Iberia is a suite for piano composed between 1905 and 1909 by the Spanish composer Isaac Albéniz. It comprises four books of three pieces each; a complete performance lasts about an hour and a half.
It is Albéniz's masterpiece and his best-known work, highly praised by Claude Debussy and Olivier Messiaen, who said: "Iberia is the wonder for the piano; it is perhaps on the highest place among the more brilliant pieces for the king of the instruments". Stylistically, this suite falls squarely in the school of Impressionism, especially in its musical evocations of Spain. Technically, Iberia is one of the most difficult pieces in the repertoire, requiring immense strength from its interpreters and flexible hands.
Score of El Corpus Christi en Sevilla
, which gives an idea of the complexity of the writing for piano.
Dedicated to Ernest Chausson's wife.
- Evocación (A-flat minor - A-flat major), an impressionist reminiscence of Albéniz' native country, combining elements of the southern Spanish fandango and the northern Spanish jota song forms.
- El puerto (D-flat major), a zapateado inspired by the port town of Cádiz.
- Fête-dieu à Seville (F-sharp minor - F-sharp major) (alternative titles sometimes found: "Corpus Christi"; "El Corpus en Sevilla"), describing the Corpus Christi Day procession in Seville, during which the Corpus Christi is carried through the streets accompanied by marching bands. Musically, this piece consists of a processional march that eventually becomes overwhelmed by a mournful saeta, the melody evoking Andalusian cante jondo and the accompaniment evoking flamenco guitars. The march and saeta alternate ever more loudly until the main march theme is restated as a lively tarantella that ends abruptly with a flamboyant fort-fort-fort-fortissimo climactic chord; the piece concludes with a gentle coda again evoking flamenco guitars along with distant church bells.
- El Albaicín (B-flat minor - B-flat major)
- El Polo (F minor)
- Lavapiés (D-flat major), after the district of Madrid.
- Málaga (B-flat minor - B-flat major)
- Jerez (A minor (arguably E Phrygian) - E major)
- Eritaña (E-flat major)
The twelve pieces were first performed by the French pianist Blanche Selva, but each book was premiered in a different place and on a different date. Three of the performances were in Paris, the other being in a small town in the south of France.
- Book I: May 9, 1906, Salle Pleyel, Paris
- Book II: September 11, 1907, Saint-Jean-de-Luz
- Book III: January 2, 1908, Palace of Princess de Polignac, Paris
- Book IV: February 9, 1909, Société Nationale de Musique, Paris.
Iberia has been recorded complete by Claudio Arrau, Miguel Baselga, Michel Block, Guillermo González (according to his own critical edition of the score), Marc-André Hamelin, Alicia de Larrocha (3 times: 1962, 1973, 1986), Yvonne Loriod, and Esteban Sánchez, among others.
Enrique Fernández Arbós and Carlos Surinach each arranged pieces from Iberia for full orchestra. More recently, Peter Breiner arranged the whole work for full orchestra. A version for three guitars was made by Christophe Dejour and recorded by Trio Campanella. A two guitarsoverdubbing version has been released by French guitarist Jean-Marc Zvellenreuther. There is an orchestral arrangement of the Fête-dieu à Seville by Leopold Stokowski, from the mid-1920s, which he recorded with the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1928.