YOU just cannot beat old-style piano playing -- no perfumed antics, no

limp-wristed stroking of the keys, no mannerisms, and no messing.

Yesterday, to an ovation that might have been reserved for a

superstar, veteran Catalan pianist, Alicia de Larrocha, gave a recital

that was an exemplar of its type.

She's tiny and ever so slightly frail-looking as she mounts the steps

to the platform. She's 72 and plays with the vigour and passion of

somebody half a century younger. What a class act she is. Completely

unfussy, she sat down at the piano, polished her glasses, placed her

hands on the keyboard, and took her audience off to the stars.

The only visible evidence of her age came when the going got tough,

the notes got fast -- and I mean fast -- and there was a sense of

splashiness with the odd tumble on to a neighbouring wrong note. But

this was nothing. The entire recital -- to a standing-room only crowd --

was a model of musical vivacity and integrity.

After a couple of introductory sonatas by Soler, de Larrocha plunged

straight into the heart -- and soul -- of Spain with the Spanish Dances

of Granados. Oh how she played these: the colours rose off the

instrument, rich and dark, the sense of heat, the dust, the stamp and

twirl of flamenco, the soulful stir of duende. It was like a magnificent


The great lady -- to call her old would be an insult -- then proceeded

to give a stunning account of Schumann's Carnaval that caught

comprehensively the multiple moods of this immense character piece. She

is a supreme colourist, a rare lyricist, and -- as for characterisation

-- suffice to say that she played the coquettish movements with all the

flirtatiousness of a 16-year-old. Heartlifting stuff.

* Sponsored by Bank of Scotland.