Alicia de Larrocha is another artist with strong connections with Barcelona. She was born there in 1923 and in 1959 was appointed as Director of the Marshall Academy. Her career sent her around the world and many of her outstanding recordings are still available. She was contracted to the Decca company who describes her as ‘the Spanish dynamo of the keyboard’ who ‘ won the hearts of the world for nearly fifty years’. She recorded the complete Mozart sonatas and some of the concertos with maestro Colin Davies, as well as all the standard Spanish works some of which we have referred to.
I heard her play once at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, performing I think an early Beethoven concerto. She is very petite, standing at only 4’ 9’’ and I remember she had considerable trouble with the height of her piano stool. The conductor was ready and the orchestra waiting, but she continued to fiddle with the mechanism of the stool to try and find a satisfactory position but without success.
In the end the stool was removed and another found which, again after some fiddling, was then considered to be appropriate. The polite Amsterdam audience quietly waited for the performance to begin, which of course once it did so, was excellent and warmly – perhaps also sympathetically – received.
It is interesting that such a small person could play with such muscular strength, one of the qualities evident in the Albeniz disc that I mentioned earlier.