Composer Enrique Granados’ “Tonadillas”

Photo credit: Detail of (The White) Duchess of Alba, Goya, 1795

His strangely vivid music pursues you like certain perfumes, more persistent than strong.               Claude Debussy

To begin to understand these songs, one needs to  understand  what the words maja and majo mean, in context as well as definition.

This post isn’t about the techniques of how to sing these seemingly simple songs, or how to read the notes. It’s about understanding them via knowing more about the composer, this interpreting them more accurately.

Thirty years ago there wasn’t much available in English about any Spanish music or composers.  All one could do was go to the notes on the page for inspiration.  But what was found there, and is still being found, makes yours truly feel Granados is as much a genius as Mozart, and yours truly’s delighted to know there’s more than one that thinks so.

Thanks to the Internet, there have been major additions – in English – to aid performers in learning more about Spanish composers. And many Spanish composers that were unknown in America 30 years ago are now more widely performed. Progress has been a good thing.

Enrique Granados

Wikipedia has a fascinating little article about Granados, which referenced am extensive 2006 biography, Enrique Granados: Poet of the Piano, by Walter Aaron Clark.  Yours truly’s local library had a copy in the reserve section, which was immediately looked at.

Wow – what a gem! Notes include, from page 115:

  • His songs embody “majismo
  • They’re intimations of 18th century tonadillas (the era of majos, majas, & Goya)
  • En estilo antigua translates “in the old style” (18th cent.)
  • Spanish tonadillas cannot be compared to German lied
  • Granados didn’t want his tonadillas to be folk songs or lied, but his own particular style

Even more excellent comments are available in the book.  Coming soon are posts on Periquet, and then Goya.

Remember, if in doubt about anything, go to the black notes on the white page. Granados already wrote everything there.


Discovered are the following articles from The New York Times archives, one previewing and the other reviewing Granados’ opera, Goyescas.  Both are from 1916, only months before Granados died.


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