The Irish Mail on Sunday - - MORE THEATRE - David Mel­lor

Ali­cia de Lar­rocha Com­plete Decca Record­ings 41 CDs, out now ★★★★★

I shall never for­get my first sight­ing of Ali­cia de Lar­rocha. She was barely 5ft tall, with tiny hands. How could she cope with such a large Stein­way, I wor­ried. I needn’t have. She put on a dis­play of daz­zling vir­tu­os­ity and power, al­lied to – and this is what made her a great pi­anist – a mu­si­cian­ship that dug deep into the mean­ing of the mu­sic she played. Seven Mozart con­cer­tos and three al­bums of Mozart sonatas are in­cluded here. Also a fine Beethoven con­certo cy­cle with Ric­cardo Chailly. Lar­rocha re­fused to be type­cast as a Span­ish player of Span­ish mu­sic. So there’s also Bach, Han­del, Chopin and Schu­mann, as well as Rach­mani­nov’s Third Con­certo, in­cluded in this 41-CD set, a real snip at around €90. But it is the Span­ish stuff where Lar­rocha had unique author­ity. Here, she ef­fort­lessly plays some mag­nif­i­cent Grana­dos, Al­béniz and Mom­pou. Her ac­count of De Falla’s mag­nif­i­cent Nights In The Gar­dens Of Spain has never been sur­passed. There are also de­li­cious rar­i­ties here, like, on that same al­bum, her men­tor Joaquín Tu­rina’s Con­certo Sin­fon­ico, and a de­light­ful Al­béniz cook-up by Cristóbal Halffter called the Rap­so­dia Es­panola. If I had to choose a desert-is­land disc or two, it would have to be Grana­dos’s Goye­cas, or Al­béniz’s hugely de­mand­ing cy­cle, Ibe­ria. I don’t ex­pect to hear ei­ther bet­ter done. Lar­rocha died in her mid-80s in 2009. These record­ings show her in her prime. To­tally un­miss­able.

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