Great Pianists Since Liszt

—The achievements of Liszt in developing piano technique, in enlarging the scope of piano laying through his masterly transcriptions, in variety and intensity of interpretation, have brought results that are enormous in extent and far-reaching in their developments to the generations that have succeeded him. When Liszt was in the height of his career as a virtuoso, few could matter the difficulties which his epoch-making works presented. Gradually the secrets of his technique were revealed to the ambitious few; now they are almost common property. Thy great concert pianists of today possess a technique that would have been unique forty years age. The repertory which all pianists worthy the name play from memory (a practice which Liszt initiated) is exceedingly extensive, while the endurance which they display and the facility with which they reproduce the masterpieces of piano literature is stupendous.

Liszt was undoubtedly the greatest revealer of the secrets of piano playing in the 19th century, and his pupils and those who have assimilated his teachings occupy a large part of the pianistic activity of today. Among tze first of Liszt’s pupils to become famous were Tausig and von Bülow. Carl Tausig, born in 1841, died in 1871, was trained by his father, and later studied with Liszt, under whose guidance he achieved a phenomenal accuracy of technic, and a commanding power of interpretation. His short life was spent mainly in concert tours. He established a school of music in Berlin for advanced piano playing. His untimely death cut short a brilliant career. His edition of Clementi’s Gradus and a collection of finger exercises are invaluable to teachers and to students. Hans von Buelow, born in 1830, died 1894, was intended for the law, although he studied the piano as a boy under Friedrich Wieck. In 1850, he became so absorbed in Wagner’s music that he abandoned all idea of the law. He studied the piano with Liszt at Weimar, and soon acquired a remarkable technic. He was never a pianist of the virtuoso type ; his strength lay in striving to reproduce the intention of the composer as faithfully as possible. His interpretations of Beethoven were especially famous, although he was progressive in his tastes. In 1876, he made a tour in the United States, where he did much to advance the cause of new music. As early as 1865 he conducted performances of Wagner’s operas, and later his association with orchestras at Meiningen and of the Berlin Philharmonic Society placed his reputation as a conductor in the front rank. He was extremely energetic in Wagner’s behalf and did much to bring his works to a public hearing. His editions of Cramer’s studies and Beethoven’s sonatas are of great value.

Among Liszt’s later pupils, one of the foremost is Eugen D’Albert, born in 1864. He received his early training in England, but in 1881, as a prize scholar, he studied with Liszt at Weimar. After brilliant concert tours through Europe, he came to America, in 1889, with Sarasate, where his ability was at once recognized. He has since largely renounced the career of virtuoso for that of composer, although he made a visit to the United States in 1905, giving a number of recitals.

Moritz Rosenthal, possibly the most fully equipped virtuoso technically now before the public, was born in 1862. At first a pupil of Mikuli, a disciple of Chopin, and later of Joseffy, he came ultimately to Liszt, with whom he studied for ten years. After numerous European tours he came to the United States in 1888, where he dazzled his audiences by his unusual command of technic. He reappeared in America in 1896-97, and has since made triumphal s rogress through Europe. As an interpreter he is less success ul than as a virtuoso. IIe is court pianist of Roumania. He has published a collection of technical exercises with udwig Schytté.

Bernhard Stavenhagen, born in 1862, is anothe noted Liszt pupil. He acted as Liszt’s secretary during is later years, and at the same time received lessons. In 1890, he became court pianist at Weimar. In 1894-95, he visited America. Since then he has acted as conductor at Dresden and Munich.

Emil Sauer, another phenomenal pupil of Liszt, as born in 1862. At first a pupil of Nicholas Rubinstein, he studied with Liszt from 1884 until the latter’s death. He possesses an extraordinary technic, and is almost unrivalled for the extreme brilliancy of his effects. He has receives many decorations from various courts of Europe. In 189–98, he visited the United States, where he made a sensation Since 1901, he has been at the head of the piano depart ent in the Vienna Conservatory, giving his attention to pupils in the artist department.

Among other talented pupils of Liszt may be m ntioned Alfred Reisenauer, Arthur Friedheim and Richard Burmeister, all of whom have been heard in this countri. The foregoing account does not begin to enumerate all, merely the celebrated pupils of Liszt. Others will be ref rred to in the course of this and the next lesson.

Belgian Pianists.—In piano playing, the Brussels Conservatory is far below the level of the Paris Conserva ory, al-though the director Gevaërt has a world-wide reputation for his text-book on orchestration, and the sympho y concerts at the conservatory, led by him, have a high s lace in orchestral standards. Nevertheless, in the piano department two names deserve mention : Brassin and Dupont Louis Brassin (1840-1884) studied at the Leipzig Cons ~ rvatory under Moscheles, wheré he remained five years, inning numerous prizes. In 1866, he became first piano teacher at the Stern Conservatory in Berlin. Later he joined the Brussels Conservatory, as professor of piano playing, where he taught from 1869-1878. In 1879, he accepted a position at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, where he remained until his death, in 1884. Brassin was not only known as a fine pianist and teacher, but also by his transcriptions from “The Ring of the Nibelungs.” He also composed piano pieces and even two operettas. Auguste Dupont (1828-1890) studied at the Liége Conservatory. After several years of wandering life, he became professor of piano at the Brussels Conservatory, a position which he held until his death, in 1890. He is known also as a composer of graceful piano pieces, a concerto and a concert-piece, in all of which the influence of Schumann is seen.

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897), famed both as composer and pianist, was the son of an orchestral musician in Ham-burg, whose circumstances were of the humblest. As a child he developed remarkable ability as a pianist, but his first lessons in composition awakened an enthusiasm that ab-sorbed his entire being. He was comparatively unknown when at the age of twenty Schumann brought him into public notice by hailing him as the successor of Beethoven.

Unlike most composers, Brahms was mature from the very beginning. His early works bear no trace of the uncertainty and imitation generally associated with youth, and it was this remarkable maturity that interested Schumann and gave point to his predictions for the future of the young musician. Unaffected by the pomp and glow of the ultra-romantic tendency initiated by Berlioz and culminating at present in the works of Richard Strauss, he remained true to the great classical school which rests on Bach and Palestrina. Unlike the modern impressionistic school, his art is based on essentially musical ideas and their contrapuntal treatment; it is architectural rather than pictorial. In such a scheme, color is subordinate to thematic interest, hence his instrumentation often appears heavy and austere to those who look for the brilliancy and tone painting of Liszt or Wagner. His music in general is founded on Bach and Beethoven.

His works for the piano are large and orchestral and demand a technic of their own, which was at considered unsuited to the nature of the instrumen Bülow remarks that while in Bach we hear the o Beethoven the orchestra, in Brahms we hear bot and orchestra. Notwithstanding their dignity and of conception, they won their way but slowly to favor.

Their newness of style and difficulty of execution estranged both public and musicians. Though Brahms for symphonies have become reasonably familiar, his piano works have not even yet achieved widespread popularity. They comprise two concertos, three sonatas, many variations, and a host of smaller pieces—ballades, scherzos, inte mezzos, capriccios, etc. Brahms never wrote for the stage but was active in all other departments of music. His greatest choral work is the “German Requiem,” composed in memory of his mother, to texts selected by himself from the Scriptures and sung in German, instead of in Latin, hence its name. He drew no little inspiration from the Folk-song, which he uses not only in the form of harmonies and rhythms distinctly based on Folk melodies, but in literal quotations serving as themes in several of his instrumental compositions. This contact with the people through their songs gives particular freshness and vigor to much of Brahms’ music, as well as a sturdy Teutonic character that stamps it as distinctively national in spirit.

It is perhaps too soon to deliver an authoritative judgment as to the ultimate rank that Brahms will take among the great composers of the past. There is no doubt, however, that he is one of the commanding figures of the last century and that he has enriched the world with a mass of noble music, all of which deserves to be known for its elevation and consummate mastery of detail.


Of a somewhat independent development from Liszt, although much influenced by his personality and his method, was Anton Rubinstein, born in 1829, died in 1894. He studied the piano at Moscow with Villoing, who gave him so thorough a training that he had no other teacher. From 1840, after concerts in Paris, he had universal recognition as a pianist. Further European tours increased his fame. He lived successively in Berlin and Vienna, and later re-turned to St. Petersburg. In 1872-73, he made a remarkable tour through America, arousing an enthusiasm only equalled in later years by Paderewski. Although he passed most of his life in constant activity as a composer, he directed the Russian Symphony Concerts in St. Petersburg. As early as 1862 he founded the St. Petersburg Conservatory, which has had a prominent place in Russian music. He was a complete master of the piano, his technic was gigantic, although his vitality of interpretation was so intense that details paled before it. His historical recitals covering the entire literature of the piano were his most conspicuous achievements as a pianist. He maybe regarded as second only to Liszt, and in some respects he even surpassed him. He was disappointed at not being accorded high rank as a composer, as well as a pianist.

His brother, Nicholas Rubinstein, born in 1835 died in 1881, although not so distinguished a pianist, and a composer of slight account, exerted almost as strong an influence on Russian music. A pupil of Kullak, he fo nded the Russian Musical Society at Moscow, in 1859, and in 1864 the Moscow Conservatory, which has been exceed ingly active in Russian musical affairs. He directed the Moscow Conservatory until his death ; he was an intimate . dviser of Tchaikovsky, while his worth as a teacher may b guessed from the prominence of his pupils, Karl Klindworth, Emil Sauer and Alexander Siloti, possibly the foremost Russian pianist today.

Balakireff, born in 1836, has been a co siderable force in Russian music, besides being a capabl pianist. After studying physics and mathematics at the niversity of Kazan, he turned to music. In 1862, he founded a Free School of Music in St. Petersburg. Among his ssociates were César Cui, Nicholas Rimsky-Korsakoff, Alexander Borodine and others. He has done much to aid the Neo-Russian school of composition. His piano music is effective and highly colored, especially his fantasy on Georgian themes, “Islamey.”

Alexander Siloti, undoubtedly the most widely-known of Russian pianists, born at Charcow, 1863, was a pupil in piano playing of Nicholas Rubinstein, at the Mos ow Conservatory. From 1883-1886, he studied with Liszt. His technic is enormous ; while not intensely magnetic his intellectual grasp of music is remarkable. He made an American tour in 1898, when he introduced much Russian pi no music that was new. Although Siloti has taught at the Moscow Conservatory, he has lived of late years at Leipzig and Paris.

Among other Russian pianists are Vassili Sail ellnikoff, born 1868, a pupil of Kessler, Louis Brassin, Sophi- Menter; Vassili Safcnoff, a pupil of Leschetizky and Zaremba in St. Petersburg, since 1887 director of the Moscow Conservatory, and more lately a conductor; Sergei Rachmaninoff, born 1873, a pupil of Siloti, not only a brilliant pianist but also a composer of originality ; Alexander Scriabine, born 1872, a pupil of Safonoff, who has made successful European tours, and like Rachmaninoff, has composed much for his instrument.

Two German pianists, Henselt and Klindworth, were so associated with Russian music as to warrant their mention here. Adolph Henselt, born 1814, died 1889, at one time a pupil of Hummel, was for the most part self-taught. He passed most of his life in St. Petersburg, giving lessons and playing frequently in public. He also had an official position as music inspector. As a pianist, Henselt was exceedingly eminent, and may be ranked next to Rubinstein and von Bülow, although in later years nervousness prevented his playing in public. His etudes are distinct additions to the technical resources of the piano, his arrangements of Cramer etudes with second piano accompaniment are praise-worthy.

Karl Klindworth, born 1830, was a pupil of Nicholas Rubinstein and later, of Liszt. After living in London, he became professor of piano playing at the Moscow Conservatory, from 1868-1884. Later he settled in Berlin, be-came conductor of the Philharmonic Society, and opened a conservatory with von Bülow, which was merged with that of Scharwenka in 1893. Klindworth’s edition of Chopin is in some respects the best. He has also edited Beethoven’s sonatas, and he prepared the piano score of the entire “Ring of the Nibelungs.”


In presenting the famous French pianists, Charles Henri Valentine Alkan, born 1813, died 1888, must not be for-gotten. A brilliant pianist, he claims our attention chiefly on account of his etudes, introducing novel and extremely difficult problems of technic. Musically his studies cannot be compared with those of Chopin or Liszt, but they merit attention, particularly in the modern editions.

Although Camille Saint-Saens is known chiefly as a composer, he was, during his early years, a remarkable pianist. His contributions to piano literature, five concertos, etudes and smaller pieces, are all valuable.

A group of Paris Conservatory professors constitute the most distinguishing teaching talent in France today. Further than that, Paris is one of the great centres of piano playing in Europe. Its teachers follow their own traditions, yet have assimilated from Liszt.

The oldest of these is Georges Mathias (b. 1826), pupil of Chopin, Kalkbrenner and the Paris Conservatory, who has been professor of piano playing since 1862. E. Delaborde, a pupil of Alkan, Moscheles and Liszt, has taugl t at the Paris Conservatory since 1873. One of the most successful teachers now living is Louis Diemer, born 1843, a pupil of Marmontel. Winning the first piano prize at the age of thirteen, he succeeded his former teacher in 1888. Dièmer has turned out many first prizes; he has an impeccable technic; he has done much to foster interest in the harpsichord, the oboe d’amore and other obsolete instruments. He has published valuable collections of old French harpsichord music, besides original” works. A Conservatory teacher well-known in America is Raoul Pugno, born 1852. A pupil of the Paris Conservatory, he obtained first prizes piano playing, organ and harmony. He came to America in 1897-98 with Ysaye and others, and again in 1902. He has taught at the Paris Conservatory since 1897. He has a superb technic, and is versatile as an interpreter. He has also composed much. A teacher of unusual insight into technic is Isidor Philipp, born 1863, a pupil of Mathias, Saint-Saëns and others. He possesses a flawlessly accurate technic, and has appeared frequently in public, although he devotes the greater part of his energy to teaching. He has published many valuable sets of exercises, collections of difficult passages, some transcriptions and original pieces. He has been professor at the Conservatory since 1904.

Louis Breitner, a pupil of the Milan Conservatory, Anton Rubinstein and Liszt, has lived for many years at Paris as pianist and teacher. He also has visited America. Among the younger French pianists are Leon Delafosse, Edouard Risler, an eclectic pianist, a pupil of Dièmer, D’Albert and Stavenhagen.


Fay.—Music Study in Germany.

Walker.—My Musical Memories.

Lahee.—Pianists of the Past and Present.

Grove’s Dictionary.—Article on Pianoforte Players.

Finck.—Paderewski and His Art.


Mason.—Memories of a Musical Life.

Lenz.—The Great Virtuosos of our Time.