Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: Albéniz, Isaac Manuel Francisco from Chambers Biographical Dictionary


Spanish composer and pianist

Born in Camprodón, Catalonia, he studied under Franz Liszt and became known especially for his picturesque piano works based on Spanish folk music. He also wrote several operas.

Summary Article: Albéniz, Isaac (Manuel Francisco)
From The New Penguin Dictionary of Music

Spanish pianist-composer. The hopes and needs of his family pressed him into a performing career while he was a young boy, and his training was spasmodic: his most settled period as a student was with Franz Rummel and Louis Brassin at the Brussels Conservatory (1876–9). He then returned to performing and took up conducting, before going to Pedrell for composition lessons in Barcelona in 1883, the year of his marriage. By the end of 1885 he was in Madrid, effortlessly producing salon music. Amiable and obliging, he signed a contract with Henry Lowenfeld and moved to London (1890–93), where he wrote theatre music and Spanish impressions for the piano (many so infectiously Spanish that they have provided repertory for guitarists, though he wrote nothing directly for the instrument). Francis Burdett Money-Coutts next became his patron, seemingly requiring only to have a succession of his own librettos and song texts set - music history has seen few odder enterprises than that of Arthurian operas (Merlin, 1898–1902) being put together by a British banker and a Spanish composer. The relationship did not stop Albéniz living in France, forming musical friendships with his French contemporaries (d'Indy, Chausson, Dukas), conducting, teaching or working on other creative projects, but he was in declining health as a result of Bright's disease. His master-piece, Iberia, became the last vessel for his long experience in adapting Spanish idioms to the keyboard, for his memories of the Lisztian world of virtuoso performance in which he was brought up, and for his new admiration for the pianist Joaquín Malats.

Walter Aaron Clark Isaac Albéniz (1998)

Piano (with publication dates): Suite española, Op.47, 1886–98; Recuerdos de viaje, 1886–7; 12 piezas características, Op.92, 1888; Sérénade espagnole, Op.161, 1890; España, Op.165, 1890; Mallorca, Op.202, barcarolle, 1891; Chants d'Espagne, Op.232, 1892–8; La vega, ?1898; Espagne: Souvenirs, c.1899; IBERIA, 1906–8; etc.

Other works: Piano Concerto No.1 (Concierto fantástico), A minor, c.1887; songs, chamber music, operas, etc.

Copyright © Paul Griffiths, 2006