No Copyright Infringement Intended

By Harold C. Schonberg
New York Times,
 October-22, 1982
Music has its royalty, too. Artists have been represented as the King of Tenors, the Queen of Song, the Prince of Violinists, with other assorted nobility thrown in. Sometimes these designations arouse scornful smiles, if not downright raspberries. But nobody is going to put up much of a fight against calling Alicia de Larrocha the reigning Queen of Pianists.
As royalty, she has her prerogatives. She also has her responsibilities, and one of them is the necessity of playing some 100 concerts a season and playing them up to her inordinately high standards.
In New York alone, this season, the 59-year-old pianist will make 16 appearances, with orchestra, in chamber music and in concert. Last night she played with the Y Chamber Orchestra at the 92d Street Y in the first of four concerto appearances (Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 2 and Turina's ''Rapsodia Sinfonica'') and will repeat those two works tonight at 8 at Avery Fisher Hall (tickets are $7 to $14; information: 874-2424) and tomorrow and Sunday back at the Y (those concerts are sold out).
Later this season she will be playing with the Pittsburgh and New York Philharmonic orchestras and so, off and on in New York, through April.
But this season's appearances are, alas, different from her former ones. A short time ago her husband, Juan Torra, died after 32 years of marriage (and, she says, nine additional years as a fiance). Even though he had been ill for a long time, his death came as a shock, and it even affected her playing. Not long ago, while performing a Mozart concerto in Kennedy Center, she lost concentration and had a momentary memory lapse. That never - never - happens at a de Larrocha performance. It was like an engine of a jetliner faltering while in flight - a scary experience. Backstage, after the performance, Miss de Larrocha was in tears, and not because of the momentary bobble. Before going on stage she had learned that her husband had been put into a Swiss hospital.
He had been a pianist, and they worked closely together. It was Juan who knew her entire repertory (which is enormous) and discussed with her the things she should be playing the next year and the year after that. It was Juan who was her severest crtitic.
''I don't know how to manage this now,'' she said the other day. ''He would make arrangements for tours far in advance. I will now have to do many things by myself. I will have to start all over. I am trying to be very strong. I have a very strong will, but ---,'' and her voice trailed off.
Miss de Larrocha was fussing with her hands while talking. She does this, unconsciously, all the time. She is a tiny woman with rather small hands. But they are a pianist's hands -strong, with spatulate fingers, a wide stretch between thumb and forefinger, and a long little finger. It is the little finger, she says, that saves her. Otherwise she would be able to stretch only just an octave, whereas nearly all pianists have two notes over that.
All her life she has been working on extension exercises, at and away from the keyboard. For more than 50 years she has been stretching, pulling at her fingers, kneading them, working them. This has become a form of isometric exercise with her. In a way, she also has learned a good deal of her repertory in what might loosely be described as isometric brain exercises. Memorizes Scores on Airplanes
A pianist as busy as she is does not have much time before the keyboard to practice, and so she memorizes scores on airplanes and in hotel rooms, poring over them until they are part of her psyche. She has 12 or 13 concertos at her fingertips and could, if necessary, work up any one of 20 others at a few days' notice. These days she travels with two complete recital programs for any given season. She used to have three or four, but she has had too much emotional pressure the last few years.
She talks with pleasure about pianists she heard when she was a child prodigy, and paramount among them was Arthur Rubinstein. ''He was my idol,'' she said. ''His personality! I was such a very small child, about 5 or 6, and he was so charming to me, so sweet. He gave me a little present, and I have never forgotten it.'' She was impressed by Alfred Cortot, ''who played everything as though it was a fantasy.'' She remembers a Cortot concert in which he got all mixed up in the first movement of Chopin's B minor Sonata ''and then went on to play the slow movement so beautifully I could have cried,'' she said. ''After the performance my teacher and I went backstage. Cortot had his hands in the air, and we thought he was in despair about the mess in the first movement. But no. 'I never played the slow movement so beautifully,' he kept saying.'' Missed notes never bothered Cortot very much. The one time she heard Rachmaninoff, ''he was in a terrible temper or something. He finished, and even though the audience was yelling and applauding, he never gave a single encore. He was a very severe man.'' Noted for Mozart Playing, Alicia de Larrocha's Mozart performances are universally admired. Does she have any theories - emotional, technical, musicological or whatever - about Mozart and how he should be played?
She is no musicologist, nor does she pretend to be. She says that she loves all of Mozart, especially the operas and symphonies. ''What I'm trying to do when I play Mozart is to suggest in the piano concertos and sonatas what I hear in the symphonies and operas. I try to suggest orchestration in the piano parts. Bassoons, horns, woodwinds, strings - and keep it simple and natural. Mozart is so hard. He is especially difficult for me because my temperament was originally not for him. My teacher used to say that Mozart is for a genius or a child. Of course, I played him as a child. Now I am coming back to him little by little. It scared me when I found out how hard it was.''

by Lafleur Paysour
The Charlotte Observer, April-3, 1986

Alicia De Larrocha is not quite 5 feet tall, but she’s a giant at the keyboard. With more than 50 years of handling the strongest piano repertoire in concert halls and recording studios, it’s no surprise that her reading of the Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2 Wednesday night with the Charlotte Symphony glowed with deep insight and riveting interpretive maturity. She took on the Brahms score - and it’s a terror - with a decidedly no-nonsense approach and had her music speaking with power and authority. Working like a gifted poet, she paid close attention to form and content, never shrinking from a call to reveal deepest emotions.
What showed most clearly Wednesday was her view of the way the movements are linked to each other. She loaded the first movement with brooding and flashes of anguish, effectively setting listeners up for the wrenching passion of the second movement. One of the biggest challenges in the score comes in the fourth movement. How difficult it is to get the spirit of playfulness and levity without gussying up the music with dime-store interpretive frills. De Larrocha got good results in grand style and in good taste. Soloist and orchestra struck its best partnership in the final movement. There, Leo Driehuys and his musicians were running on a blazing rush of spontaneity and high energy. They had good reason to end the concert in a blaze of inspiration, simply because they started it that way.

Legendary pianist Alicia de Larrocha made her debut 70 years ago
by Steven Mazey
The Ottawa Citizen, Wednesday 12-July 2000

"The woman is simply amazing. She's a consummate artist."
That's how Pinchas Zukerman describes Alicia de Larrocha, the Spanish pianist who gave her first public concert more than 70 years ago and is still performing, still winning acclaim.
Of course, de Larrocha was a six-year-old prodigy when she made her stage debut in 1929, but there aren't many soloists who are still going strong at age 77. And the woman who is generally ranked among the greatest players of the 20th century shows no signs of slowing down.
Last summer, in a concert at New York's Lincoln Center, de Larrocha performed a Mozart concerto. Zukerman, who conducted the concert, says he and his fellow musicians were knocked out.
"Her phrasing, her tone, her colours, I couldn't believe it, and neither could the orchestra. We said 'how do you do that?'" says Zukerman, who will conduct tomorrow when de Larrocha joins the National Arts Centre Orchestra to perform Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 21. It will be her first Ottawa performance since 1991. (She will be back next March with conductor Franz-Paul Decker, performing Falla's Nights in the Garden of Spain, a piece for which she's been lavishly acclaimed).
De Larrocha doesn't stand much taller than the orchestra musicians who are sitting down. And, for a pianist, she has unusually tiny hands. But as David Dubal writes in The Art of the Piano, "those small hands were destined for the keyboard. De Larrocha takes a rightful place as one of the instrument's greatest players… She is a player of pure instinct, guided by an acute musical intelligence… blessed with one of the most perfect, kinetic rhythmic senses in the musical world."
Born in Barcelona, de Larrocha showed huge promise as a child and was encouraged by Arthur Rubinstein.
Recordings of de Larrocha playing Chopin at age seven, says Dubal, "show an intense, pure, innocent musicality that expresses Chopin as naturally as a lark sings. She has somehow retained this innocence into maturity."
She was a pupil of Frank Marshall, the pianist who studied with Enrique Granados, and she has been particularly acclaimed for her richly coloured performances of the music of Spanish composers, including Granados, Albeniz and Falla.
De Larrocha, the winner of four Grammy Awards, has recorded the complete Mozart Piano Sonatas and many of Mozart's piano concertos for BMG Classics. Her most recent Grammy was for her RCA recording of Granados' Goyescas in 1991.
Her detractors have sometimes accused her of failing to fully explore the depths of some of the music she performs, but even her critics recognize her technical skills and musical elegance.
Last summer, reviewing de Larrocha's performance with Zukerman, a New York Times critic praised her "pearly bright and singing tone. This diminutive woman offers a lesson in how to produce full-bodied tone without force. Her playing was consistently lyrical and tasteful."
Zukerman, who is 25 years younger than de Larrocha, marvels at the energy and enthusiasm she retains. (On Friday, she travels with Zukerman and the orchestra to Joliette, Que., for a repeat of the program at the Festival international de Lanaudiere.)
"After so many years, this woman still gets excited about coming to perform. That's fantastic," he says.
Alicia de Larrocha performs with the NACO at 8 p.m. tomorrow. At 6:45 p.m., in a pre-concert chamber performance,
NACO principal clarinetist Kimball Sykes will be featured with Zukerman, cellist Amanda Forsyth, violinist Manuela Milani and violist Jane Logan in Mozart's Clarinet Quintet in A major.

by William Littler
Toronto Star, Nov-18, 2001
(Canada Farewell Recital)

Seven years before Alicia de Larrocha was born, the ship carrying the Spanish composer Enrique Granados across the Atlantic was torpedoed to the bottom of the English Channel.
If this tragedy necessarily prevented the future piano superstar from studying with the founder of the modern Spanish school of composition, her mother and aunt had already studied with Granados, and it is tempting to believe that his music flowed from their fingers to hers.
Nothing happened to refute this belief Friday night in the George Weston Recital Hall, when the pianist from Barcelona appeared to present an all-Granados program before an enthusiastic capacity audience.
Now a petite 78-year-old, with small hands and feet barely able to reach the pedals, she has always been the least likely looking of virtuosos. But she still plays as one of them, commanding a remarkable range of tone colour, a subtle rhythmic sense and an ability far out of the ordinary to pick out inner voices from complex contrapuntal textures.
If she has made concessions to the passage of time, they primarily affect the weight of her attack, which is softer now and slightly less incisive. Otherwise, save for occasional dropped notes, she continues to play like a goddess, sovereign in the Spanish repertory.
Using a couple of the Twelve Danzas Espanolas as introductory courses, she focused on this occasion on Granados' most celebrated set of piano pieces, the Goya-inspired Goyescas, playing all six (plus the vivacious, supplementary El pelele) with a seemingly instinctive feeling for the right emphases and an elegant approach to the many ornaments.
Her 1991 RCA Victor recording of this music won the Grammy Award (her fourth). Suffice it to say that in the years since, the lady of Spain hasn't lost her touch.