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who of you have played this? can one cherry-pick, should one play a whole book of 3 pieces, should one play the whole suite, what's your opinion of the status of this piece in the repertoire? (I have been challenged...)
I think a straight book of 3 might really work well in a recital with other composers, otherwise one is just 'doing' Iberia, on the other hand; the whole work is very rarely played as a whole, I don't like cherry-picking idea, say Fête Dieu/Malaga/Triana, nice combi but not intended by Albeniz, but all the rest is soooo beautiful, it's like the Goldbergs: all or nothing, or am I wrong?
btw, what is your favourite recording, apart from Alicia's?
I don't have a favorite recording. I think I heard de Larrocha play the whole suite but it was so long ago I'm not sure!
It was several live performances of various sections by Jose Ramos Santana that made me fall in love with the piece. I attended the Mannes IKIF for many years and each year for several years at the Faculty Concert(where several faculty members each played for around twenty minutes) he would perform a few of the pieces.
Here are two of those performances although there were others:
I marginally prefer Esteban Sánchez's and Rafael Orozco's recordings to Alicia de Larrocha's. Orozco, who won the Leeds Competition in 1966, died tragically young at 50, but his Iberia is technically superior to Larrocha's and has his own brand of Spanish inflection and impressionism:
BTW, none of the non-Spanish pianists (not even Hamelin) can hold a candle to these three greats in Iberia.
I'd say that unless you're totally steeped in Spanish music and have the time and commitment to devote yourself totally to it, it's not necessary to learn and play the whole suite. (Just as it's not necessary to perform a whole year of Années de pèlerinage, and few pianists do.) For instance, Book 1 by itself works well in a recital program, and in any case, each piece in Iberia is self-contained as well as fairly substantial.
"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
De Larrocha used to play pieces from Iberia separately in performance and what's good enough for her should be good enough for anyone.
I don't know what level of playing you're at (I guess I'd call myself advanced intermediate or beginner advanced). I can't tell you how many times I've started working on Iberia. And I keep buying new editions of it, foolishly thinking it will help me. I can usually get through most of a piece except one or two tricky parts that leave me stumped. And most all the pieces have some tricky part to them. But I love the work passionately.
I really like Pedro Carbone's performance of many years ago.
There are not too many recordings so you can easily compare. There is a nice version made by Ciccolini, as always refined and elegant.
Also De Larocha made 2 that I am aware plus some live ones as well. I prefer the first recording which I find more lively and expressive.
Recently Hamelin made an excellent version. It is beautifully played, however I find it is less typically "spanish" but more as a classical interpretation. Definitely to check out even if you prefer the more authentically spanish versions.
I've been meaning to find more recordings and I'll spend some time listening to the above.
The de Larrocha recordings are both lovely. Arrau is the first one I came to know — I don't think he ever did the whole suite, but I've listened to his recording of the first book more times than I could count and it's undoubtedly influenced my interpretation the most.
But my favourite recording thus far is Rosa Sabater, which I've only ever seen on YouTube — I would love to have this on vinyl:
I agree that it's not important to play it as one work. It's not like the Goldberg Variations or even Chopin's Preludes in that sense. Each piece really stands alone quite well and is fairly substantial, and I've never felt the larger work to be much greater than the sum of its parts. They go well together and it's natural to play them together, of course.
Besides the ones already mentioned, there are some other recordings that I think are interesting and worth hearing (at least once). There is a very impressionistic and atmospheric one by Michel Block, but it is not on YouTube. It was originally on vinyl, and I think there was a CD reissue. I don't know if it has turned up on any streaming service.
My first Iberia awareness was from a recording of William Kapell when I was in high school about 10 years after his death. It had some amazing stuff (Mephisto Waltz, Khachaturian concerto) but also a truly haunting Evocación
Jane - expert on nothing with opinions on everything