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July 27 composer birthdays: Mauro Giuliani & Enrique Granados

July 27 composer birthdays: Mauro Giuliani & Enrique Granados featured image

Pianist Alicia de Larrocha, who played Grandos’ music like nobody’s business 

Today’s Composer Birthday double bill features Mauro Giuliani and Enrique Granados.

Historically speaking, I wish there were far more classical guitar composers as part of the standard repertoire (Issac Albeniz, Agustin Barrios, and Andres Sevogia come to mind) and I wish they were as famous as the composers of the usual instrumentalists (Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Brahms, who composed for violin, cello, piano, etc.). There is SO much great guitar music out there, long before folk and rock made it a standard instrument of the modern times.

Mauro Giuseppe Sergio Pantaleo Giuliani (is that a colourful name, or what?) was an Italian leading guitar virtuoso during the early classical period, and took to the guitar after studies in the cello. In a sense, he was one of the first “rock stars” of the guitar, right down to his personal life (he married, had a son, then moved alone to Vienna, Austria, and took up with another woman and fathered four daughters with her) and hit the road, touring, achieving great success and acclaim for his virtuosity. He was a celebrity. Giuliani also created a new role for the guitar in the European tradition. He knew Rossini and Beethoven, and collaborated with the Viennese musical elite. This lead to important appearances, such as billing as the official concert artist for the celebrations of the Congress in Vienna. He also played the cello for the world premiere of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 (can you imagine?).

As a composer, Guiliani’s success was not as great as his performing career. A turn in Rome did not achieve much; he then visited Naples to see his ailing father. There, where he remained, he found his audience, and published his works for guitar. He gained enough of a local reputation that when he died in Naples, it was major news.

Marcin Dylla performs the Sonata in C Major, Op. 15. Unlike most instruments, it doesn’t require a piano accompaniment as is custom in the traditional classical sonata.

Mauro Giuliano was born July 26, 1781 in Bisceglie, Italy, and died May 8, 1828, in Naples.

***

Because I grew up hearing and practising a lot of the standard repertoire for classical piano, whenever I got the chance to play anything outside of the strict classical code, I jumped at it. Also, I’ve always been drawn to the Spanish culture; I studied flamenco dancing for a few years, and absolutely loved it, and travelled to Cadiz, Rota, and Madrid when I was a teenager. When I started the rep for RCM’s grade 9, I was excited when my teacher suggested the Danza Espanola: Andaluza. This work transported me and my active imagination to a warm evening in Spain, at a tablao where dancers stomped and twirled, guitarists strummed, and the wine ever flowed.

Enrique Granados was a concert pianist and composer, and combined music from Spain along with traditional classical forms. He was on tour when his ship to England was torpedoed by the Germans during World War I. The ship broke apart into two pieces; one half sank, and the other was towed back to shore. If only Granados and his wife stayed on board, they would have survived the horrible ordeal. They left behind six children.

The most famous of all Spanish music interpreters would have to be pianist Alicia de Larrocha. She was absolutely tiny, and I have no idea with her small hands how she managed the second Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto, which I saw her perform with the Vancouver Symphony about 30 years ago. At any rate, she was a master of Granados, and I, also with small hands, was able to play this Andaluza and I performed it for my piano exam. I’m lucky I had this opportunity.

Enrique Granados was born July 27, 1867 in Lleida, Spain, and died March 24, 1916, in the English Channel.

#ComposerBirthday963

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