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The lesser known and earlier of the two Spanish composers bearing the surname Albéniz is a somewhat forgotten figure today, though Mateo Albéniz (no relation to Isaac) enjoyed great success throughout much of Spain in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The author of many works for harpsichord and fortepiano, as well as numerous sacred works, including Mass settings and Vespers, Albéniz is generally represented in concert today by a single work, his Piano Sonata in D. It is a piece that has been in the repertory of Alicia de Larrocha, Felicja Blumental, and several other major pianists from the twentieth century.
Mateo Antonio Pérez de Albéniz was born around 1755 in the Basque (Northern) region of Spain. Virtually nothing is known of his early life, though his exposure to music surely came through the church, probably as a boy chorister. Albéniz was a talented keyboard player, trained in theory and composition. He held at least three posts as maestro de capilla at major churches in Northern Spain, starting the first, in San Sebastian, around 1790. From 1795 to 1800 he accepted the appointment of maestro de capilla in Logrono, and for nearly the next three decades served in that capacity once more in San Sebastian, this time at Santa María la Redonda, his 1829 retirement probably the result of failing health. Much of Albéniz's sacred music was written for performance at the churches where he served as maestro de capilla and became widely performed throughout Northern Spain in the early nineteenth century. Many manuscripts of these still unpublished works have survived, tempting one to speculate that performances could still be forthcoming. Albéniz was also an influential music theorist, promoting the music of Mozart and Haydn to his students and producing a substantial volume (published in 1802) on the performance of modern and early music.