|Albéniz: Suite Española No.1, Op.47||Composer||1886|
|Albéniz: España, Op.165||Composer||1890|
|Albéniz: Rapsodia Española, Op.70||Composer||1886|
|Albéniz: Mallorca, Op.202||Composer||1891|
|Albéniz: 12 Piezas características, Op.92||Composer||1888|
|Albéniz: Torre Bermeja, Op.92.12||Composer||1888|
Isaac Manuel Francisco Albéniz y Pascual (29 May 1860 – 18 May 1909) was a Spanish pianist and composer best known for his piano works based on folk music idioms. Transcriptions of many of his pieces, such as Asturias (Leyenda), Granada, Sevilla, Cádiz, Córdoba, Cataluña, and the Tango in D, are important pieces for classical guitar, though he never composed for the guitar. The personal papers of Isaac Albéniz are preserved, among other institutions, in the Biblioteca de Catalunya.
Born in Camprodon, province of Girona, to Ángel Albéniz (a customs official) and his wife, Dolors Pascual, Albéniz was a child prodigy who first performed at the age of four. At age seven, after apparently taking lessons from Antoine François Marmontel, he passed the entrance examination for piano at the Paris Conservatoire, but he was refused admission because he was believed to be too young. By the time he had reached 12, he had made many attempts to run away from home.
His concert career began at the age of nine when his father toured both Isaac and his sister, Clementina, throughout northern Spain. A popular myth is that at the age of 12 Albéniz stowed away in a ship bound for Buenos Aires. He then made his way via Cuba to the United States, giving concerts in New York and San Francisco and then travelled to Liverpool, London and Leipzig. By age 15, he had already given concerts worldwide. This over-dramatized story is not entirely false. Albéniz did travel the world as a performer; however, he was accompanied by his father, who as a customs agent was required to travel frequently. This can be attested by comparing Isaac's concert dates with his father's travel itinerary.
In 1876, after a short stay at the Leipzig Conservatory, he went to study at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels after King Alfonso's personal secretary, Guillermo Morphy, obtained him a royal grant. Count Morphy thought highly of Albéniz, who would later dedicate Sevilla to Morphy's wife when it premiered in Paris in January 1886.
In 1880 Albéniz went to Budapest to study with Franz Liszt, only to find out that Liszt was in Weimar, Germany.
In 1883 he met the teacher and composer Felip Pedrell, who inspired him to write Spanish music such as the Chants d'Espagne. The first movement (Prelude) of that suite, later retitled after the composer's death as Asturias (Leyenda), is probably most famous today as part of the classical guitar repertoire, even though it was originally composed for piano. (Many of Albéniz's other compositions were also transcribed for guitar, notably by Francisco Tárrega.) At the 1888 Universal Exposition in Barcelona, the piano manufacturer Érard sponsored a series of 20 concerts featuring Albéniz's music.
The apex of Albéniz's concert career is considered to be 1889 to 1892 when he had concert tours throughout Europe. During the 1890s Albéniz lived in London and Paris. For London he wrote some musical comedies which brought him to the attention of the wealthy Francis Money-Coutts, 5th Baron Latymer. Money-Coutts commissioned and provided him with librettos for the opera Henry Clifford and for a projected trilogy of Arthurian operas. The first of these, Merlin (1898–1902), was thought to have been lost but has recently been reconstructed and performed. Albéniz never completed Lancelot (only the first act is finished, as a vocal and piano score), and he never began Guinevere, the final part.
In 1900 he started to suffer from Bright's disease and returned to writing piano music. Between 1905 and 1908 he composed his final masterpiece, Iberia (1908), a suite of twelve piano "impressions".
In 1883 the composer married his student Rosina Jordana. They had three children: Blanca (who died in 1886), Laura (a painter), and Alfonso (who played for Real Madrid in the early 1900s before embarking on a career as a diplomat). Two other children died in infancy.
Albéniz died from his kidney disease on 18 May 1909 at age 48 in Cambo-les-Bains, in Labourd, south-western France. Only a few weeks before his death, the government of France awarded Albéniz its highest honor, the Grand-Croix de la Légion d'honneur. He is buried at the Montjuïc Cemetery, Barcelona.
Born in 1860, Isaac Albéniz is best known for piano music that brilliantly evokes the spirit of Spain. As a composer-virtuoso, Albéniz successfully melded together composition and performance to create a bravura style reminiscent of the music of Liszt, seasoned with Spanish folk idioms. The work that most convincingly represents this synthesis of virtuosity and tradition is the enchantingly colorful and atmospheric Iberia, a suite of 12 pieces recalling Spanish (particularly Andalusian) places and dances. Albéniz used folklore as his inspiration, but created a singular melodic style, which eventually influenced Debussy and Ravel. Believing that artistic originality and an interest in one's national musical tradition do not exclude each other, Albéniz likewise was largely the creator of the Spanish musical idiom that would be adopted and developed by Granados and de Falla.
A child prodigy, Albéniz was accepted, at the age of seven, as a private pupil by Antoine-François Marmontel, the celebrated piano pedagogue whose students included Bizet and Debussy. Back in Spain within a year, he gave a concert tour and eventually entered the Madrid Conservatory. He soon ran away, concertized around Spain, and in 1872 stowed away on a ship sailing for Latin America. Upon his return to Europe the following year, he entered the Leipzig Conservatory, where he briefly studied with Carl Reinecke. Soon thereafter, a patron enabled him to enter Brussels Conservatory to study piano and composition. Albéniz won the conservatory's first prize in 1879; the following year, he obtained an audience with Franz Liszt in Budapest; for a while he joined the master's entourage and continued to work on his technique as a pianist. After more wandering through Europe and South America, he settled in Barcelona in 1883, married, and began a family.
By that time, Albéniz already had a reputation as a composer of brilliant salon music for the piano. Around 1890, he met Felipe Pedrell, a prominent musicologist, composer, and collector of folk songs. Following the encounter with Pedrell, Albéniz re-examined his work as a composer, deciding to seek new inspiration in the rich musical traditions of Spain. Not yet satisfied with his craftsmanship, Albéniz moved to Paris to study with Paul Dukas and Vincent d'Indy. The restless Albéniz somehow hung on to a job teaching piano at Paris' Schola Cantorum from 1893 to 1900; then he undertook further peregrinations, all the while working on his masterpiece, Iberia. An immensely popular work, Iberia has also been transcribed for orchestra; successful orchestral versions include Leopold Stokowski's orchestration of "Fête-Dieu à Seville." Another work which gained wide popularity as an orchestral transcription is the Tango for piano in D major. Albéniz also wrote for the stage; his lyric comedy Pepita Jiménez and several other works were produced in the 1890s. He died in 1909.