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(1823 - 1903)

Kirchner was a master of small forms and also an expert arranger, with transcriptions of works by Haydn. Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Schumann for one or two pianos. He was also an outstanding concert-pianist and accompanist, regarded in his time as one of the best interpreters of the works of Schumann and Brahms. He also enjoyed the friendship of Felix Mendelssohn and of Robert and Clara Schumann and was held in high respect by many musicians, including Wagner and Liszt.

Born near Chemnitz on 10 December 1823, the son of a teacher, Kirchner was a pianist and organist. In 1843, on the recommendation of Mendelssohn, he was appointed organist in the Swiss town of Winterthur and remained there for twenty years.

During his time at Winterthur Kirchner composed very little (just ten opus numbers). Nonetheless Robert Schumann in 1853, in his well-known Brahms article Neue Bahnen (New Paths), counted him among the up-and-coming artists of the younger generation. Shortly before his 39th birthday, in November 1862, he moved to Zürich to take over the direction of the subscription concerts. He remained in this position for three years, following this with appearances as a concert-pianist, organist and accompanist.

Married in 1868, Kirchner had three children, but the marriage turned out unhappily. In 1870 he served as organist in Zürich. In 1872 he was appointed court pianist at Meiningen and in 1873, with similar lack of success, director of the Conservatory in Würzhurg, where he remained until 1876. From 1876 to 1833 he lived in Leipzig. It was there that he wrote almost fifty works, among them the Nachtbilder, Opus 25, and Ideale, Opus 33, in addition to a large number of arrangements. The years from 1883 to 1890 he spent in Dresden as teacher of ensemble and score-reading at the Conservatory. In 1884 his friends and acquaintances, among them Brahms, von Bülow, Gade, Grieg and Hanslick, collected thirty thousand marks to help him meet his heavy debts. By 1889 he had completed most of his compositions and in 1890 he moved to Hamburg, leaving his family behind in Dresden. A former pupil, Mathilde Schlüter then looked after him. In 1894 he suffered a first and then a second stroke that left him completely paralysed. He died in Hamburg on 18 September 1903.

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