Isaac Albéniz, classical music composer

Isaac Albéniz image

Isaac Albéniz

Biography

A progenitor of Spanish nationalism in classical music, Isaac Albéniz is best known for the folk-inspired piano music of his middle period and his masterpiece Iberia, completed shortly before his death. Though Albéniz himself was a pianist, many of his best piano works are most widely known in transcriptions for the guitar, which form an important part of that instrument's repertoire.

Albéniz was born in Camprodon on May 29, 1860, the son of a customs official. He displayed a talent for music remarkably early and was something of a prodigy, performing in public for the first time when he was only four years of age. A few years later, he became a pupil of Antoine-François Marmontel, a celebrated piano pedagogue who also taught Georges Bizet and Claude Debussy. He also passed the entrance examinations for the prestigious Paris Conservatoire but was refused admittance because of his age—he was only seven. Albéniz's father, however, was keen to capitalize on his son's, and daughter Clementina's, musical abilities, and began touring them both through northern Spain. However, Isaac was a restless youth, a trait that characterized much of his life, and purportedly made several attempts to run away. A longstanding and popular myth says that he stowed away on a ship bound for Buenos Aires, and by way of Cuba, came to the United States, giving concerts in New York City and San Francisco and then returning to Europe via Liverpool and London. While Albéniz did concertize in the Western Hemisphere, it is likely that his father, who travelled as part of his work as a customs official, was with him. Nevertheless, after his return to Europe, he resided briefly in Leipzig where he studied with Carl Reinecke at the Leipzig Conservatory. Not long after, however, a patron was able to gain admittance for Albéniz to the Brussels Conservatory where he took first prize in 1879. The next year, he found himself before Franz Liszt in Budapest and joined the great master's entourage.

The year 1883 and his move to Barcelona, however, became a turning point in Albéniz's career. There he met musicologist, teacher and composer Felip Pedrell, who inspired him to compose in a nationalistic and folk-inspired idiom. Up to this time, Albéniz's music was predominantly written in the "salon" style and imitative of music from Bach to Liszt. Albéniz took Pedrell's advice to heart and began reevaluating his direction as a composer. Following his marriage that same year to his student Rosina Jordana, he produced in a short time a large quantity of piano music. His works were well-received and over the following years, which included study with Paul Dukas and Vincent d'Indy, his unique compositional voice began to emerge. These works would also become the inspiration for Manual de Falla and Enrique Granados.

In the early 1890s, Albéniz reached the summit of his career as a concert pianist. He lived during this time in London and Paris. His compositions brought him to the attention of Francis Money-Coutts, 5th Baron Latymer who commissioned two works from him, the operas Henry Clifford and Merlin. After 1900, he began to suffer from Bright's disease, a historical classification of kidney diseases. He returned to composing piano music, and during 1905-08 worked on his masterpiece, Iberia, a suite of twelve piano pieces, or rather "impressions." A few weeks before his death on May 18, 1909, he was awarded the Grand-Croix de la Légion d'honneur, the highest honor bestowed by the government of France.


Composer Title Date Action
Isaac Albéniz Granada, from Suite Española No. 1 02/09/2009 Play Add to playlist
Isaac Albéniz Cordoba, Op. 232, No. 4 02/12/2009 Play Add to playlist
Isaac Albéniz Asturias (Leyenda) 01/11/2009 Play Add to playlist
Isaac Albéniz Evocacion 01/15/2009 Play Add to playlist
Isaac Albéniz Asturias (Leyenda) 03/21/2009 Play Add to playlist
Isaac Albéniz El Polo, from Suite Iberia 01/08/2009 Play Add to playlist
Isaac Albéniz La Vega 01/23/2009 Play Add to playlist
Isaac Albéniz Tango (arr. Leopold Godowksy) 11/04/2009 Play Add to playlist
Isaac Albéniz Granada 01/14/2009 Play Add to playlist
Isaac Albéniz Almeria, from Suite Iberia Book II 08/09/2010 Play Add to playlist
Isaac Albéniz El Albaicín, from Suite Iberia Book III 08/09/2010 Play Add to playlist
Isaac Albéniz Asturias (Leyenda) 09/11/2010 Play Add to playlist
Isaac Albéniz Evocación, from Iberia, Book I 01/06/2011 Play Add to playlist
Isaac Albéniz Seguidillas, Op. 232 No. 5 01/25/2011 Play Add to playlist
Isaac Albéniz La Vega 09/04/2011 Play Add to playlist
Isaac Albéniz Asturias (Leyenda) 10/02/2011 Play Add to playlist
Isaac Albéniz Evocación, from Iberia, Book I 11/12/2012 Play Add to playlist
Isaac Albéniz El puerto, from Iberia, Book I 11/12/2012 Play Add to playlist
Isaac Albéniz Fête-dieu à Seville, from Iberia, Book I 11/12/2012 Play Add to playlist
Isaac Albéniz Málaga, from Iberia, Book IV 12/26/2012 Play Add to playlist
Isaac Albéniz Jerez, from Iberia, Book IV 12/26/2012 Play Add to playlist
Isaac Albéniz Eritaña, from Iberia, Book IV 12/26/2012 Play Add to playlist
Isaac Albéniz Iberia, Book IV 12/26/2012 Play Add to playlist
Isaac Albéniz "Asturias" 01/12/2013 Play
Isaac Albéniz Seguidillas 10/20/2009 Play Add to playlist
Isaac Albéniz Triana from Suite Iberia 04/28/2013 Play Add to playlist
Isaac Albéniz Iberia, Book I 05/26/2013 Play Add to playlist