Alicia de Larrocha

Last updated

Alicia de Larrocha
Alicia de Larrocha i de la Calle (1983).jpg
Born23 May 1923
Barcelona, Spain
Died25 September 2009 (aged 86)
Barcelona, Spain

Alicia de Larrocha y de la Calle (23 May 1923 25 September 2009) was a Spanish pianist and composer. She was considered one of the great piano legends of the 20th century. [1] Reuters called her "the greatest Spanish pianist in history", [2] Time "one of the world's most outstanding pianists", [3] and The Guardian "the leading Spanish pianist of her time". [4]


She won multiple Grammy Awards and a Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts. She is credited with bringing greater popularity to the compositions of Isaac Albéniz and Enrique Granados. [2] In 1995, she became the first Spanish artist to win the UNESCO Prize. [4]

Life and career

Alicia de Larrocha was born in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. [5] She began studying piano with Frank Marshall at the age of three. Both her parents were pianists and she was also the niece of pianists. [3] [5] She gave her first public performance at the age of five at the International Exposition in Barcelona. [3] She performed her first concert at the age of six at the World's Fair in Seville in 1929, and had her orchestral debut at the age of 11. By 1943, her performances were selling out in Spain. [3] She began touring internationally in 1947, and in 1954 toured North America with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. In 1966, she engaged in a first tour of Southern Africa which proved so wildly popular that three further tours were completed [6] In 1969, de Larrocha performed in Boston for the Peabody Mason Concert series. [7]

De Larrocha, writes Jed Distler, "started composing at age seven and continued on and off until her 30th year, with a prolific spurt in her late teens," and while she never performed her works in public, she gave her family the choice of making them available after her death, which they have done. [8]

De Larrocha made numerous recordings of the solo piano repertoire and in particular the works of composers of her native Spain. She is best known for her recordings of the music of Manuel de Falla, Enrique Granados, Federico Mompou, and Isaac Albéniz, as well as her 1967 recordings of Antonio Soler's keyboard sonatas. She recorded for Hispavox, CBS/Columbia/Epic, BMG/RCA and London/Decca, winning her first Grammy Award in 1975 and her last one in 1992, at the age of almost seventy. She received the Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts in 1994. [3]

De Larrocha spoke in a 1978 interview with Contemporary Keyboard,

I don't believe there is a 'best' of anything in this life. I would say, though, that Granados was one of the great Spanish composers, and that, in my opinion, he was the only one that captured the real Romantic flavor. His style was aristocratic, elegant and poetic – completely different from Falla and Albéniz. To me, each of them is a different world. Falla was the one who really captured the spirit of the Gypsy music. And Albéniz, I think was more international than the others. Even though his music is Spanish in flavor, his style is completely Impressionistic. [9]

Less than five feet tall and with small hands for a pianist, [2] [3] spanning an interval of barely a tenth on the keyboard, [10] in her younger years she was nonetheless able to tackle all the big concertos (all five by Beethoven, Liszt's No. 1, Brahms's No. 2, Rachmaninoff's Nos. 2 and 3, both of Ravel's, and those of Prokofiev, Bartók, Bliss and Khachaturian, and many more), as well as the wide spans demanded by the music of Granados, Albéniz, and de Falla. She had a "long fifth finger" and a "wide stretch between thumb and index finger" which enhanced her technical ability. [4]

"She made her first recordings, of Chopin, at age 9, her feet not yet able to reach the pedals" [11] and was considered a great interpreter of Chopin.

As she grew older she began to play a different style of music; more Mozart and Beethoven were featured in her recitals and she became a regular guest at the "Mostly Mozart Festival" of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York. In 2001, she was named Honorary Member of the Foundation for Iberian Music at The City University of New York. De Larrocha retired from public performance in October 2003, aged 80, following a 76-year career. [3] [5]

Alicia de Larrocha died on 25 September 2009 in Quiron Hospital, Barcelona, aged 86. She had been in declining health since breaking her hip five years previously. [9] Her husband, the pianist Juan Torra, with whom she had two children, had died in 1982. [3] [4]

List of awards and nominations

De Larrocha won several individual awards throughout her lifetime. Her extended discography has been recognized with 14 Grammy nominations (1967, 1971, 1974,1975 (x2), 1977 (x2), 1982 (x2), 1984, 1988, 1990, 1991, 1992), of which she won four. She received honorary degrees from universities in Michigan, Middlebury College, Vermont, and Carnegie Mellon. [3] [4]

A crater on the planet Mercury has been named in her honor.

YearNominee / workAwardResult
1960Albéniz: Iberia – Books II & III (Erato Records) Grand Prix du Disque Won
1968Granados: Goyescas – Book II, Escenas románticas (Erato Records)Grand Prix du DisqueWon
1974Albéniz: Iberia (Decca)Grand Prix du DisqueWon
1991Granados: Goyescas, Allegro De Concierto, Danza Lenta (RCA)Grand Prix du DisqueWon
1968 ? Edison Award Won
1978 ?Edison AwardWon
1989Albéniz: Iberia (Decca)Edison AwardWon
1974 Albéniz: Iberia (Decca) Grammy Award Won
1975 Ravel: Concerto For Left Hand and Concerto For Piano in G; Faure: Fantaisie for piano and orchestra (Decca)Grammy AwardWon
1988 Albéniz: Iberia, Navarra, Suite Española (Decca)Grammy AwardWon
1991 Granados: Goyescas, Allegro De Conicerto, Danza Lenta (RCA)Grammy AwardWon
1971 ?Records of the Year (London)Won
1974 ?Records of the Year (London)Won
1979Granados: Goyescas (Decca)Deutsche Schallplattenpreis (Germany)Won
1980 Liszt: Piano Sonata in B minor (Decca) Franz Liszt Award (Budapest)Won
1994 Manuel de Falla and Xavier Montsalvatge: Piano Works (RCA) Japan Record Academy Award Won
1978Musician of the Year - Musical America (magazine) 
1988Commander of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres  
1994 Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts  
1995 UNESCO Prize 
1961 Paderewski Memorial Medal (London) 

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Isaac Albéniz</span> Spanish composer (1860–1909)

Isaac Manuel Francisco Albéniz y Pascual was a Spanish virtuoso pianist, composer, and conductor. He is one of the foremost composers of the Post-Romantic era who also had a significant influence on his contemporaries and younger composers. He is best known for his piano works based on Spanish folk music idioms. Isaac Albéniz was close to the Generation of '98.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Manuel de Falla</span> Spanish Andalusian composer (1876–1946)

Manuel de Falla y Matheu was an Andalusian Spanish composer and pianist. Along with Isaac Albéniz, Francisco Tárrega, and Enrique Granados, he was one of Spain's most important musicians of the first half of the 20th century. He has a claim to being Spain's greatest composer of the 20th century, although the number of pieces he composed was relatively modest.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">La Argentina (dancer)</span>

Antonia Mercé y Luque, largely known by her stage name, La Argentina, was an Argentine-born Spanish dancer known for her creation of the neoclassical style of Spanish dance. Considered one of the most famous Spanish dancers of the 20th century, she was known as the "Queen of the Castanets" and the "Flamenco Pavlova."

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ricardo Viñes</span> Spanish pianist

Ricardo Viñes y Roda was a Spanish pianist. He gave the premieres of works by Ravel, Debussy, Satie, Falla and Albéniz. He was the piano teacher of the composer Francis Poulenc and the pianists Marcelle Meyer, Joaquín Nin-Culmell and Léo-Pol Morin.


Goyescas, Op. 11, subtitled Los majos enamorados, is a piano suite written in 1911 by Spanish composer Enrique Granados. It was inspired by the work of the Spanish artist Francisco Goya. The piano pieces have not been authoritatively associated with any particular paintings with two exceptions:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Felip Pedrell</span> Catalan composer and musician

Felip Pedrell Sabaté was a Catalan composer, guitarist and musicologist.

<i>Iberia</i> (Albéniz)

Iberia is a suite for piano composed between 1905 and 1909 by the Spanish composer Isaac Albéniz. It is composed of four books of three pieces each; a complete performance lasts about 90 minutes.

Esteban Sánchez Herrero was a Spanish pianist. Born in the town of Orellana la Vieja in Badajoz in the province of Extremadura, Sánchez studied with his grandfather, Joaquin Sánchez Ruiz, choirmaster in the cathedral. He went to the Real Conservatorio in Madrid and studied piano with Julia Parody. He perfected his technique under Carlo Zecchi in Rome and Alfred Cortot in Paris. Sánchez won numerous major international awards, including the Ferruccio Busoni in Bolzano, the Alfredo Casella in Naples, and the Dinu Lipatti Medal from the Harriet Cohen Foundation. In 1954, at the age of 20, he released "Impressions of Spain" by Joaquin Turina on Capitol Records. He returned home in 1978 to teach at the Badajoz Conservatoire.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mayte Martín</span>

Mayte Martín is a Flamenco cantaora (singer), bolero singer, and composer.

Frank Marshall King, was a Spanish, Catalan pianist and pedagogue born to parents of English heritage.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Conchita Badía</span>

Concepció Badia Millàs was a Spanish soprano and pianist. Admired for her spontaneity, expressiveness, and clear diction, she was considered one of the greatest interpreters of 20th century Catalan, Spanish and Latin American art song. She premiered many works in that genre, including those by Enrique Granados, Manuel de Falla, Frederic Mompou, Alberto Ginastera, and Enric Morera, several of which had been specially written for her voice. The main part of the collection of Badia's sound recordings, scores, letters and pictures is preserved in the Biblioteca de Catalunya. In one of the letters, Pablo Casals wrote: "Everything I've written for a soprano voice has been thinking about you. Therefore, every one is yours."

Denver Oldham was an American concert pianist and recording artist. A Steinway Artist, he had to his credit twelve European concert tours, two South American concert tours, as well as numerous domestic performances. He recorded ten albums, paying special attention to the works of neglected American composers. He was born in Long Island, New York, to Scottish immigrants.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Alicia Urreta</span> Mexican pianist, music educator and composer

Alicia Urreta was a Mexican pianist, music educator and composer.

Douglas Riva is an American classical pianist.

José Antonio Cubiles Ramos was a noted Spanish pianist, conductor and teacher.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Carles & Sofia Piano Duo</span> Musical artist

Carles & Sofia Piano Duo is the name of the duo of pianists consisting of Carles (Carlos) Lama, born 26 February 1970 in Girona, Catalonia, Spain, and Sofia Cabruja, born 11 May 1965 also in Girona.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rosa Sabater</span>

Rosa Sabater i Parera was a Spanish pianist. She was a pupil of Frank Marshall (1883-1959), who headed the Academia Marshall in Barcelona, formerly the Academia Granados. In 1982 she served on the jury of the Paloma O'Shea Santander International Piano Competition. She was killed during the air accident of Avianca Flight 011. Rosa Sabater won the Creu de Sant Jordi Prize.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Leonora Milà Romeu</span> Catalan pianist and composer

Leonora Milà Romeu is a Catalan pianist and composer.

Alba Ventura is a Spanish classical pianist. She made her debut as a concert soloist at the age of 13, performing with the Cadaqués Orchestra of Spain, and went on to have an international solo career. She is a professor at the Conservatori Superior de Música del Liceu.

The Maiden and the Nightingale is a piano piece by the Spanish composer Enrique Granados. The piece, which lasts about six minutes, is part of his suite Goyescas which was inspired by the work of the painter Goya.


  1. Jean-Pierre Thiollet, 88 notes pour piano solo, "Solo nec plus ultra", Neva Editions, 2015, p.50. ISBN   978 2 3505 5192 0.
  2. 1 2 3 Webb, Jason (26 September 2009). "Renowned Spanish pianist de Larrocha dead at 86". Reuters . Retrieved 26 September 2009.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 "Alicia de Larrocha, Renowned Pianist, Dies at 86". Time . 26 September 2009. Archived from the original on 1 October 2009. Retrieved 26 September 2009.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 Adrian Jack (26 September 2009). "Alicia de Larrocha obituary". The Guardian . London. Retrieved 26 September 2009.
  5. 1 2 3 "Pianist Alicia de Larrocha dies". CBC News. 26 September 2009. Retrieved 26 September 2009.
  6. Details of her 4 tours to Southern Africa
  7. The Tech, 19-Nov-1968, Steven Shladover, "Alicia de Larrocha triumphs", Cambridge
  8. Jed Distler, "Alicia de Larrocha, Composer," Classics Today, 2016, URL=
  9. 1 2 Allan Kozinn (26 September 2009). "Alicia de Larrocha, Pianist, Dies at 86". The New York Times . Retrieved 17 November 2016.
  10. "Alicia de Larrocha", Telegraph (Sep 2009)
  11. "Alicia de Larrocha – Steinway & Sons". Retrieved 15 October 2021.