The Life of Isaac Albéniz

Isaac Albéniz often referred to as one of the most famous composers to hail from Spain. Isaac was born in 1860 in Camprodon, a town apart of Girona. Only living a short life, Albéniz lived to the age of 49 and died in 1909. He is best known for his piano works that are based on folk music idioms. Many of his pieces are notable for the classical guitar transcriptions that were later made.

A child prodigy, Albéniz first learned to play the piano at the age of one by his sister. By the age of four he performed for the first time. A couple of years later at age seven, he passed the entrance examination for piano at the Conservatoire de Paris, but unfortunately he was refused admission for being too young.

A popular myth describes his childhood as a bit of an exaggeration. It is said that at the age of twelve, Albéniz ran away from home and stowed away in a ship headed towards Buenos Aires. Continuing his nomadic lifestyle he found himself in Cuba, and then to the United States performing in New York and San Francisco, eventually returning back to Europe to give performances in Liverpool, London, and in Germany.

While not an accurate account of what actually happened, historians have determined that the story is partly true. He did in fact give concert performances in these places at that age, but he was more likely accompanied  by his father who was a customs official who traveled a lot for business. Historians discovered this by comparing Isaac’s concert dates and his father’s travel itinerary.

Throughout the rest of his career he studied under many composers, Guillermo Morphy, Franz Liszt, and Felip Pedrell to name a few. Touring all throughout Europe, Isaac lived in London and Paris for an amount of time. During this time while he was not performing at concerts, he wrote and composed musical comedies.

In 1900, Isaac was diagnosed with Bright’s disease a classification of kidney disease that ultimately cause his death in 1909. For his work within Paris and his impact within the classical music industry, the French government awarded him its highest honor, the Grand-Croix de la Légion d’honneur a few weeks before his death.

His most notable pieces include: Asturias (Leyenda), Granada, Sevilla, Cadiz, Cordoba, Cataluna, and the Tango in D. All of his personal papers are preserved among many institutions.