One of the top Spanish pianists of his generation, Joaquín Achúcarro was born in Bilbao, Spain, in the midst of the Great Depression. He began piano lessons at the Bilbao Conservatory and, in 1956, at the age of 13, made his professional debut in Bilbao playing a Mozart concerto with the local orchestra. He was initially hesitant, however, to pursue a musical career, and enrolled as a physics student at the University of Madrid as a teenager. However, his ambivalence didn't last too long. He continued studying piano at the Madrid Conservatory. Within a year, he exhausted the local supply of competitions and prizes; before another year was up, he went to study music at the Accademia Chigiana in Italy. Success on the major competition circuit came quickly and easily to Achúcarro: Still a teenager, he won the Maguerite Long Competition in Paris; the Geneva International Competition; the Viotti Competition in Vercelli, Italy; and the International Busoni Competition.
In his late teens and early twenties, Achúcarro traveled around Europe taking lessons from one teacher after another, the most prominent including Walter Gieseking and Nikita Magaloff. In 1959, he took top prize at the Liverpool International Competition, making a successful debut with the London Symphony Orchestra and shifting his performing career into high gear. He has since been heard all around the globe, as a soloist with the world's major orchestras and as an in-demand recitalist. He has taught since the late '80s at Southern Methodist University in Texas, but is still very much present in the cultural life of Spain, as evidenced by the fact that the King of Spain knighted him in 1996. Among Achúcarro's many recordings is a 1997 Sony Classical disc containing his revision of the Rodrigo's Concierto heróico for piano & orchestra, which was carried out under the blessing of the composer.