Granados’s Tonadillas en estilo antiguo
were to a great extent inspired by the paintings of Goya—Granados was an excellent painter and owned some of Goya’s works. A tonadillo is a theatre song, originally accompanied by a small orchestra or a guitar, and in the eighteenth century tonadillas were frequently sung by a singer in costume between the acts of plays, as a sort of vocal intermezzo. The range of mood in these songs is varied: passionate, despairing, coy and teasing. Only one is written in the bass clef, and three were dedicated to the celebrated Catalan soprano Maria Barrientos (whose recording remains a benchmark). Composed in 1911–13, the tonadillas were written ‘in the old style’, and are a nostalgic evocation of the working-class neighbourhoods of nineteenth-century Madrid. The word majo (and its feminine maja) refers to the artisans living in such districts of Madrid as Lavapiés and the area around the church of San Antonio de la Florida—the word simply means ‘pretty’, except when it is applied, as in these songs, to the lower-class characters who lived in these places.
from notes by Richard Stokes © 2013