P0854. JOSÉ ITURBI: Sonata in F, K.332 (Mozart); Scarlatti, Beethoven, Paradies, Albéniz, Granados, Lazar & Navarro; AMPARO ITURBI & JOSÉ ITURBI (Pf. & Cond.) Rochester Phil.: Concerto in E-flat for Two Pianos, K.365 (Mozart). (England) Pearl 9103, recorded 1933-40. Long out-of-print; Final copy! - 727031910329
“José Iturbi’s father built and tuned pianos as a hobby, so the young José had access to an instrument from a very early age . He was one of four children and his sister Amparo (1899–1969) also had a career as a pianist At the age of eleven Iturbi was studying piano at the Valencia Conservatory with Joaquín Malats, a friend of Albéniz. The Spanish composer heard Iturbi and gave him part of his new work IBERIA to play. When Iturbi was fifteen, the people of his home-town collected money to send him to study at the Paris Conservatoire with Victor Staub. He obtained a premier prix in 1913, and after World War I received a professorship at the Geneva Conservatory. During the 1920s he led the life of a touring virtuoso, travelling across Europe, Africa, the Middle East, the Far East, Russia and South America. He made his US début with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Stokowski playing Beethoven’s G major Piano Concerto. Iturbi, however, was as interested in conducting as in being a pianist . His début as a conductor in Mexico started a career in which he conducted many of the world’s greatest orchestras including the Philadelphia, New York Philharmonic, London Symphony, La Scala and the Concertgebouw . He was appointed conductor of the Rochester Philharmonic in 1936.
There is no doubt that the height of Iturbi’s career was the 1930s and that his future relationship with Hollywood, although providing vast exposure and publicity, was in the end deleterious to his pianism. Oscar Levant, another pianist who flirted with Hollywood, had the same problem.
Iturbi recorded for many labels during his career. For RCA he recorded encore pieces such as Scarlatti sonatas and a poetic ‘Andante favori’ of Beethoven in the early 1930s; these reveal both sensitivity and a scintillating technique, but it is in the Spanish repertoire that Iturbi excels. His pre-war Granados and Albéniz recordings have an authority and understanding that he retained in this repertoire throughout his career. His recordings of Mozart include the Concerto for Two Pianos in E flat made with his sister Amparo in 1940. Iturbi as composer can be heard on an RCA disc from 1955 in which he conducts the Valencia Symphony Orchestra in his 'Séguidillas for orchestra', an effective piece, excellently orchestrated. Iturbi’s concerto recordings were generally made with him as both soloist and conductor.
The problem with José Iturbi is that he is not taken seriously as a pianist because he appeared in Hollywood films. Other great pianists have done the same, Arthur Rubinstein, even Paderewski; but the difference is that Iturbi played jazz and boogie-woogie, albeit in an urbane and dapper fashion. It is unfair to dismiss Iturbi for this reason, as he was a gifted pianist and musician who evidently had a successful career both as conductor and pianist. He also gave first performances of a number of pieces, including Stravinsky’s 'Piano Rag Music'.”
- Jonathan Summers