Without necessarily knowing who the composer is we often relax to the melodies of Isaac Albeniz. The Spanish composer’s Rapsodia Espanola, Sevilla and Granada are perhaps the better-known of his compositions. However, The Catalan’s life was even more colourful than his music.
Born in 1860 in Catalonia, the prodigy was just four years old when he performed his first concert. He was only seven years old when he passed the Paris Conservatoire entrance examination. He was refused admission as he was too young and the Spaniard’s talent would have humiliated other students.
Disliking school, he ran away from home on several occasions. At 12 years old the errant Isaac succeeded in stowing away on a ship bound for Buenos Aires. Working his passage, he made his way to Cuba and then to the U.S. where he gave concerts in New York and San Francisco.
Making his way to Liverpool, then onwards to Leipzig via London he was still only 15 years of age and internationally recognised. To further his studies Isaac Albeniz left Leipzig for Brussels. Unstoppable, the prodigy was soon on his way to Budapest to study with Franz Liszt.
When in 1883 he met composer Felipe Pedrell his mentor inspired his pupil to compose music such as Suite Espanola, Op. 47, the most endearing of the suite is Asturias (Leyenda).
Famous for his haunting Recuerdos de la Alhambra (Memories of the Alhambra), the composer Franciso Terrega transcribed many of Albeniz’s piano compositions to the softer style of the Spanish guitar.
During the 1890s the gifted Spaniard divided his time between London and Paris where he penned mainly theatrical works. Sadly, by 1890 the composer was suffering from Bright’s disease. Returning to piano compositions he finally rounded off with Iberia, a suite of 12 piano impressions.
Isaac Albeniz passed away on May 18, 1909, at the age of just 48. His remains are interred in the Cementiri del Sudoest at Monjuic near Barcelona. Among the composer’s great-grandchildren was ex-mayor of Madrid, Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon and Cecilia Sarkozy, former wife of French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
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