LAST year she was the star of the Queen's Hall series of morning concerts. Yesterday she returned and did it all again, sweeping her audience into the biggest ovation of the first week of the festival. Alicia de Larrocha - diminutive, dwarfed by her grand piano - transformed the Queen's Hall into a vast Spanish landscape in a recital devoted exclusively to composers of her native land.

What an extraordinary pianist and musician she is. After a sparkling opening with a couple of digitally challenging sonatas by Soler, she presented such a case for the little-known music of Federico Mompou that her performances instantly raised the question: why is this man's music so neglected?

Few, for sure, could play it like de Larrocha, with her flawless singing tone and her remarkable ability, in the Songs and Dances and Intimate Impressions - several of them dedicated to this pianist - to draw on such an amazing range of keyboard colours and dynamics. The results? Achingly tender mood pieces, drenched in soul; haunting, wistful music that is supremely evocative of Spain, its heat, and its character.

In the second half the more familiar music of Manuel de Falla erupted with a great splash of colour from his Four Spanish Pieces, with de Larrocha announcing the more virtuosic side of her art, particularly her outstanding control of rhythms - raunchy, swaying, and sophisticated. And in de Falla's huge Fantasia Betica, an earthy keyboard tone poem with flinty melodies and pounding, whirling rhythms, power and poetry poured from the peerless little pianist.

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