Alicia de Larrocha has been called the "greatest Spanish pianist in history." While she excelled in the classical masterpieces of Haydn, Mozart, and Chopin, one of her most important accomplishments was bringing the music of Spanish composers to international prominence through her performances.
De Larrocha was born in Barcelona in 1923 and began studying piano with Frank Marshall at the age of three. She gave her first public performance at the International Exposition in Barcelona when she was only five, and made her orchestral debut at 11. By 1943, she performed to sell-out crowds throughout Europe, and two years later she began touring internationally.
Standing at only four feet nine inches tall, the petite pianist had extremely small hands, but her diminutive stature did not prevent her from producing a big sound at the piano keyboard. She overcame her disadvantage in size by creating her own finger combinations giving her the reach required for most piano concertos.
Known for her grace and elegance on stage, her ability to interpret the works of Spanish composers such as Isaac Albéniz and Enrique Granados remains unparalleled. She performed their compositions with gusto when few pianists played their music. Enrique Granados, who had been her aunt’s piano teacher, held a special place in her heart. She said in a 1978 interview with Contemporary Keyboard “I don’t believe there is a ‘best’ of anything in this life but I would say that Granados was one of the great Spanish composers who captured real Romantic flavor. His style was aristocratic, elegant and poetic." Those adjectives also capture the essence of Alicia de Larrocha the performer
In her later years as she grew tired of traveling and performing with full orchestras, she enjoyed more intimate performances with chamber ensembles. In 2002 at the age of 79, she gave her farewell concert in New York with the Tokyo String Quartet.
The humble Alicia de Larrocha was surprised by her success. "I think it was a matter of luck, because I never did anything to get all the things I have," she said. But, she did. Alicia de Larrocha, the Spanish power of the piano, did have so many things: incredible talent, skill, determination, and grace on stage which endured for more than 60 years. After two years of declining health, she died at the age of 86 in a Barcelona hospital.