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75 singers to perform Granados’ masterpiece

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Seventy-five voices from three choirs will fill the Cathedral of St. John with the music of Spanish composer Enrique Granados on Friday.

The concert marks the 10th anniversary of Polyphony: Voices of New Mexico, as well as the 150th anniversary of Granados’ birth.

Granados was one of the most significant and influential composers of the modern period, Polyphony conductor Maxine Thévenot said.

Polyphony will be joined by the University of New Mexico’s Las Cantantes, as well as the Choir of the Cathedral of St. John on what is considered Granado’s masterpiece, “Canto de Las Estrellas (Song of the Stars).”

The composer premiered the piece on 1911 with himself as the pianist, Thévenot said.

“He wrote something like 250 pieces,” she said. “He was a brilliant pianist. The piece is about 18 minutes long.”

Thévenot compared the complexity of Granados’ piano works to those of Liszt and Chopin.

“The piano part is nothing short of a piano concerto,” she continued. “It’s a beast to play. The whole piece is sung in Spanish.”

The music was rediscovered by guest pianist Douglas Riva. It premiered in New York in 2009 after Riva reached out to the composer’s Spanish relatives, Thévenot said.

The composer traveled to the U.S. in the early teens, where he performed for President Woodrow Wilson at the White House and premiered an opera based on the paintings of Francisco Goya at the Metropolitan Opera.

Granados died at age 49 after a German U-boat torpedoed his ferry as it crossed the English Channel during World War I. In an attempt to save his wife, Amparo, whom he saw flailing in the water, he jumped from his lifeboat and drowned. The couple left six children.

“He died at a fairly young age, and his works have been there in Spain,” Thévenot said of the composer’s lack of notoriety. “They came across the pond only within the last 10 years.”