Spanish composer Isaac Albéniz was a genuine child prodigy. His sister Clementina began giving him piano lessons when he was three and a half, and by five he had made his debut at the Teatro Romea in Barcelona (pictured right). Studying privately in Paris, he was rejected age seven at the entrance exam for the Paris Conservatoire, either for being too immature or (more fancifully) for breaking a mirror playing ball.

Isaac Albeniz The young Isaac Albéniz

Albéniz’s father wasn’t blind to his son’s talent and would make him practise mercilessly. One story goes that after losing his government post, he toured young Isaac and Clementina through the Spanish provinces to earn money. An avid performer, Albéniz quickly became accustomed to the life of a travelling virtuoso. Another legend has it that by the age of 12, the plucky boy – reputedly a huge fan of Jules Verne – had run away twice, supporting himself each time by giving concerts. He eventually gained his father’s consent for his travels, but not before he’d engaged in swashbuckling adventures that included being robbed by highwaymen.

There is plenty of evidence from his concerts, at least. One...