Concert Review: Daniel del Pino, August 27, 2022

By Paul Baker

Spanish pianist Daniel del Pino mesmerized the Salon Piano Series audience August 27 with a commanding performance of Isaac Albéniz's Iberia suite, a 90-minute epic in 12 movements offering an impression of Southern Spain's places, dances, and songs.

The concert was a Farley gift of appreciation to the longtime series supporters.

Del Pino, who recently won an award for his interpretation of the Iberia suite at the Isaac Albéniz Music Festival in Spain, was born in 1972. He studied at the Real Conservatorio Superior de Musica of Madrid, Yale University, and Southern Methodist University. He is now Eva Browning Artist-in-Residence/Associate Professor of Piano at Texas Tech University.

Composed between 1905 and 1909, the Iberia suite comprises four books of three pieces each. It is Albéniz's best-known work and considered his masterpiece, and certainly one of the most challenging works for the piano. It was highly praised by Claude Debussy and Olivier Messiaen, among others. The suite, or portions of it, have been recorded by Arthur Rubinstein, Alicia de Larrocha, Luis Fernando Pérez, and Claudio Arrau.

The suite requires Lisztian virtuosity, with dynamics marked pppp to ffff, systematic crossing of the hands, harmonic complexities enveloping simple melodies, and great melodic leaps from mid register to high.

Del Pino offered commentary at two intervals. Although Iberia is Albeniz's most famous piece, Del Pino said, Albéniz focused most of his earlier work on less complicated pieces for musical theater, operettas, and salons. And one associates Albéniz with Spanish folk themes, but his early piano pieces are Chopinesque, influenced by several French composer friends including Ravel and Debussy.

Every Spanish pianist wants to learn and perform this piece, Del Pino said. Although Del Pino had learned and performed parts of the suite over his career, he completed his mastery of it only during the COVID pandemic lockdown, as many cancelled concert dates gave him the opportunity to learn the remaining five or six parts.

Albéniz was born in Catalunya, in Spain's Northeast, del Pino said, but most of his compositions portray the Spanish South. Most of Iberia's movements name cities or dances, and sources of inspiration include flamenco and Spanish traditional music.

Writing for the New York Times, Donal Henehan has said, "There is really nothing in Isaac Albéniz's Iberia that a good three-handed pianist could not master, given unlimited years of practice and permission to play at half tempo. But there are few pianists thus endowed."


Paul Baker is the host of "Listen Adventurously," a program of contemporary and 20th-Century classical music, streaming Mondays 5am to 8am at www.wortfm.org and over the air at 89.9 FM, Madison.