I haven’t played piano in a while. The piano which I bought with my first paychecks years ago stands silently in the living room. There’s never a good time to play the piano: I’m either home too late at night or always out on weekends. Perhaps I need to change my schedule. A stack of newly acquired music scores are just sitting on the shelf, waiting to be massacred by me. Among them is a collection of Enrique Granados’ piano pieces. The least I could do is flip through and read it. Play some air piano.
I’m reminded of one notable champion of Granados: the great Spanish pianist, Alicia de Larrocha. Although a small woman – said to be only 4 foot 9 tall (shrunk to 4 foot 5 later in life) – de Larrocha played the big virtuostic works of Rachmaninov and Liszt to rave reviews. But it is the music of her native country that she championed the most and brought international recognition to: composers such as the aforementioned Granados, Albeniz and Manuel de Falla. On youtube are a handful videos of her playing with fire and spirit at the ripe old age of 78.
As I’m reading the scores, I have been listening to de Larrocha’s recordings of Granados’ music. Listen to the range of colour and tone, the instinctual phrasing, the effortless way in which the dynamics fall into place, the inimitable nuances. Is it in her blood? Granados’ music is already elegant enough. But de Larrocha makes a simple valse from Granados’ Valses Poeticos sound extraordinarily poetic.
De Larrocha once said Spanish music is very very hard to play. It is. But that’s not going to stop me from trying.