Isaac Albeniz (1860-1909)


01Early Years20100920

Donald Macleod begins with works from Albeniz's formative years.

Although he's responsible for some of the best known Spanish guitar pieces in the repertoire, Isaac Albéniz didn't actually write any of them originally for that instrument.

They are in fact all transcriptions and arrangements of some of the wealth of piano music he produced throughout his career.

This week Donald Macleod introduces a selection of Albéniz's piano music, both in its original form and in a variety of other guises, including his masterpiece 'Iberia'.

There's also a chance to hear Albéniz's two pieces for piano and orchestra, his only purely orchestral work and extracts from his rarely performed operas, which came to fruition thanks to an intriguing collaboration with an English businessman with a passion for poetry.

From an early age, Albéniz made a good living as a highly respected pianist in his native Spain, and it wasn't long before his reputation spread to France and Britain.

At first, composition followed in the wake of his performing career, though not for long.

As well as producing a large quantity of elegant salon music, Albéniz began writing more Spanish-style pieces, in which he adapted traditional dances with their characteristic rhythms and tunes.

In programme one, Donald Macleod introduces a selection of these works from Albéniz's formative years, including one of just two pieces he wrote for piano and orchestra - his Rapsodia Española.

02Paris And Fame20100921

The life and music of this colourful Spanish composer, introduced by Donald Macleod.

Soon after his marriage Albeniz moved to Madrid and continued his flourishing performing career there.

A series of recitals at the 1888 Universal Exhibition in Barcelona caused such a sensation that he was invited to perform in Paris where he again received rave reviews.

Donald Macleod introduces Albeniz's Concerto Fantastico which he'd played to great acclaim in both cities, together with another of his Spanish style piano works, and his charming, and very classical, fourth piano sonata.

03Opera Collaborations With Francis Money-coutts20100922

The life and music of this colourful Spanish composer, introduced by Donald Macleod.

While living in London Albéniz met the solicitor, poet and aspiring librettist Francis Money-Coutts with whom he signed an exclusive contract for ten years.

Coutts provided Albéniz with a secure income and collaborated with him on three operas with varying degrees of success.

Donald Macleod introduces extracts from two of those joint ventures, one based on a popular novel by a contemporary Spanish writer, and the other, a very English opera set in the time of the Wars of the Roses.


By 1897, Albeniz was living in Paris, where he not only continued his dual roles of pianist and composer but he had also begun teaching.

He and his patron Francis Money-Coutts now launched into another major collaboration in which they intended to produce a trilogy of operas based on the story of King Arthur and in doing so create an English national opera.

Donald Macleod introduces an extract from the first and only one of the three operas actually completed, a piano work inspired by the countryside around Granada, and a performance of Albeniz's only purely orchestral work, evoking the songs and dances of a typical Spanish fiesta.

The life and music of this colourful Spanish composer, introduced by Donald Macleod.

05 LASTIberia20100924

The life and music of this colourful Spanish composer, introduced by Donald Macleod

In the last five years of his life, Albeniz was in constant pain from a kidney infection, but it was during that time that he wrote his masterpiece - a cycle of piano pieces called 'Iberia', each evoking different aspects of Spain.

Donald Macleod devotes the whole of the final programme to this remarkable work, playing extracts from it, both in its original form for piano and in various arrangements, finishing with an exuberant version of a trio of pieces for guitar and orchestra, brilliantly evoking Albeniz's beloved Andalucia.