Alicia de Larrocha, Piano – Franz-Paul Decker, Cond. The Barcelona Symphony – January 24, 2003 – RNE Clasica
Over to Barcelona this week for an historic concert featuring piano legend Alicia de Larrocha and the noted German-born Franz-Paul Decker leading the Barcelona Symphony in a program of music by Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Mozart. This is a French radio re-broadcast of a concert originally heard over RNE in Spain and was an hour longer (with a piece by Salvador Pueyo and music from Salome by Strauss). But what we have here is more than worth the hour listen.
Starting with a performance of the Serenade Symphonique op. 39 by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. Followed by the Mozart Piano concerto Number 23 K.488 with Alicia de Larrocha as soloist.
Alicia de Larrocha was born in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. She began studying piano with Frank Marshall at the age of three. Both her parents were pianists and she was also the niece of pianists. Beginning her career at the age of three, she gave her first public performance at the age of five at the International Exposition in Barcelona.She performed her first concert at the age of six at the World’s Fair in Seville in 1929, and had her orchestral debut at the age of 11. By 1943, her performances were selling out in Spain. She began touring internationally in 1947, and in 1954 toured North America with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. In 1966, she engaged in a first strenuous tour of Southern Africa which proved so wildly popular that three further tours were completed In 1969, de Larrocha performed in Boston for the Peabody Mason Concert series.
De Larrocha, writes Jed Distler, “started composing at age seven and continued on and off until her 30th year, with a prolific spurt in her late teens,” and while she never performed her works in public, she gave her family the choice of making them available after her death, which they have done.
De Larrocha made numerous recordings of the solo piano repertoire and in particular the works of composers of her native Spain. She is best known for her recordings of the music of Manuel de Falla, Enrique Granados, Federico Mompou, and Isaac Albéniz, as well as her 1967 recordings of Antonio Soler’s keyboard sonatas. She recorded for Hispavox, CBS/Columbia/Epic, BMG/RCA and London/Decca, winning her first Grammy Award in 1975 and her last one in 1992, at the age of almost seventy. She received the Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts in 1994. Alicia de Larrocha died on 25 September 2009 in Quiron Hospital, Barcelona, aged 86.
Franz-Paul Decker. Conductor, b Cologne 26 Jun 1923; honorary LL D (Concordia) 1975. He studied 1941-4 at the Hochschule für Musik in Cologne with Philip Jarnach and Eugen Papst and took classes in conducting, composition, and pedagogy at the University of Cologne. He began his career in Giessen in 1944 and was a conductor of orchestras in a succession of German cities. He was artistic director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra 1962-8. He visited Canada in the summer of 1965 to direct the NYO, which engaged him again for the 1968 session.
Decker guest-conducted the MSO (Montreal Symphony) in 1966 and succeeded Zubin Mehta as conductor and artistic director in 1967, retaining that position until 1975. The MSO made notable progress under his energetic and disciplined leadership and appeared under his direction at Expo 70 in Osaka, Japan. Decker has directed the premieres of several Canadian works, notably Pépin’sQuasars, Symphony No. 3 in 1967, Schafer’sSon of Heldenleben and Garant’sPhrases II in 1968, Saint-Marcoux’sHétéromorphie in 1970, Jacques Hétu’sPassacaille in 1971, and Pépin’s Prismes et cristaux in 1974. At the Opéra du Québec Decker directed Il Trittico (Il Tabarro, Suor Angelica, and Gianni Schicchi) in 1971, Cavalleria Rusticana and I Pagliacci in 1973, and Falstaff in 1974. He served 1975-7 as artistic adviser to the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and 1980-2 as artistic adviser to the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. He has appeared with numerous major European orchestras and has toured South America in 1960, 1961, 1963, 1974, and 1975, Australia in 1967, 1975, and 1978, and New Zealand in 1966 and 1976. In 1975 he was praised in Dallas, Texas, for his conducting of Tristan und Isolde with Jon Vickers; and in 1978 after he led the same company in performances of The Flying Dutchman, John Ardoin wrote, ‘His direction of Dutchman reaffirmed the luminous qualities of drama, style, and commitment he brought to Tristan, into which he had breathed life’ (Dallas Morning News, 3 Dec 1978). Appointed principal guest conductor of the New Zealand SO in 1982 and artistic director of the Barcelona Orchestra in 1986, Decker has continued to appear with Canadian orchestras such as the OJQ, the TS and the MSO.
Enjoy the concert.