Granados: Goyescas

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WORKS: Goyescas
PERFORMER: Douglas Riva (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.554403
‘Too many notes,’ says some royal philistine to Mozart in the film Amadeus. What words would the same gentleman have found to censure Granados, who didn’t use one note when 20 would do? The problem is particularly acute in the Spaniard’s dense and labyrinthine magnum opus, Goyescas, and its solution demands some measure of pianistic inspiration.


Someone who must have given considerable thought to the matter is Douglas Riva, a musicologist who has prepared a critical edition of Granados’s works, has conducted research in the Granados Archives in Barcelona, and performed several unpublished works. Indeed, his Goyescas presents the first recording of a preliminary sketch found in the archive, ‘Serenata goyesca’.

Riva’s playing is rich and luxurious, clear-toned and well-crafted, but does little to remedy the work’s ponderousness. In the opening number, ‘Los requiebros’, his insinuating discursiveness gives early warning of an ungrateful listen ahead, and this is by no means the most heavy-going piece in the collection. After the rambling ‘Coloquio en la reja’ that follows one feels almost defeated.


It may be that Riva’s closeness to the composer is more of a hindrance than a help. His Granados is a revered monument, for whom a little less respect would be welcome. Although Riva’s punctiliousness does him credit, there are parts of Goyescas that need to be skipped and danced through, dense textures that benefit less from close attention than from a flourish of rapid brilliance – as Alicia de Larrocha so successfully supplies. Christopher Wood