27 Sep 2009

Death of renowned Spanish pianist

6:47 am on 27 September 2009

Spanish pianist Alicia de Larrocha, a child prodigy who was one of the greatest musicians of her era, died on Friday aged 86.

As well as her performances of Mozart and Rachmaninov, she was regarded as unrivalled in her interpretation of Spanish composers like Isaac Albeniz.

De Larrocha retired six years ago, after 75 years of public performances.

Born in Barcelona in 1923, she began playing at the age of two.

The BBC reports she gave her first recital aged six, and made her orchestral debut when she was 11, performing as a soloist for the Madrid Symphony Orchestra.

Although famed as a champion of Spanish music, her teacher Frank Marshall forbade her to play it before she was 15.

Her teenage years were overshadowed by the Spanish civil war. Afterwards, she resumed giving recitals in Spain, but was prevented from travelling to Europe by the outbreak of World War II.

It was 1947 before she would play outside her home country, and she made her British debut in 1953.

Two years later came her first trip to the United States at the invitation of famed conductor Alfred Wallestein, and a tour with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Grammy awards

After this breakthrough, she gained recognition as one of the world's most outstanding pianists.

In 1959 she became director of Barcelona's Academia Marshall, where she had studied and tutored as a youngster.

By this time, her affinity with Spanish music was becoming more widely recognised, and her performances of Albeniz's Iberia and Granados's Goyescas won particular praise.

She recorded Iberia four times, and gave premieres of several Spanish works.

The BBC reports her recordings earned her four Grammies and numerous other prizes.

De Larrocha retired in 2003, after some 4000 concerts, at the age of 80.