Professor of Piano, Joel Estes Tate Chair
"There is something special with Achúcarro. Very few musicians can extract this kind of sound from the piano." –Sir Simon Rattle
"I have heard this sound only from Rubinstein." –Zubin Mehta
Described as "one of the greats" by ABC in Madrid and "the consummate artist" by the Chicago Sun-Times, Spanish artist Joaquín Achúcarro has been an internationally acclaimed pianist for almost 50 years. He has performed in 59 countries with some 208 orchestras, including the Berlin, New York, London, Chicago, Los Angeles, Cincinnati, Dallas, Montreal, BBC, Hallé, City of Birmingham, Liverpool, Royal Scottish, National de France, RTE Ireland, Tokyo, Yomiuri, Western Australia, RIAS Berlin, Hamburg, Stuttgart, Düsseldorf, La Scala, Sta Cecilia Roma, Chile, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela and Nacional de España orchestras. He has played with an impressive list of 342 conductors including Claudio Abbado, Adrian Boult, Riccardo Chailly, Charles Dutoit, Raymond Leppard, Eduardo Mata, Zubin Mehta, Yehudi Menuhin, Seiji Ozawa, Sir Simon Rattle and Walter Weller.
Born in Bilbao, Spain, Achúcarro displayed exceptional musical talent as a child. Intending to follow his family’s tradition and study physics at Madrid University, he enrolled but then decided to follow his heart and concentrate on music. After training in Paris, Vienna and Salzburg, he won the Liverpool International Competition in 1959 (one year after Zubin Mehta had won it for conducting). He then debuted with the London Symphony, earning rave reviews in the London papers, and his career was launched.
Achúcarro has maintained a busy international concert schedule ever since while continuing to develop his repertoire. In one recent five-week period, he was the soloist in the Opening Gala of the Sydney Symphony, where he played Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 and Choral Fantasy and Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 four times; opened the Casals Festival in Puerto Rico with Ravel's Concerto in G Major; played Schumann's Piano Concerto in A Minor with the Fort Worth Symphony; and performed Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody five times with the Florida West Coast Symphony before wrapping up with Rachmaninoff's Third Symphony in Mallorca, Spain, and Falla's Nights in the Gardens of Spain in Germany.
Other recent engagements include performances with the orchestras of Nice, Pays de Loire, Auvergne and Aquitaine in France; Orchestr Verdi, Arena de Verona, Ars Academy de Roma, Pommeriggi di Milano (tour as conductor-soloist), Palermo, and Bari in Italy; the National Orchestra of Ireland; West Deutsche Rundfunk, Berlin Symphony, Karlsruhe, Kaiserlaurten and Oldenburg in Germany; the Het Gelders Orkest in Holland (tour); the Tokyo Philharmonic and Hiroshima Symphony in Japan; National Orchestras of Chile and Mexico; and the Guadalajara, Xalapa, Sao Paulo, Oregon, Vancouver, Dallas, Wichita Falls, Huntsville and Quad City symphonies. He is in constant demand in his native Spain, where he has performed with the Orquesta Nacional de España, Orquesta de Radio Television, Euskadi, Bilbao, Barcelona, Sevilla, Malaga, Oviedo, Canarias, Baleares, and Extremadura symphonies, among others.
He also maintains an active schedule as a recitalist. After playing in Carnegie Hall with the Castilla-Léon Orchestra, he played two recitals in New York in the People's Symphony Series and at the Metropolitan Museum. Other recital locales include Brussels, Milan, the Salle Messiaen and Quai d'Orsay Museum in Paris, Reims, Rome, Venice, the Cortona Festival, Trieste, Siena, Madrid, Seville, Bilbao, Valencia, Las Palmas, Zaragoza, Pamplona, Sitges, Valldemosa, Monterrey, Guadalajara, Morelia, and Bogota, among many others.
In addition to his victory at Liverpool, Achúcarro has received numerous honors and won many noteworthy competitions. These include the Gontaut Biron Prize in Paris, First Medal at the Geneva International Competition, and first prize at the Viotti International Competition in Italy. In 1997, he was awarded the Premio Larios for Musical Excellence, and he played at the inauguration of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, in front of an audience of 25,000. He was named Comendador of the Order of Isabel la Católica and a member of the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando. In addition, he has received Spain's two highest honors in the arts: the Premio Nacional de Música 1992 and the 1996 Gold Medal of Fine Arts. In 1999, he was named UNESCO's 2000 "Artist for Peace." In 2003, King Juan Carlos of Spain presented him with Spain's highest honor, the Great Cross of Civil Merit, honoring his "lifetime achievement." In 2004 he was named "Beloved Son" by the town of Bilbao and "Universal Basque" in 2005.
Achúcarro has numerous recordings to his credit. In 1997, following the express wish of the composer, he completed and recorded his revision of Joaquín Rodrigo's Piano Concerto for Sony Classical. His wide-ranging discography also includes works by Beethoven, Brahms, Schumann, Schubert, Ravel, Debussy and Mussorgsky, and prize winning discs of Granados' Goyescas as well as the piano works of de Falla. His most recent recordings, released in 2005, include Schumann's Kreisleriana Op.16 and Fantasie Op.17 on the Ensayo label. His RCA recording of Nights in the Gardens of Spain with the London Symphony under Eduardo Mata was released recently for the third time.
Since 1989, Achúcarro has held the Joel Estes Tate Chair in piano at the Meadows School of the Arts. He also serves as a summer professor at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena, Italy. His students at SMU have won 16 international first prizes and several second prizes, and many of them are already performing and teaching around the world.