Alicia de Larrocha died on September 26 in Barcelona, Spain. She was 86 and died after having broken her hip several years past and had been in ill health.
For all of us clarinetists, she was an extremely important musician and pianist. To say that she was the greatest interpreter of Spanish music sounds more like an obituary, and this is not an obituary, but a tribute. The lady ,who was incidentally tiny at 4′,9″ ( and suffered through being small) had the most beautiful interpretation of the intricate music of the composers Albeniz, Granados, and de Falla, and others of any pianist.
The poetry of her playing was always very much to the fore of her playing, however part of the ingredients of this poetry came from her incredible understanding of the rhythm of this music and in the interpretation of the ornamentation, so much of it not written, but inflected and so perfectly interpreted by Ms. de Larrocha.
Her performances were introduced to me by my wife, who has played them for years, but this “clarinet-player” as I am, (and are so many of the readers of this site)I knew nothing.
To understand the music of these composers, especially the piano music,is to understand that her understanding of the interpretation of the ornamentation was one of the most salient aspects of her playing.
It is in her interpretation of this part of the music wherein she brought to life the music of Spain and its importance.
Olivier Messiaen, the great French composer wrote that the music of Albeniz, specifically, “Iberia” is equal to the” Well-Tempered Clavier.”, by JS Bach”.
But, for us, it is her understanding of the rhythm of this music and her interpretation that can bring every single-line instrumentalist great understanding in playing. Her phrasing , understanding of the line, and her ability which was perfectly mastered is a lesson for us all to learn.
Her recordings of these masterpieces of Spanish piano music are all still very much available and each time I listen to them my understanding of music and the clarinet is hightened.
For those of you who may be unfamiliar, I suggest it for your perusal.
As a youngster of 3 she wanted to play the piano, but was refused. She finally gained lessons by banging her head on the floor until she was allowed to play, a true story. Her first concerts were at 5 years old and she first played with a professional orchestra at age 11.
Rest in Peace, dear Madame de Larrocha.