Albert Cano Smit provides glorious start to season of piano

Letter from a music lover.

Vashon Center for the Arts (VCA) has become known on and off-island as a destination venue for extraordinary classical piano music — and what’s about to happen in Kay White Hall will only make it more so.

VCA’s largest classical piano event, of course, is the week-long PianoFete, set to celebrate its third year from July 10-13. And soon, VCA will announce a new Classical Piano Series for the 2024-2025 season, beginning in the fall, with the return of pianist Reed Tetzloff and followed by the Vashon debut of Janice Carissa’s “In the Winter.”

Before each solo recital in the series, the featured pianist will join me for a lecture/concert discussing the composers and the works presented in the recital.

While PianoFête is getting closer, for a classical piano enthusiast such as myself, July seems like an eternity away. Thankfully, there’s no need to wait until midsummer to have our ears filled with outstanding music played by masterful pianists.

On Thursday, April 11, at 7:30 p.m., Dutch/Spanish pianist Albert Cano Smit and Vashon soprano Holly Johnson will join yours truly in a “Talks on the Rock” lecture and concert that celebrates the Spanish composers Albeniz, Granados, de Falle, and Mompou.

Please join me in welcoming Cano Smit back to Vashon.

On April 11, we’ll review the cultural and political environments of Spain that these composers experienced along with other great Spanish artists — Picasso, Miro, Dali, Buñuel, and Sert — with Holly Johnson singing some of the ‘canciones’ songs by the Spanish composers.

Then, in a concert at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 12, Cano Smit will present a “Musical Evening from Spain” starting with selections of Enrique Granados’ “Las Goyescas,” a masterwork of the Spanish School. Written in the early 1900s, the movements reflect upon paintings and drawings of Francisco Goya that Granados studied at El Prado Museum in Madrid. The piece was so popular that Granados himself performed the work for Woodrow Wilson at the White House. Unfortunately, his career and life were cut short while returning to Europe on the SS Lusitania, which was sunk during the First World War.

In the second half of Friday’s program, Cano Smit will perform various pieces from Isaac Albeniz’s “The Iberia Suite,” a set of four books with 12 works that are rarely performed due to their technical requirements — one pianist has notably commented that playing the Suite correctly would require three arms.

With flamenco melodies, harmonies, and dance rhythms, “The Iberia Suite” presents a postcard-like tour of Spain, mostly the towns of Andalucía in the south.

The second half of the program also includes works by Frederic Mompou, who will remind listeners of Eric Satie, whom Mompou knew in Paris in the 1920s. Unlike the dazzling bravura of Albeniz and Granados, Mompou is quite accessible to most pianists, and his jazz-like harmonies and melodic lines reflect Mompou’s admiration for Ravel and Debussy.

Cano Smit will end Friday’s recital with the music of Manual de Falle, a student colleague and friend of Garcia Lorca, Salvador Dalí, and Luis Bunuel. De Falle, like other Spanish composers, went to Paris for studies and shared a close friendship with Maurice Ravel. The composer’s “Dance of Fire” was a signature piece for pianist Artur Rubenstein, and much of de Falla’s music, like Albeniz’s, has been transcribed for guitar.

It’s a must-see recital for classical piano music lovers — Cano Smit’s honors include being the first prize winner of the 2019 Young Concert Artists International Auditions, and the 2020 Arthur Rubinstein Piano Prize from The Julliard School. He has appeared as a soloist with the San Diego, Seattle, Montreal, Colorado Music Festival, Las Vegas, Manchester, and Barcelona symphony orchestras, amongst others.

Tickets for both the Talk on the Rocks lecture/concert, and Albert Cano Smit’s recital the following evening, are available at There is a special discount for purchasing tickets for both Thursday’s lecture and Friday’s recital.

Musicologist Michael Tracy is a frequent lecturer at Vashon Center for the Arts and a devoted supporter of the arts.