There are moments in childhood that leave a mark forever, that mark life. In the case of Adam Kent, that trace has a name and surname: Alicia de Larrocha, the universal Barcelonan at the piano.
Adam was eleven years old and studying piano when his grandparents took him to Avery Fisher Hall, in the arts complex of Lincoln Center, home of the New York Philharmonic, now called David Heffen Hall. He was touching a woman. The first part of the program included familiar creations for him, such as Bach or Mendelssohn. It happened that there was a lot of traffic and they already reached the intermission. The second part was about “someone called Falla”, which did not interest him.
“The moment she started playing, I fell in love with Spanish music, with Spanish culture. All thanks to her. I started playing Spanish music,” she explains.
Kent makes this confession in the Klavierhaus room, to the west of Manhattan, minutes before sitting down to hit the keys in the first of the two days of homage to Alicia de Larrocha on the occasion of the centenary of her birth, on May 23, 1923 , which are sponsored by the Institut Ramon Llull.
On the piano rests a photograph in which the soloist prostrates himself before his great reference, “an inspiration not only for me, but for pianists throughout the world,” he says. On the lapel of his jacket is the medal of Civil Merit awarded to him by the Spanish government for his work in disseminating Spanish music. Again, her shadow is there.
All this stages the passion that De Larrocha aroused in the United States and in New York specifically, a small woman and a giant at the piano. It was in this country that she exploded internationally after her first tour, in 1954, and where she made three annual tours of three months each.
“The United States made it famous,” Kent stresses. “She was known in Spain, but the United States made her a superstar. The critics adored her, like the audience, who went crazy with her, ”she emphasizes. And she knows what she’s talking about. He himself went to the concerts with posters that read (in Spanish): “Long live Alicia” or “We love you Alicia.” She became aware of that enthusiastic fan.
“The public was fascinated that someone of small stature could play the piano with such power and virtuosity, and in those days it was also important for people that they were women, it was an element of emotion. There were no female pianists to be seen and she was the queen of pianists,” she notes. She reflects that she lived through the civil war as a teenager and had a lot of courage to be a wife, mother and travel the world. “You had to have a lot of courage,” she remarks.
This first tribute concert offers works closely linked to the Barcelonan, compositions by Father Antoni Soler, Ernesto Halffter, Frank Marshall (the professor who directed her career), Carles Surinach, Lleonard Balada, Isaac Albéniz and, of course, Manuel de Falla and ‘ The love wizard’.
But there is still more. Kent assures that this is the first time that songs composed by Alicia de Larrocha herself have been played in the Big Apple. She titled them ‘Sins of Youth’ and dedicated them to her husband, the pianist Joan Torra. Her daughter, Alicia Torra, rescued and published them after the death of her mother, in 2009.
Among the personal memories of the pianist Kent are each and every one of the De Larrocha concerts that he was able to attend, although he has other more personal ones, beyond the fact that she identified him as the enthusiastic fan.
“The first time I played for her I was very nervous and intimidated. I performed some ‘Goyescas’ by Enrique Granados. She, a very modest woman, behaved in a kind way, sat down at the piano and showed me how it should be played. I felt overwhelmed, ”she recalls.
“What impressed me the most was the rhythm, there was no one like her, she was like a folk musician at the piano, and her sound, which conveyed all the color of Spanish music, you could think of heel tapping. She was a master of sound, ”she considers.
According to Kent, Alicia de Larrocha is owed something important. “I think that thanks to her -he adds-, Spanish piano music became international and no one had to apologize anymore for playing Spanish music”.