Alicia de Larrocha, one hundred years of honesty

The musical personality that has impressed me the most throughout my life has been that of Rubinstein”.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
22 May 2023 Monday 22:55
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Alicia de Larrocha, one hundred years of honesty

The musical personality that has impressed me the most throughout my life has been that of Rubinstein”. With these words Alicia de Larrocha began a heartfelt article in La Vanguardia on the occasion of the death of the Polish legend of the piano, in 1982. And with these same words Javier Perianes now assures that any writing about the immortal Alicia de Larrocha could begin. “She is one of the most relevant and unique musical personalities in history and a role model for any musician. Devotion and absolute respect for music in capital letters, honesty and professional honesty... In addition to a sense of rhythm, virtuosity, color and dazzling sound”.

This is how the man from Huelva defines her, who at 44 years old represents just one of the various generations of interpreters who have been impacted by the universal Barcelonan born on this day in 1923, at 263 bis Còrsega street, corner with Enrique Granados.

“A tremendous talent. And an even more enormous work capacity. An example to follow... if you can”, adds the nonagenarian Joaquín Achúcarro. “He gave thousands of hours of happiness to thousands of people around the world. That is why we do not forget her and those of us who treat her as a friend, sister and partner in the vice of piano addiction lack her music and above all her person ”.

Third of four children, her mother, Teresa de la Calle, had been a disciple of Granados, so little Alicia grew up in a very musical environment. At the age of four she was already receiving instruction from Frank Marshall, the continuator of the Granados piano school. He was her only teacher and he made figures like the aforementioned Arthur Rubinstein, with whom she had a close friendship, or Alfred Cortot and Emil von Sauer available to her.

Its public presentation, in 1929, took place at the Marshall Academy, after a dissertation by maestro Turina, admired for that exceptional talent. At 11 he made his orchestral debut: The Coronation of Mozart with Joan Lamote de Grignon at the head of the Municipal Band. When the Civil War took Marshall into exile, she took the opportunity to compose small pieces. And after World War II she began her international takeoff, claimed in prestigious festivals and orchestras. When Marshall died, she directed the academy, shielding Barcelona's piano heritage.

“He is an indisputable benchmark in Spanish nationalist music and many more records from his immense repertoire –says Josep Colom (Barcelona, ​​1947)–. I would highlight his enormous will and capacity for work and even more his authentic humility. She ran away from praise, she never spoke ill of anyone and she was close with colleagues and students. Alicia's recordings and live performances accompanied Albert Guinovart (Barcelona, ​​1962) from a young age, for whom the pianist was always an example and reference to follow: “Her genius increases with her humility, self-demand and passion for music over and above personalisms. She is one of the greats of music ”.

Alba Ventura (Barcelona, ​​1978) also maintains that “the memory and wonderful recordings of Alicia continue to teach us that music deserves to be interpreted honestly, without sensationalism or exaggeration. Respect, love for music and rigor”. And the youngest of the Barcelona stars, Ignasi Cambra, abounds in this: “She is an example of the complete pianist. Because she is often known from the Spanish repertoire, but if you listen to her in Mozart, Liszt or live recordings of Concerto no. 3 by Rachmaninov, are spectacular. Her humility in approaching her works without giving any kind of unnecessary show, but at the same time with extraordinary technical and musical abilities, she manages to convey that I don't know how hard to repeat”.

De Larrocha gave more than 4,000 concerts in 59 countries. Her husband, Joan Torra, gave up her fledgling career to take care of the academy and the children in her absences. Alicia announced her retirement in 2003, after two decades a widow. She had played with Gaspar Cassadó, Mistlav Rostropóvich, Conxita Badia, Victoria de los Ángeles, Montserrat Caballé, Josep Carreras... and in a duet on the piano with André Previn and the composer Francis Poulenc. took home when breaking the femur. She died in 2009, at 86.

Today the Russian Varvara dedicates the Ibercamera Goldberg Variations to him at the Palau: “Years ago, as a student, I learned Soler's Piano Sonatas. And of course I listened to the iconic Alicia's records and even tried (like thousands of bad students) to imitate her. It didn't work. A few weeks ago I went back to work at Soler and listened to her again. And suddenly I realized that, in addition to incredible clarity, purity and brilliance, she has absolute conviction and calm faith in her interpretation. She doesn't need any special effect and that's impossible to imitate, she can only be admired and enjoyed."