Discussing the art of rubato is like trying to nail jelly to a wall (or jello, for US readers). ‘Robbed’ time, say the dictionaries, but not every composer wants you to take the same amount from their rhythm bank, or to pay it back in the same place. ‘The rubato of Granados isn’t Chopin’s rubato, or that of Schumann,’ says the Spanish pianist Maria Luisa Cantos, whom I interviewed for the feature on the composer in this issue. ‘It isn’t even a Spanish rubato. Depth of feeling and melancholy are key to Granados’s personal rubato.’
Sadly, there are no videos of Maria Luisa on YouTube, but there are of the other renowned Granados interpreter I interviewed for the same feature – Douglas Riva.
Watch him play the Mazurka and Epilogo from Granados’s Romantic Scenes. (Nice to see him reading from his iPad!):
The practical implications will vary from musician to musician. On YouTube you may find piano-roll recordings (notoriously unreliable in general, but insightful all the same) made by Granados in 1913. In the fifth of his Danzas españolas he is quite inimitably supple: not even the left hand stays in strict time as Chopin instructed his pupils. There too is his own ‘Maiden and Nightingale’, replete with rolled chords and a Couperin-meets-Count-Basie approach to the ornamentation in the RH: a dangerous precedent to follow, perhaps, without the backing of a technique as secure as the composer’s.
Listen to them both here:
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The ultimate authority is the late Alicia de Larrocha. Now watch her play this most moving account of The Maiden and The Nightingale:
Says de Larrocha: ‘Granados calls for a type [of rubato] that is broader than that demanded by romantics such as Chopin – broader and often more sudden in its stopping over a point in the melodic line, almost a temporary disfiguration, a very strongly presented instant followed by a long breath of relaxation.’ However, she is careful to warn that ‘a constantly free treatment of every phrase group leads to sentimentality, and this is a danger with Granados in the hands of performers lacking in musical sensitivity.’ What she calls ‘the fine line of tasteful recreation’ is left to you.
Granados inside Pianist issue 96 (June/July 2017)
Learn the score The Maiden and The Nightingale. It comes with an advanced lesson from concert pianist Lucy Parham.
For the intermediate pianist, try your hand at the gorgeous Sensitiva. The score is only a page long, but it’s so poignant and the melody will haunt you.
Read the three-page feature, also written by Peter Quantrill, on the life and music of this Spanish composer.
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