Alicia de Larrocha, one of the great pianists of the twentieth century, died yesterday at age 86 in Barcelona, the city of her birth. Alicia began studying piano at age three, gave her first recital at age five, and made her first appearance with orchestra in a Mozart concerto at age eleven. Although she had an extensive repertoire, she was especially well-known for her interpretations of the music of her countrymen: Isaac Albeniz, Enrique Granados, and Manuel de Falla.
I had the good fortune to hear Alicia de Larrocha in person on two occasions, once with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, when she played Beethoven’s Second Piano Concerto, and once in solo recital, when her program included de Falla’s extraordinary Fantasia Baetica. She retired from public performance not long afterward, in 2003 at age 80.
The piece she performs here, “Evocacion”, is the first movement from Isaac Albeniz’ monumental “Iberia” suite for piano. Poetic, reflective, and utterly Spanish in character, I cannot think of a more fitting musical tribute to this extraordinary pianist.