Behrend studied at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. Her tuition in piano was with Josef Hofmann and she learnt composition with Rosario Scalero. Behrend’s main interest was in American music, and at the end of World War II, at the recommendation of Villa-Lobos, the US State Department sponsored her in a ten-month concert tour of South America. In 1959 Behrend founded the Philadelphia Festival of Western Hemisphere Music, a festival for which the Brazilian government awarded her the Southern Cross in recognition of her promotion of Brazilian music.
Behrend taught piano at the Curtis Institute, the Juilliard School of Music, Western College, Ohio, and the Philadelphia Conservatory, and she gave courses in American music at Temple University, the Juilliard School, and the Philadelphia Conservatory. In 1969 she was appointed to the Philadelphia Music Academy, where she taught piano and in 1974 founded a course for adult beginners. Behrend’s publications include editions of songs by Stephen Foster, early American choral music, piano music of Louis Moreau Gottschalk, and Gottschalk’s Notes of a Pianist.
Behrend married pianist Alexander Kelberine (1903–1940) and in 1937 she and her husband recorded the Concerto for Two Pianos by Harl McDonald (1899–1955) with Leopold Stokowski conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra for Victor. The two also recorded some of Kelberine’s own arrangements for two pianos including Deep River and Song of the Volga Boatmen. However, Kelberine was a manic-depressive who committed suicide in 1940.
For Victor, Behrend recorded other American piano music by John Alden Carpenter, David Wendell Guion, Daniel Gregory Mason and Edward MacDowell. In 1948, at New York’s Town Hall, Behrend gave the first complete performance of Samuel Barber’s Excursions, parts of which had been premièred by Horowitz three years earlier. Barber dedicated his Interlude No. 1 to Behrend, giving the first performance of it at the Curtis Institute in 1932; it is subtitled ‘Adagio for Jeanne’.
An important disc by Behrend is an LP of piano music by Louis Moreau Gottschalk recorded for the MGM label to complement her edition of his works. She displays a formidable technique and her musicological research lends weight to these performances. Also, an LP of American piano music appeared on the Allegro label containing a strong and virtuosic performance of the Piano Sonata by Charles Tomlinson Griffes, some preludes by Robert Palmer, and, as well as a Gottschalk piece, a sonata by Alexander Reinagle (1756–1809, born in Portsmouth, England, but emigrated to America) which she plays from the manuscript.
Behrend’s own compositions include a string quartet, Lamentation for viola and piano, Quiet Piece and Dance into Spring for piano, songs, and a cantata. In 1926, at a recital at London, Josef Hofmann played a piano solo, The Old Scissors Grinder, ‘by his fourteen-year-old pupil Jeanne Behrend’.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — Jonathan Summers (A–Z of Pianists, Naxos 8.558107–10).