Alicia de Larrocha dies at 86; renowned Spanish pianist
Sep 27, 2009 | 12:00 AM
Spanish pianist Alicia de Larrocha, who thrilled music listeners for decades with polished and enthralling interpretations of great classical works, has died. She was 86.
De Larrocha died late Friday in a Barcelona hospital, said piano music expert, music producer and family friend Gregor Benko. She had been in poor health the last two years after breaking her hip.
Critically acclaimed for her technique in performing Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann and Rachmaninoff, De Larrocha also was unrivaled in her interpretation of Spanish composers such as Manuel de Falla as well as masters from her native Catalonia such as Enrique Granados and Isaac Albeniz.
De Larrocha retired from public performances in 2003 after 75 years as a professional pianist.
Born in Barcelona on May 23, 1923, De Larrocha began playing piano at age 3 and two years later gave her debut public performance during the International Exposition in Barcelona.
Four years later an eager music industry had pressed and marketed her first vinyl record.
The daughter and niece of pianists, as a child De Larrocha received classes from renowned teachers such as Frank Marshall, himself a disciple of the pianist Enrique Granados, and theorist Ricardo Lamote de Grignon.
De Larrocha was invited to play at Barcelona's Palau de la Musica when she was only 6, and by 11 she was a soloist with the Madrid Symphony Orchestra.
By the time she was 20, De Larrocha was playing to full houses around Spain, displaying a style and skill that transcended her age. In 1947 she began to make an impression on the European circuit and was soon playing all the major musical centers.
De Larrocha was just under 5 feet tall and had unusually small hands for a pianist. Her style combined poetic interpretation, grace and subtlety with technical virtuosity and remarkable focus, which enabled her to produce a beautifully layered sound capable of grand, temperamental flourishes.
She made her first trip to the United States in 1955 and toured with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The tour enabled her to gain recognition as one of the world's most outstanding pianists. De Larrocha became a regular performer at New York's Lincoln Center, featured in its prestigious Mostly Mozart Festival and interpreters series.
She received the Prince of Asturias Award for the arts in 1994, Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters in Paris in 1988 and the Paderewski Memorial Medal.
She was awarded honorary doctorates by the universities of Michigan and Carnegie Mellon and Middlebury College-Vermont.
Her recordings earned four Grammys and numerous other prizes in Europe.
She was married to the late Spanish pianist Juan Torra, with whom she had two children.