José Iturbi

D.O.B: Nov 28, 1895 |

4Credit Score

Temperamental, volatile Spanish-born pianist and conductor whose life and career were varied and often controversial. Born in Valencia, he was a child prodigy, giving piano recitals by the age of seven and supplementing the family income by playing for up to 14 hours daily at a silent cinema theatre.

Biography

Temperamental, volatile Spanish-born pianist and conductor whose life and career were varied and often controversial. Born in Valencia, he was a child prodigy, giving piano recitals by the age of seven and supplementing the family income by playing for up to 14 hours daily at a silent cinema theatre. He was an honours graduate from the Conservatoire de Musique in Paris, and, by the age of 24, occupied Franz Liszts former post as leader of the piano department of the Geneva Conservatory. In 1928, he made his London debut as a concert pianist and the following year played Beethovens G Major Concerto to great critical and audience acclaim under Leopold Stokowskis direction in Philadelphia. Not content with his triumphs, he branched out into conducting from 1933, eventually fronting the Rochester Philharmonic and conducting his first opera in 1959. Iturbi enjoyed an almost pop star-like status (even converting 1950s bobby-soxers to classical music) and became the only classical artist of his day to win two gold records. In 1946, RCA-Victor paid Iturbi the record sum of $118,029 for six months royalties, primarily for his recording of Chopins Polonaise in A-Flat (the record went on to sell 2 million copies by 1974). A speed freak, Iturbi used to ride his motor bike and assorted sports cars with reckless abandon. When they werent fast enough, he would get aboard his own aircraft, El Turia. By 1946 he had logged 1500 flying hours, frequently travelling across entire continents between recitals. He had several close shaves which earned him the sobriquet the flying fool. Iturbis fiery temper manifested itself when he walked off the stage during a performance in Cleveland, because audience members were too audible in their consumption of hot dogs and soda pop.