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Past Images of the Month - December 2015

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Postcard photograph by Charles Skolik, Vienna. [c.1910]

Postcard photograph by Charles Skolik, Vienna. [c.1910]

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LESCHETIZKY, Theodor [Leszetycki, Teodor] (b Łańcut, Galicia, 22 June 1830; d Dresden, 14 Nov 1915)

Theodor Leschetizky was undoubtedly the most successful piano teacher after Liszt, and amongst his pupils one finds the names of some of the most eminent pianists of the 20th century, including Paderewski, Schnabel, Friedman and Moiseiwitsch. Born in 1830 at Lancut (now in Poland), he had been a pupil of Czerny and himself started giving lessons before he was twenty. Leschetizky matured from a child prodigy into becoming a considerable virtuoso: during his career he gave concerts in Austria, German, Russia, France and England. When Anton Rubinstein founded the St Petersburg Conservatory in 1862 Leschetizky was made professor of piano, an appointment he held until 1878, when he moved to Vienna. It was to his home in the outskirts of this city that pupils flocked from both Europe and America. He continued to teach there until early in 1914.

Around 1,500 pianists took lessons from Leschetizky and aside from those who became concert pianists, a great many themselves developed into noted teachers. His secret, if it can be described as such, was that he applied himself to developing the artist within the pupil. Tone and rhythm were aspects that preoccupied him, but above all it was, he believed, the pupil's intelligence that needed to be applied to piano playing - not the usual incessant  repetition of technical passages. The approach is typified in one of his favourite maxims - 'think ten times and play once'.

The finely crafted compositions of Leschetizky belong in style to the mid-19th century and, as their titles reveal, for the main part they are virtuoso salon works and elegant genre pieces. Many are dedicated to fellow pianists of the day and also to individual pupils. A few pieces survived in the recital repertoire until the 1920s, the majority of exponents being either pupils or grand-pupils of the composer. Leschetizky also wrote a comic opera Die Erste Falte ('The First Wrinkle'), which was produced at Prague in 1867.

James Methuen-Campbell © 2015

(Please click the thumbnails below to view larger image)

Les Deux Alouettes: impromptu [and] Mazourka, Op.2. Vienna, [1850].  Dedicated to an early girl-friend, Les Deux Alouettes was probably Leschetizky's most popular work. Deux Mazurkas, Op.24. Leipzig, [1884]. A reprint of the work first published in 1861. Quatre Morceaux, Op.36. Hamburg, [1887].

Valse-Caprice, Op.37. London, nd.  A reprint of the work first published in Hamburg in 1887. Souvenirs d'Italie, Op.39. Berlin, [c.1890]. À la Campagne, Op.40. Berlin, [c.1890].

Fantaisie-Nocturne et Valse Coquette, Op.42. Berlin, [1894]. Deux Morceaux, Op.43. Berlin, [1894].  This copy belonged to Leschetizky's pupil, the distinguished British pianist Katharine Goodson. Pastels, Op.44. Berlin, [1897].

Deux Arabesques, Op.45. Berlin, [c.1900]. Contes de Jeunesse, Op.46. Berlin, 1902. Trois Morceaux, Op.48. Berlin, 1909.

Chant du Soir, Op49. Berlin, 1913.

Compositions pour Piano par Theodor Letchetizky.  [Series title of c.1885]. Stücke aus dem Repertoire Essipoff-Leschetizky. Leipzig, [c.1880].  This popular series of edited repertoire remained in print until at least the 1930s. Compositions pour Piano par Théodore Leschetizky. [Series title of 1909].

Comtesse Angèle Potocka: Theodore Leschetizky, an intimate study of the man and the musician. New York, 1903.  This first published biography of Leschetizky was translated from an unpublished French original by his sister-in-law. A plate from the Potocka book, showing a lithograph by Emile Desmaisons, c.1856.

Postcard photograph by Marie Mertens, Vienna, 1902. Inscribed by a previous owner June 1906 and Music room where many a poor soul has been overcome with terror.  Peter Joslin Collection.