Albéniz was a man of contrasts: self-disciplinary and reckless, miserly and extravagant, cerebral and sentimental. In Iberia he attempted to capture the natural flow of ideas in a rational pattern. It is as though the romanticist and classicist in him engaged in a never-ending struggle.
What most stirs the imagination in this respect is that Albéniz seems to have continually intertwined fantasy with reality. His life was surrounded by fantastic tales, put into circulation in no small part by the composer himself. As a 10-year-old boy, for example, he supposedly had run away and crossed the Atlantic as a stowaway on a ship to South America, where he had great success as a piano virtuoso. Furthermore, he always maintained that he had been a student of Franz Liszt.