Granados. From Paris to Goya

Museum of Music of Barcelona

A musical, literary and pictorial journey

From his study years in Paris to the last compositions inspired in Goya, the life and works of Enric Granados (1867-1916) were a literary and pictorial journey. His music was a poetic perfume, a plastic scent, full of surprising images and lyrical descriptions. The exhibition, produced by Museu de la Música and Museu de Lleida, celebrates the artist, the musician who read, the pianist who painted, on the 150th anniversary of his birth.
Between September 1887 and July 1889, Granados lived in Paris. For the first time, he found the ideal environment to study, experience the city and visit its museums. He was a privileged witness to the Belle Époque and the emblematic spaces of a cultural capital which redefined its profile beneath the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, constructed between January 1887 and March 1889. There he discovered artist workshops, boulevards and Spanish music— because Spain was fashionably exotic. In Paris, Granados invented himself as a modern artist. He even grew a moustache.

When Granados arrived in Paris the Eiffel Tower was still under construction. An emblem of modernity and industrial progress, it was an engineering milestone that changed forever the skyline of the City of Light.

La nuit d'octobre

Granados and Ricard Viñes shared a flat in the Hôtel de Cologne et d'Espagne, located in the rue de Trévise in Paris. They also attended lessons by the same piano teacher, Charles Wifred de Bériot.

In this 1888 album Granados jotted down ideas, thoughts, short texts, poems and drawings during his time in Paris.

In the 1889 album he designed in detail a house-workshop.

Félicia Ruys is a character from the novel by Alphonse Daudet Le Nabab. In this letter Granados calls his wife Amparo "my Félicia Ruys" and compares his own mood with the ambiance in the novel.

At the end of the century, modernity had found the theatre. Painters, writers and musicians wanted to reform society from the stage. They wanted to dislodge the most popular lyrical productions, which they considered vulgar and toxic. They also hoped to find a dignified way of making a living. Children of Wagner, they longed to open the country up to Europe. Businesses didn’t stop working and investors lost faith. Nevertheless, the stage dreams of the turn of the century decades (1890s and 1900s) were a cultural beacon that brought together the creators of a dream of a complete work of art.

Follet is one of many collaborations between Granados and the poet Apel·les Mestres. Together they created lyrical works like Picarol, Petrarca or Gaziel.


In Gaziel, a one-act modernist opera, Apel·les Mestres revises Faustus' myth with a dark, melancholic scenery.

Oleguer Junyent and Maurici Vilomara painting a scenery in the workshop located in the roof of Gran Teatre del Liceu.

One of Granados’ most important works is a symphonic poem dedicated to Dante and his "Divine Comedy". It is based on the original verses and a painting by Rossetti. The composition, originally thought of as a symphony in four parts, was a modernist demonstration of the desire to unite all of the arts into one: poetry, painting and music. The orchestra in Dante sketches the shadows of hell in the same way that the images provide a face for the condemned and the verses represent their lament. In this way, Humanism arrived in the 20th century as an almost cinematographic concert piece.
Dante e Virgilio
Apel•les Mestres was a friend of Granados and the writer with whom he most collaborated. The poet’s iconographic universe often accompanied the lyrical imagination of the composer. The two defended the close relationship between poetry and drawing, painting and music, art and creation, based on a defence of nature. Lavishly published in 1907, "Liliana" is an artists’ book in which this preciosista aesthetic reached its peak. Granados turned the poem into a lyrical drama, which debuted 9 July 1911 in the Palau de les Belles Arts in Barcelona in an art exhibition.

In 1907 Apel·les Mestres gave a dedicated copy of Liliana to his friend Granados. It is a beautiful edition illustrated with engravings by the same poet.

To find a peaceful environment, Gustav Mahler had a cabin built in Steinbach, where he worked on his second and third symphonies. Twelve years later, he repeated the exercise in Dobbiaco. Likewise, Edvard Grieg had a cabin built with sea views to compose in Troldhaugen. In the summer of 1915, Granados also had a cabin built in the middle of the countryside. He called it "tartana" or "la tartanita". There he wrote part of the "Goyescas" opera. The composer’s workshop had been converted into a landscape garden— an open window to the fresh and evocative smells of fruit and flowers.

María del Carmen, with a libretto by Josep Feliu i Codina, was the first operatic success for Granados.

Los majos enamorados

In his Tartana Granados looked for inspiration and quietness in a bucolic, countryside environment. There he wrote his opera Goyescas.

In this handwritten memoirs Granados recalls the smell of orange and lemon trees back in his childhood in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. The souvenir of this paradise lost affected him ever since.

Granados was always a musician who paid attention to technological advances. His curiosity about progress was due to his awareness of the importance of one’s public presentation. In Paris, he learned the value of a good photographic portrait as a gift to producers and sponsors. His inquisitiveness about publishing musical scores followed the same objective of self promotion. The same is true with the player piano music and the gramophone records he recorded. Far from being the image of a romantic and regional musician, Granados was a cosmopolitan citizen who spoke French and rode around Barcelona on a motorbike.

As a result of Goyescas' success and Granados' growing fame, the Aeolian company invited him to record several piano player rolls in its New York recording studio.

El pelele
Goya was the ultimate painter for Granados. He discovered Goya in the Museo del Prado in 1894. Nevertheless, the Goyaesque universe didn’t become his favorite subject until the summer of 1909. Albéniz’ death and the Tragic Week deeply affected him. The composer found refuge in the painter, in the luminous tapestry cartoons, in the light and dark criticism he recorded. First was the "Goyescas", a masterful work for piano; later, an opera in three acts, his final expression. From then on, Goya found the melodies of his palette, the perfect companion for cultural history.

Carmen Tórtola Valencia captivated all Europe with her sensual exotic dances at the beginning of 20th century. She also embodied the "Maja" ideal and inspired Granados' Danza gitana in 1915.

The premiere of Goyescas took place on 28th January 1916 at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York. It was Granados' last success.

Museu de la Música de Barcelona
Credits: Story

Joaquim Rabaseda

Museu de la Música de Barcelona
Museu de Lleida

With the support of
Generalitat de Catalunya
Ajuntament de Lleida
Institut d'Estudis Ilerdencs - Diputació de Lleida
Acción Cultural Española

Carmen Berlabé (Museu de Lleida)
Imma Cuscó (Museu de la Música de Barcelona)

Virtual version
Marisa Ruiz
Sara Guasteví

Google España
Irene Vicente
Centre Robert Gerhard

Museu de la Música de Barcelona

Credits: All media
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