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September 27, 2009

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Acclaimed Spanish pianist dies aged 86

SPANISH pianist Alicia de Larrocha, who thrilled audiences for decades with polished and enthralling interpretations of great classical works and Spanish masters, has died aged 86.

Measuring just under 1.52 meters, and with unusually small hands for a piano virtuoso, de Larrocha won over listeners with the richness and robustness of her sound.

Critically acclaimed for her technique in performing Mozart, Beethoven, Schuman and Rachmaninov, de Larrocha was also seen as unrivaled in her interpretation of Spanish composers such as Manuel de Falla as well as masters from her native Catalonia like Enrique Granados and Isaac Albeniz.

Gregor Benko, a piano music expert, music producer and family friend, confirmed her death. Benko said de Larrocha had been in poor health for two years, since breaking her hip. She died late Friday in a Barcelona hospital.

De Larrocha retired from public performances in 2003 after 75 years as a professional pianist.

Born in Barcelona on May 23, 1923, she started playing piano at age three, and two years later gave her debut public performance during the International Exposition in Barcelona. Four years later an eager music industry had pressed her first vinyl record.

By age 20, she was playing to full houses around Spain, displaying a style and skill that transcended her age. In 1947 she began to make an impression on the European circuit, and was soon playing all the major musical centers.

Over the years she was awarded myriad prizes, and her recordings earned four Grammies and numerous other prizes in Europe.


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