Iturbi, José, celebrated Spanish pianist and conductor; b. Valencia, Nov. 28, 1895; d. Los Angeles, June 28, 1980. He began playing the piano at the incredible age of three, and by the time he was seven he was earning a living by appearing in street cafes. Following training at the Valencia Cons, (first prize, 1908), he studied with Maláts, at the Paris Cons. with Staub (premier prix, 1912), and in Barcelona. After serving as head of the piano dept. at the Geneva Cons. (1919-23), he embarked on a brilliant career as a virtuoso. In 1923 he made a highly successful London debut, and then toured Europe and South America. On Oct. 10, 1929, he made his U.S. debut in Philadelphia, and subsequently appeared widely in America. In 1933 he made his debut as a conductor in Mexico City, and therefter pursued a dual career as a pianist and conductor, sometimes conducting from the keyboard. From 1936 to 1944 he was conductor of the Rochester (N.Y.) Phil. Iturbi was one of the most popular classical artists of his day, a popularity enhanced by his film appearances and recordings. While he had his detractors as an interpreter of the classics, there was no denying his idiomatic mastery of Spanish music. He also composed a number of piano pieces in the Spanish vein. His sister, Amparo Iturbi (b. Valencia, March 12, 1898; d. Beverly Hills, April 21, 1969), was also a talented pianist. She frequently appeared in duo concerts with her brother in the U.S. and Europe.
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire