pianism as more musical than instrumental.”

Guillermo de Boladeres Ibern, Enrique Granados (Editorial Arte y Letras, Barcelona, undated), 97.

Granados advocated for this concept because of his own experience. When he was a student of Joan Baptista Pujol, he was not allowed to have or explore his own personal musical ideas.

Another significant point in his pedagogical method was the study of the pedal from an early age. His most characteristic point was using the sustain pedal on offbeats to get a better sound without destroying the phrase.

Granados revisited his works frequently in order to make new adjustments. Due to economical necessities, he often needed to publish his works prior to polishing them. He formulated pieces by performing the work in public and improvising different versions. Then he passed his new, non-written version to his disciples. He generally did not teach his works to all of his students, only to the more advanced ones. Granados’s way of performing certain works was only transmitted as a “performance tradition.”  Frank Marshall, one of his pupils, was the primary pianist who taught about the correct way of playing Granados. His teachings were later confirmed by the discovery of some recordings of Granados playing his own works.

The Pedal

Granados considered the pedal a fundamental aspect of the development of the student. Around 1915 he published “Obras clásicas y románticas: revisadas y publicadas bajo la dirección de Enrique Granados” in which he reviewed classical and romantic compositions, marking the pedal and other technical aspects he considered to be necessary. Unfortunately, it is challenging to find Granados’s work as they were discontinued by the publisher. Furthermore, some of his revisions were never published; for example, his edition of Chopin’s nocturne in B op. 9 n.3.

“I tried to produce the effects he achieved. After many failures, I discovered that his ravishing results at the keyboard were all a matter of the pedal.”

Ernest Schelling

His pedagogical works about pedal primarily focused on the damper pedal and ways of changing it during a piece while maintaining a lot of resonance. He wrote his different treatises about pedaling between 1905 and 1915. Granados opened his academy in 1901, so the influence of teaching and developing new pedagogical ideas was key in developing his pianism and compositional ideas. 

           Granados’s ideas of pedaling focus on three aspects:

  • Pedal on individual notes
  • Pedal on a group of notes
  • Pedal on the general melody

He also believed in the creation of imaginary and real values. Real values would be written in the score, and imaginary values would be a product of the subdivision of the real values in imaginary groups. 

Granados used the asterisk as a marking to raise the foot, Ped to press the pedal, L to raise the hands, and the horizontal line to hold the pedal. His ideas about pedaling focused on using the pedal on the offbeat, always pressing the pedal after playing the note.

Example n. 6 in Granados method

In the first example, “Ej 52,” we can see how Granados wrote the pedaling for that section. Granados uses “Ej 53” as a bad example for the sonority effect due to use of the pedal on the first note of each beat, contradicting Chopin’s ideas about pedaling. His method constantly repeats this concept but in different ways.

For many people, one remarkable aspect of Granados’s compositions is the characteristic expressive and beautiful sound that he produced in his works in which the pedal was fundamental. This characteristic sound is recognizable in Goyescas, but his idea of sound developed before he wrote this piece, likely during his beginnings as a pedagogue. His ideas are recognizable in other works including Cuentos para la Juventud and Oriental.

Examples about Chopin (Polonaise-Fantasie op.61) in Granados method

Granados’s Influences

Enrique Granados is well known for his Spanish compositions as well as his Romantic-style compositions. From an early age, however, he was exposed to martial music as his father and brother both served in the military. It is likely that these experiences inspired him to compose military tunes for the piano.

Granados studied with Joan Baptista Pujol, a well-known Catalan piano professor. Pujol taught other Spanish pianist-composers including Ricard Viñes and Joaquím Malats. Pujol studied under Pere Tintorer, head of piano at the Conservatori del Liceu, who studied with Franz Liszt. Pujol inspired Granados to create his own academy and influenced Granados’s treatise on piano playing.

Many researchers believe that Felip Pedrell was also key to Granados’s Spanish compositional style. Granados met Pedrell and Isaac Albéniz after winning a piano contest for his rendition of Schumann’s Sonata in G. The contest was organized by Pujol and Pedrell and Albéniz were part of the jury that awarded the prize. Although Granados later studied under Pedrell, Pedrell’s influence on the Spanish elements of Granados’s compositions is not noticeably clear. While Granados was exposed to the transcription of many regional folk tunes that Pedrell wrote and shared with his students, his time with this teacher was cut short. Carol A. Hess defends the idea that lessons with Pedrell ended when Granados’s father passed away and he needed money to support his family.

Granados also studied with French composer Charles Wilfrid de Bériot in Paris from 1887 to 1889. Although he was unable to enter the conservatory, he studied privately with Bériot, who also taught other important composers including Maurice Ravel and Ricard Viñes. Bériot focused on tone production as well as pedal technique and improvisation. Granados also focused on tone production and pedal technique and improvisation but took a different approach. For example, Bériot defended the idea of using the pedal on the beat while Granados was an advocate for using an offbeat pedal.