Garrick Ohlsson injects some much-needed Mediterranean light into this dark time of year with Granadoss pianistic masterpiece, Goyescas. Written in the first decade of the twentieth century, its a musical tribute to the great Spanish artist Francisco de Goya, under whose spell Granados had fallen as a young man. Filled with a patriotic fervour for what he saw as a universally great Spanish genius, he wrote several pieces inspired by the painters life and times. The six pieces that make up Goyescas are no mere tone-poems but instead draw on details from Goyas worksnotably the Caprichos, a sequence of aquatints that satirized (and outraged) Spanish society. They draw on Spanish folk music too, as in the famous dialogue between the Maiden and the Nightingale, complete with a trilling cadenza at the end for the nightingale. Another product of Granadoss preoccupation with the painter was the exuberant El pelele, which recounts the tale of a straw man being tossed on a trampoline, while the Allegro de concierto forms a fittingly brilliant endpiece.
Enrique Granados left relatively few works. The best known is Goyescas, the suite of piano pieces he composed between 1909 and 1912 and subtitled Los Majos Enamorados "the majos in love" inspired by the paintings of Goya. Granados later used the works as the basis of his opera of the same name. It's a substantial cycle. The six pieces last over 50 minutes, and though all of them are descriptive, programmatic almost, incorporating Spanish inflections such as popular songs and verse and dance forms, the style of the piano writing can be traced back to Chopin and Liszt. It's that side of Granados's music that is brought out in Garrick Ohlsson's technically immaculate performances. Other pianists might play up the music's nationalism, but it's the connection with the 19th-century mainstream Ohlsson emphasises. As an appendix, he also includes El Pelele, the "Goyescan scene" Granados composed in 1913, and a much earlier Concert Allegro in which the Lisztian connection is obvious.**** --Guardian,16/02/12
Ohlsson plays a Steinway here and recording engineer David Hinitt achieves truly sumptuous results. The piano sound has tremendous amplitude and richness. --IRR,Mar'12
You can't go far wrong with Ohlsson, who could hardly be more affecting in Quejas, o la maja y el ruisenor or more able to express the dark and glittering hearts of both El amor y la muerte and Epilogo, serenade del espectro. --Gramophone,Apr'12
Granados's best-known work, is a piano portrait of Goya, who was a hero to the composer at a time just over 100 years ago when Spain was redefining its place in the modern world. The music is a series of romantic evocations, taking inspiration from folk melody and dance as much as the characters and scenes depicted by the great painter. Ohlsson captures their flavour with virtuosic flair. **** --Financial Times,14/03/12