Born in Camprodon, Albéniz was a
child prodigy who first performed at the age of four. At age seven 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. At the age of 12 he stowed away in a ship bound for Buenos Aires. He then made his way via 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. After a short stay at the Leipzig Conservatory, in 1876 he went to study in Brussels.
In 1880, he went to Budapest to
study with Franz Liszt, only to find out that Liszt was in Germany.
In 1883, he met the teacher and composer Felipe Pedrell, who inspired him to write Spanish music such as the Suite
, Op. 47. The fifth movement of that suite, called Asturias
Leyenda, is probably most famous these days as part of the classical guitar repertoire,
even though it was originally composed for piano and only later transcribed to
guitar. Many of his other compositions were also transcribed to guitar, notably by Francisco Tárrega — Albéniz once declared that he preferred Tárrega's guitar transcriptions to his original piano works.
During the 1890s Albéniz lived in London and Paris and wrote mainly
theatrical works, especially a projected trilogy of Arthurian operas commissioned, and supplied with libretti by, the wealthy Francis Money-Coutts, 5th Baron Latymer.
The first of these, Merlin (1898-1902) was thought to have been lost, but has recently been reconstructed and successfully performed;
was never completed by Albéniz (only the first act is finished, as a vocal and piano score), and Guinevere
, the final part, never begun by him.
In 1900 he started to suffer from
Bright's disease and returned to writing piano music. Between 1905 and 1909 he composed his most famous work,
(1908), a suite of twelve piano "impressions".
His orchestral works include Spanish Rhapsody
(1887) and Catalonia
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).
Albéniz died on 18 May 1909 at age 48 in
Cambo-les-Bains and is buried in the Cementiri del Sudoest
Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, current mayor of
Madrid, and Cécilia Sarkozy, the former wife of French president Nicolas Sarkozy, are two of Isaac Albéniz's great-grandchildren.
source : Wikipedia
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