This splendid seven-disc set marks Alicia de Larrocha's 2003 retirement from the concert stage after an extraordinary career spanning more than seven decades. To many listeners, she is a peerless performer of Iberian (particularly Spanish and Catalan) music. Indeed, as her rendition of Manuel de Falla's Nights in the Gardens of Spain demonstrates, this Catalan pianist brilliantly captures the indefinable magic and charm of Iberian music, revealing a timeless richness and depth that lesser artists, conforming to ideas of national style, often miss. It would be a mistake, however, to define de Larrocha as an "Iberian specialist." As this set demonstrates, her rich repertoire encompasses various traditions and a timespan from the late Baroque to the present, from Bach to Xavier Montsalvatge (1912-2002).
Amazing work from a player we barely know – American pianist Art Simmons, really smoking here in a late 50s session from Paris! The date's got a nicely rough-edged feel – but really avoids any of the bluesy cliches that could sometimes creep in when players like this hit the French scene. And instead, there's a sprightly modern feel to the music – a mixture of Art's hard-yet-lyrical piano lines with the guitar of Terry Donahue – supported by the great rhythm team of Bill Crow on bass and Dave Bailey on drums!