A Tribute to Danny Granados
Danny Granados (1964-2018) studied with Robert Marcellus, first chair clarinet of the Cleveland Orchestra during the Szell years, and embarked on a promising career. Then he left music to earn a business degree, and thereafter worked in marketing and finance. Granados was Chief Financial Officer of the Houston Symphony Orchestra when he died of cancer last year. This recording, made in 2011 with members of the HSO, gives an idea of just how superbly gifted a musician Granados was.
Indeed, I was completely bowled over by this polished and poetic recording of Brahms’s Clarinet Quintet. It’s not only Granados’s liquid tone that impresses but his judicious use of rubato – his entrance so softly rhapsodic – as well as the way he integrates himself into the ensemble so he never sticks out in a soloistic way. The quartet are marvellous, too. I love the quiet nobility all five musicians bring to the first movement’s Quasi sostenuto (at 6'55"), for instance, and how in the opening of the Adagio their expansive, elastic phrasing seems to erase the beats and bar lines, so it’s as if one were floating in a pool, gently rocked by discrete systems of waves and currents. All the variations of the finale are well characterised but the coda, with its profoundly expressive silences, is particularly poignant.
With its strong Eastern European accent, Osvaldo Golijov’s ‘Lullaby and Doina’ (from his 2001 film score to The Man Who Cried) serves as a clever and effective segue to Astor Piazzolla’s tangos. Again, Granados is in superb form. His legato in the lyrical sections of Libertango and also in the slow introduction to the Allegro tangabile are as velvety as melted chocolate. The arrangements are imaginative, and the interpretations – fierce yet refined – are true to the spirit of tango nuevo.
This is a moving tribute as well as a satisfying programme. The Brahms is really quite special.