(photo l.-r.: Clara Sansoni, Gabriel Fauré seated at the piano, ?, Isaac Albeniz)
By a miracle three examples of the composer’s playing exist, as they were captured onto wax cylinders around 1903. Albéniz improvises and demonstrates that the level of his extemporization was not far below carefully worked-out pieces. Although they do not have the structural complexity of his best published compositions, the first, a cantilena in F sharp minor, displays melodic invention, qualities and figuration to be found in his best tableaux in Iberia.
Albéniz’s pianism is compelling and hypnotic. Even the primitive sound fails to lessen his remarkable tone and sensuality. The unique experience of being able to listen with him as he listens, thinks ahead and brings forth an improvisation is a reminder of how many of the great composers were adept improvisers. This is the known only example of a creator at his level illustrating this vital practice. His pupil Clara Sansoni, who will be heard eventually, carried on his language.
© Allan Evans, 2012