At age 71, pianist Alicia de Larrocha continues to evolve as an artist.
Her latest demonstration of maturity-in-progress--a recital Thursday night at Ambassador Auditorium--displayed again the kaleidoscopic musical artistry that has been Larrocha's signature in appearances here for the last 41 years.
This time around she gave a first half devoted to Spanish composers, Padre Soler from the 18th Century and Enrique Granados from our own, then a post-intermission encompassing the aural mural that is Robert Schumann's "Carnaval." As she has done so regularly and frequently in these five decades, Larrocha inspired her listeners through musical point, articulate and compelling re-creations of contrasting works and multicolored, seductive, exquisite pianism.
She continues to command a broad range of pianistic touches, from tiny pinpricks of sound, through at least a dozen varieties of staccato and non-legato, to apparently massive but never strident keyboard power strikes. In all of these, she makes the music at hand speak, sing and live.
Larrocha is no miniaturist, yet she produces nuance and detail in abundance. Her phrasing, musical rhetoric and command of articulation find meaning where others deliver only notes. And all that she does technically--trills, octaves, legato connections--she does, apparently, even better than before. Her spirit seems indomitable, yet her manner remains self-effacing.
With all the variety appropriate to their style, two Soler sonatas began the evening like fanfares of whimsy. Six of Granados' 10 "Danzas Espanolas" made all their points boldly but thoughtfully--although one could certainly move to them, they became more meditations on dance than actual dances. Schumann's most famous character pieces were newly etched, highly detailed, sweeping in their continuity, a few uncharacteristic note-cracks aside.
At the end, Larrocha offered two encores, a Song and Dance by Federico Mompou and "Seguidillas Murcianas" by Joaquin Nin-Culmell.
For the record, the oft-repeated saw that Larrocha made her U.S. debut in 1955 is a mistake. In fact, the beloved pianist first played in this country at age 30, with Alfred Wallenstein and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, in old Philharmonic Auditorium, on Feb. 11, 1954.