From her first appearance here, nearly 39 years ago, Alicia de Larrocha has been an exemplar among pianists, a musical standard-bearer and a role model for the younger generation.
Both a distinguished musician and a virtuoso of the keyboard, Larrocha today continues, at age 69, to carry the torch of pianistic integrity into an uncertain musical future. As shown in her latest recital in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Larrocha's art still entertains, edifies and inspires.
Many might argue, but the most inspiring part of this Sunday night recital seemed to be the Spanish pianist's continually evolving performance of Robert Schumann's massive C-major Fantasy, Opus 17.
Like a number of other repertory standards, Larrocha has brought this one to us before. This time, however, her approach seemed even more thoughtful and probing. The impassioned nature of the piece became secondary to its reflectiveness. The searing climaxes seemed more remembered than cathartic. The urgency of youth has been replaced by the joys of reconsideration.
Pianistically, all of Larrocha's skills remain intact. Her fingers go where they must, her inflection of sounds retain its potency and range, her manipulation of dynamics its familiar mastery. As a communicator, however, the pianist has reached a new plateau.
The rest of her program, devoted to colorful and often neglected music by Spanish composers Soler and Falla, held the ear with fascination.
Brief Soler sonatas in the minor modes of D and C-sharp served as a snappy introduction to the Schumann masterwork. A sampler of three works from Falla's long career--the irresistible "Serenata Andaluza" (1893), the cherishable "Cuatro Piezas Espanolas" (1908) and the quirky "Fantasia Betica" (1919)--were a reminder of the composer's musical depth and emotional range.
For encores, the large audience received two: "Song and Dance" No. 1 by Mompou and Falla's "Ritual Fire Dance."