Granados’s La Huérfana

Cuentos Para la Juventud op. 1

Cuentos de la juventud (Tales of the Youth or Stories of Youth) is a compendium of short piano pieces for different levels. One of the pieces, “Dedicatoria,” was composed based on a tune that Granados’s son Eduardo sang. Granados transcribed the tune and dedicated it to Eduardo, the “youth” referred to in the title.

It is unknown when the piece was composed, but it was published around 1910. The title is a clear reference to Robert Schumann’s Album for the Young, a collection written specifically for educating children. Schumann was one source of inspiration for the Spanish composer. During the time in which Cuentos de la juventud was composed, Granados wrote a treatise about pedaling. Many of the ideas of this treatise are expressed throughout the pieces. For example, Granados included a pedal exercise based on Schumann’s “Chorale” from Album for the Young op. 68. As Oliver Cubelo contends, it is possible that this work was created to illustrate and synthesize Granados’s pedal method.

The 10 short pieces have names that are evocative and descriptive. Titles include “Old Tale,” “Memories of Childhood,” and “The Beggar Woman.” The style of these pieces is very Romantic and explore many of the pedagogical concepts Granados wanted to work on with his students. Granados wrote a few miniatures before in Escenas infantiles (Scenes of Childhood, another title inspired by Schumann), but never published these works. It is likely that they were a previous step before developing more ideas in Cuentos de la Juventud.

La Huérfana

Click here to view the score for La Huérfana.

The piece that I will discuss is “La Huérfana,or “The Orphan.” Granados dedicated this piece to his father in the manuscript. The form of the piece is ABAB. Jane Magrath, author and pianist, did not pick this piece for her book Pianists Guide to Standard Teaching and Performance Literature. On the other hand, Harumi Kurihara included this piece in her dissertation Selected intermediate-level solo piano music of Enrique Granados: a pedagogical analysis. She catalogued this piece as a level 6, the main technical and musical challenge being the dialogue between the two hands.

In my opinion, Granados explores the use of the offbeat pedal in the first two lines of the composition. These lines are a perfect example of the employment of his method of pedaling in his compositions and are a great introduction to Granados’s sensibility and special sound. This part can definitely be more challenging than thinking only about the dialogue between two hands.

mm. 1-8

Another recognizable method Granados explores in this piece is the pedal de salto, or pedal for jumps. Even though he didn’t write more indications about pedal after measure 8, I believe that the pedal is necessary for the whole piece. Granados defended the idea of using the pedal to facilitate a jump, dividing the pedaling method into two cases. In a pedal with a preceding consonance, he advocates for a fast pedal, as indicated in the image to the right. With this pedal the harmonies will mix in the sound, thus creating a “consonant effect in the ear.”

Example n. 70 in Granados method

On the other hand, if the jump has a preceding dissonance the slow pedal needs to be applied. This technique avoids mixing the harmonies. Granados indicated this pedal with the symbols in the image to the right. We don’t have any indication of Granado’s intentions in “La Huérfana,” so I listened to Alicia de Larracha’s rendition while studying this piece. She uses the slow pedal because there is dissonance preceding the jump. The slow pedal is also more appropriate for slow pieces.

Example n. 71 in Granados method

Granados taught these pieces to his students, so we should take de Larrocha’s approach as the closest one to the desires of the composer. De Larrocha was taught by Frank Marshall, Granados’s favorite pupil who later became the director of his academy. During measure 17, when the score repeats the first theme, de Larrocha repeats the same pedaling that Granados marked at the beginning.

Granados wrote that he was looking for a very simple interpretation (de una interpretación sencillisima). The title “La Huérfana”is evocative; the character is full of melancholy. Granados wrote con acento doloroso, or with a painful accent, to indicate the mood.

Apart from the pedal, this piece is technically perfect for practicing legato and playing with a cantabile sound in the right hand.

mm. 9-12
mm. 17-20