Granados - Andaluza: No 5 from Spanish Dances
Enrique Granados (1867 - 1916) is perhaps most famed for his piano composition, Goyescas, a suite of pieces based on paintings of Goya. Granados, himself, was also a painter of some distinction.
The set of twelve Spanish Dances, for piano, was written in 1890.
A composer of Catalan origins, his style is very much that of Spanish nationalism, with the influence of the guitar often evident.
Granados himself may be heard playing here on an old piano roll recording dated around 1913:
Pupil Match & Suitability
Students with a fiery temperament and a sense of passion should do well if choosing this piece.
It needs a certain musical maturity to bring it off. There is considerable repetition here and a feeling for the spontaneity of mood is needed so that the character does not become predictable and boring.
Style & Tempo
The Spanish style is full of colour, daring and panache, even in the more gentle tempi.
There should be rhythmic vitality, suppleness of phrasing and tonal variety and beauty. Strength and tenderness mixed in almost equal proportions go towards creating the allure of the style. Think twice if you consider your student may simply not be suited to playing in this style.
A keen sense of the Spanish character and style may be found when listening to Granados payed on Spanish guitar, as in this beautifully expressive performance by Stefano Grondona:
Phrasing & Articulation
There are two principal elements to the articulation here:
(i) the underlying rhythmic thrust of the dance
(ii) the melancholic lyrical line
Within both of these there is accentuation and, in the RH, cantabile.
Tone & Texture
This should have warmth and life to it. There is no room here for timid tone or lacklustre mood. The tone must always have depth and meaning.
The range of dynamics goes from the glowing embers of a pp at the very end to the passionate ff marcando on the prolonged dominant chord (e.g. bars 22/24 and 86/88).
There are three main aspects of technique needed here:
(i) rhythmic interplay between the hands
(ii) range of tone production
(iii) balancing tone within the RH
This is mostly straightforward.
The use of pedal here is crucial to the amount of colour and end result.
It is not simply a question of how much, but essentially a matter of choices and skill.
For students who are not particularly adept at their pedal technique it is best to work on clear pedalling first and focus at the same time on the balance between parts within that simple but correct pedalling.
For those with the skill, start listening in detail and work out what sounds good and why.
There are a lot of skills at work here.
Take time to decide what you wish to work on first. Do not simply rush into teaching the notes. That will become laborious and unproductive.
Slow practice is the bane of students' and teachers' lives.
No one seems to do it, yet everyone often gives the instruction !
There has to be a method here, and it is worth being pedantic about it and getting your students to be very disciplined.
Share with them the various aspects of the piece which are fun and which are also challenging. Go about this in a balanced way. Don't focus simply on the difficulties.
The main difficulties experienced in this piece are likely to be concerned with the musical detail and possibly that real sense of panache and the unmistakable Spanish elements that drive music of this nature.
That said, Bars 11 and 12 are unusually awkward, since the LH syncopations come out of the blue.
RH entries of the tune may prove troublesome, too. Coming in at the right point, not a quaver beat early or a quaver beat late is very important.
This is best worked upon by feeling the dotted crotchet beats first and then getting to know where the semiquaver upbeats come in relation to the next downbeat. The problem with being always reliant upon counting is that the student then fails to listen to the musical happenings and focusing merely on the 'doing' of counting.
There is no-one better to listen to than Alicia de Larocha as an example of how to play Spanish piano music.
The experience of looking at a painting in a gallery, a painting which is new to you and which transfixes you, can often be akin to the experience of hearing an excellent performance of a piece of music. You do not have to weigh up whether it is a good painting or not. Instead you are absorbed by it. Its lifeblood holds you in its grasp and courses through both your subconscious and conscious mind.
There is something immediately defining about this kind of experience that marks it out as having 'quality'. The language of words will not readily describe it but you will certainly know it.
The excellent performance of this piece should move you in some way or other. It may be on account of the emotion that is conveyed, or more likely the timbres which evoke that Spanish mood so vividly. It will not be a performance that leaves you wondering whether it was good or better than good !
The good performance will be rhythmic and alive in terms of its tempo. It will show a good overall understanding of the nature of tempo changes and the rubato needed, but may not come across intuitively. The dynamics and phrasing will be colourful and usually well controlled.
The sound performance may be a mixture of things. Sometimes extraordinary performances are heard wherein the player communicates with such passion and musical understanding that the listener cannot fail to be moved, but at the same time fall within the context of a poor or under developed technique. There is usually sufficient here to give credit for what is achieved overall.
At other times players may bring to their performance commendable control and security but have very little idea of what lies behind the notes. This kind of performance will not fare too well, since a primary requirement at this level is to convey understanding of the style to some degree. However it may well be good enough to rate as a sound performance.