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Alicia de Larrocha y de la Calle (23 May 1923 – 25 September 2009) was a Spanish pianist from Catalonia. Reuters referred to her as "the greatest Spanish pianist in history" [1] and Time called her "one of the world's most outstanding pianists". [2] The Guardian called her "the leading Spanish pianist of her time".[3 ]

She won multiple Grammy Awards, a Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts and is credited with bringing greater popularity to the compositions of Isaac Albéniz and Enrique Granados. [1] In 1995, she became the first Spanish artist to win the UNESCO Prize.[3 ]

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Early life and career

Born in Barcelona,[4 ] 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. [2][4 ] Beginning her career at the age of three, she publicly debuted at the age of five at the International Exposition in Barcelona. [2] 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, she was selling out in Spain. [2] She began touring internationally in 1947, and in 1954 toured North America with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

De Larrocha made numerous recordings of 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 and Isaac Albéniz, as well as her 1967 recordings of Antonio Soler's keyboard sonatas. She has recorded for Hispavox, CBS/Columbia/Epic, BMG/RCA and London/Decca, winning her first Grammy Award in 1975 and again, as recently as 1992, at the age of almost seventy. She received the Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts in 1994. [2]

Less than five feet tall and with small hands for a pianist, [1] [2] 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 by Ravel, Prokofiev's No. 3, those by 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 helped make her more technically gifted.[3 ]

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 Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts's Mostly Mozart Festival 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 performing in October 2003, aged 80, following a 76-year career. [2][4 ]

Death

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. [5] Her husband, the pianist Juan Torra, with whom she had two children, died in 1982. [2][3 ]

Culture Minister Ángeles González-Sinde described her as "an extraordinary ambassador for Spain". [1] The Barcelona Symphony Orchestra had one minute's silence in her memory before their performances on the weekend after her death. [1] The Daily Telegraph's Damian Thompson complimented her "rich legacy" and said she "virtually owned a small chunk of the piano repertoire". [6] The Baltimore Sun's Tim Smith praised the "excellent" obituary she was given by Allan Kozinn in The New York Times. [7] On 26 September 2009, pianist Stephen Hough played an encore at Orchestra Hall, (Minnesota), he announced his piece —"Capricho Catalán" by Albéniz— and dedicated it to the memory of Alicia de Larrocha. "She was a completely unique artist, with a unique sound and a unique career." Hough said. On 27 September 2009 Peter Oundjian and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra dedicated their performance of the Brahms 2nd Symphony to Alicia de Larrocha.

List of awards and nominations

De Larrocha won several individual awards throughout her lifetime, as well as four American Grammy Awards between 1975 and 1992. She received honorary degrees from universities in Michigan, Middlebury College, Vermont, and Carnegie Mellon. [2][3 ]

Year Nominated work Award Result
1960  ? Grand Prix du Disque Won
1974 Albeniz: Iberia (Decca) Grand Prix du Disque Won
1991 Granados: Goyescas, Allegro De Concierto, Danza Lenta (RCA) Grand Prix du Disque Won
1968  ? Edison Award Won
1978  ? Edison Award Won
1989 Albeniz: Iberia (Decca) Edison Award Won
1974 Albeniz: 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 Award Won
1988 Albeniz: Iberia, Navarra, Suite Espagnola (Decca) Grammy Award Won
1991 Granados: Goyescas, Allegro De Concierto, Danza Lenta (RCA) Grammy Award Won
1971  ? Records of the Year (London) Won
1974  ? Records of the Year (London) Won
1979 Granados: Goyescas (Decca) Deutsche Schallplattenpreis (Germany) Won
1980 Liszt: Piano Sonata in B minor (Decca) Franz Liszt Award (Budapest) Won
1994 Music by Manuel de Falla and Xavier Montsalvatge (RCA) Japan Record Academy Award Won
1978 Musician of the Year - Musical America (magazine)  
1988 Commander of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres  
1994 Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts  
1995 UNESCO Prize  
1961 Paderewski Memorial Medal (London)  

References

External links

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