I received an invitation from Spanish pianist Rosa Torres-Pardo to attend a private screening of a new film documentary about the composer Enrique “Enric” Granados (1867-1916) at the Juilliard School in New York City. The film is entitled “El amor y la muerte: Historia de Enrique Granados “ and is directed by Arantxa Aguirre. The screening took place on October 18, 2018, following a master class that Torres-Pardo imparted to several Juilliard piano students. The audience included several well known personalities from Spain’s classical music world such as former director of the Auditorio Nacional de España, Antonio Moral, conductor Rafael Lamas and composer Ricardo Llorca.
Being a great admirer of the work of Spanish film director Arantxa Aguirre since viewing her outstanding documentary, “Dancing Beethoven”, I was excited to be present at the preview screening of “El amor y la muerte” (translated as “Love and Death”). The title in Spanish really alludes to “Love” and “Death” as entities rather than abstract ideas (utilizing the male pronoun for “el” amor/love and the female pronoun for “la” muerte/death); the allusion for the title of the documentary is both the solo piano composition by Granados of the same title, as well as what is most certainly the inspiration for this composition, an engraving bearing the same title by the 18th century Spanish painter Francisco Goya y Lucientes, with whom Granados was obsessed with.
I would like to add that the documentary’s theme is close to my own heart in many ways: in 2015 and 2016 I had the privilege to work as a performer on two multi disciplinary concerts about Enrique Granados’ time in New York City in 1916, for the Hispanic Society Museum & Library (NYC) and the Teatro “El Escorial” (Spain) with pianist Borja Mariño.
Rosa Torres-Pardo was joint producer in this special film project, in which she was featured among other artists such as mezzo Nancy Fabiola Herrera, pianist Luis del Valle, violinist Ana Valderrama, pianist Joaquín Soriano in excerpted performances and conversations. On the screen we heard musicologists Walter Aaron Clarke and Miriam Perandones speak of their insights about the life of Granados. An interesting revisioning of Granados’ songs interpreted by notable flamenco artists filmed at the Teatro Real and the Prado Museum where other highlights of the film.
Pianist Evegny Kissin and baritone Carlos Alvárez also make an appearance in the film with short performances.
I heard Rosa Torres-Pardo in a concert the previous week, which took place at the Bruno Walter Auditorium at Lincoln Center, in a program of Debussy and Albéniz. Presented jointly by the New York Opera Society and the Queen Sofía Institute, the concert took place on October 10 in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Day. She essayed sensitive renditions of Albéniz’s Iberia as well as the Suite Bergamasque by Debussy. Torre Pardo’s commitment to works by Enrique Granados is well documented throughout her career, notably so with her recent recording issued by Deutsche Grammaphon in 2016.
Working with no film material at hand to illustrate the life of Granados, the documentary utilized historical photographs, and both original paintings created for this film, as well as period paintings (notably by Ramón Casas) which where in some instances animated, bringing to life early 20th century Madrid, Barcelona and New York City respectively.
Actors voices with quotes by musicologist Felipe Pedrell, painter and writer Santiago Rusiñol, cellist Pau Casals, novelist Gabriel Miró and poet Apelles Mestres, as well as text taken from letters by Granados to his wife were used extensively to bring the narration to life.
The film highlighted the events of Granados’ stay in New York City, with its triumphs of numerous concerts, and the premiere of his opera “Goyescas”. It remains to this day the only opera presented at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City by a Spanish composer.
The film move us inexorably to the “finale” of what we know as the tragic fate of this figure, and to what seems to be a senseless although predestined death intuited by both Granados and his wife. Using the leitmotif of the aforementioned solo piano piece by the composer, I felt as a viewer a profound sense of loss and sadness, as I witnessed on the screen visions of a vast sea, with which the film both begins and ends.
The film is a moving tribute to one of Spain’s greatest musical geniuses and will be a memorable treasure for lovers of Spanish music and for fans of the music of Enrique Granados.