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8.223803 - LESCHETIZKY: Piano Concerto / Contes de Jeunesse Suite
Theodor Leschetizky (1830 - 1915)
Piano Concerto in C Minor, Op. 9
Overture: Die erste Falte
Suite, Op. 46, Contes de Jeunesse
Theodor Leschetizky was born on 22nd June 1830 at Lancut near Lemberg (L 'vov) in Austrian Poland. His father Jozef Leschetizky was Bohemian in origin and his mother, nee Therese von Ullmann, Polish, and they lived on the estate of Count Alfred Potocka, whose daughters Jozef Leschetizky served as music-master. Theodor Leschetizky made his debut as a pianist in 1839, at the age of nine, in Lemberg, performing a Concertino by Czerny with an orchestra directed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, originally christened Franz Xaver, the younger surviving son of the great Mozart. In 1841 he began piano studies with Carl Czerny, a pupil himself of Beethoven, and embarked on a series of concert-tours which continued successfully until 1848. In 1844 he began to teach his own pupils, the following year enrolling as a law student at the University of Vienna and taking composition lessons from Simon Sechter, the teacher of Bruckner. Leschetizky's Concerto symphonjque pour piano et orchestre, the Piano Concerto, Opus 9, belongs to the early years of study with Sechter and was neither published nor performed in the composer's life-time. The concerto eventually had its first performance in Richmond, Virginia, in 1972, followed twenty years later by its first European performance at Bad Ischl in Austria, the place of the composer's summer residence. The concerto, which is in one movement, contains brilliant piano-writing and rich orchestration. It is in sonata-form with an orchestral introduction that presents something of the opening of the first theme, followed by a lyrical second theme in which there is a dialogue between woodwind and strings.' When the piano enters with brilliant chords the development has already been reached. Rapid scales, poetic arpeggios and bold outbursts in octaves, with richly coloured orchestration, make of the concerto a true masterpiece.
1852 was an important year for Leschetizky. In this year he completed his first opera, Die Brüder von Marco, performed at the Michael Theatre in St Petersburg, followed by a command performance for Tsar Nicholas I. Thereafter he settled in St Petersburg, where he found many pupils and opportunities for performance. Ten years later he was invited by his friend Anton Rubinstein to become head of the piano department of the St Petersburg Conservatory, a position he retained until his return to Vienna in 1878. In 1867 his second opera Die erste Falte was first performed in Prague and in 1882 in Mannheim, when it was seen by his friend Liszt. The opera is based on a comic story by the Austrian writer and actor S. H. Mosenthal. After a few bars of lyrical prologue, in which we hear the harp and the soft sound of the strings, the main theme appears. The overture, a reminder of the national character of Leschetizky, is in the tradition of Vienna Biedemeier and Johann Strauss.
Leschetizky's Suite, Opus 46, Contes de jeunesse (Tales of Youth) consists of nine character-pieces for piano, typical in style of the composer's piano-writing, one of poetic virtuosity with deeper underlying feeling. The Berceuse, with its touching melody, is followed by So tanzte Mama (So Mother danced) , a minuet in the style of Mozart dedicated to the boy Mieco Horsowsky, a pupil who survived until1992, when he died at the age of 105. Verwickelte Geschichte (Complicated Story), which the composer also entitled Canon, is dedicated to another pupil, one once cuffed by Leschetizky for disobedience, Arthur Schnabel. Un moment de tristesse (A Moment of Sadness) is once again characteristic of the composer, its melody treated with contrapuntal skill and charm. Toccata (Hommage a Czerny) is a tribute to Leschetizky's former teacher. It is dedicated to another pupil, Ossip Gabrilovich. Impromptu en souvenir de Henselt (Impromptu in Memory of Adolph Henselt) is in honour of the popular pianist Henselt (1814-1884), an eccentric and highly strung performer, who spent much of his life in Russia. It is said that for the first performance of his piano concerto Henselt ran onto the platform to play his solo part, before suffering a nervous crisis in the wings. His gently lyrical touch is reflected in the Impromptu. Gavotte all'antica et Musette moderne is a bizarre piece, with a prelude in the manner of Bach, followed by eight variations on a musette theme. Fantasiestück (Hommage tl Schumann} has a wonderful melody, with deep romantic feeling. The piece was given to the American pianist Ethel Newcomb, a pupil and author of the book Leschetizky As I Knew Him. The suite ends with Hommage a Chopin, a mazurka-style waltz. Leschetizky had a close affinity with Chopin. He dedicated this final piece to one of the great interpreters of Chopin, Ignaz Paderewski.
Leschetizky was married four times, to one of his Russian singing pupils, from 1880 to 1892 to one of his pupils and his later assistant, the pianist Anna Esipova, then to two other pupils, marrying the last in 1908, seven years before his death in Dresden in 1915.
Leschetizky is generally remembered as a formidable teacher, his great gifts used to inspire his pupils whether through polite charm or choleric outbursts. His pupils, in addition to those mentioned above, included Elly Ney, Mark Hambourg, Ignaz Friedman, Alfred Grünfeld, Benno Moiseivitch and many others. In his house he entertained many of the greatest composers of his time, men such as Liszt, Rubinstein, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Grieg and Massenet, fascinating them with all the charm of a man of the world, illuminating every subject on which he touched.
From 1878 Leschetizky lived in Vienna in the Carl-Ludwigstrasse, spending the summer in Bad-Ischl, where in 1992 the Leschetizky Verein was established, an institution that with the cooperation of the Austrian government holds the annual Theodor Leschetizky International Summer I Academy for piano. Here the traditions of Leschetizky are kept alive, not least through the playing of his compositions. One of the last surviving members of the family is Ilse Leschetizky, a wonderful pianist who was a pupil of her grandmother, Anna Esipova. Born in 1909, she can remember Leschetizky from her childhood years and it is through her that the music of Leschetizky can now be performed, as she owns the original scores and still lives at the Leschetizky villa in the Leschetizky Gasse in Bad-Ischl"
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