Friday, January 18, 2019

Alicia de Larrocha & Mozart

No. 301 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages, which can be found in our archives at


In the spirit of our “Classical Collect ions”, my intention throughout 2019 is to survey the piano sonata repertoire, and contribute to our ongoing series of playlists and montages featuring piano sonatas by Beethoven, Scarlatti and Mozart.

This week’s montage features four sonatas and a piano rondo and, for a second time on consecutive weeks, Spanish pianist Alicia de Larrocha y de la Calle (1923 –2009) is prominently featured in our pages. She was considered one of the great piano legends of the 20th century, dubbed "the greatest Spanish pianist in history", and "the leading Spanish pianist of her time".

(As luck has it, I grew up on rue de la Roche in Montreal, in Spanish Calle de Larrocha…)

Alicia de Larrocha was born in Barcelona to a piano family; both her parents were pianists and she was also the niece of pianists. Beginning her career at the age of three, she gave her first public performance at the age of five, 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. She retired from public performance in October 2003, aged 80, following a remarkable 76-year career.

Alicia 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.  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.

One of the basics of Mozart's music is that it is difficult to play. In a specific sense, every note is out there alone, transparent. Whether it is simply a sustained note in an opera, a limpid passage in an adagio or the quickness demanded by a vivace, the waver of a diaphragm or clumsiness of a finger can ruin everything. Add to that the fact that Mozart demands both proper phrasing and a unity of overall phrasing so that and you have a large musical responsibility before you even get to matters of interpretation.

As pointed out in a review of her Mozart piano sonata recordings, in all of these aspects, Alicia de Larraccha succeeds and excels, with wonderful interpretations synthesizing superb technique, a deft and appropriate touch and decorous sentiment. She is always within the bounds of interpretive unity and as close to Mozart's intentions as we can be two centuries later.

I think you will love this music too

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