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ClassicsOnline Home » LESCHETIZKY: Piano Works
"Ritzen captures their spirit to perfection, in playing of unfailing affection, immense zest and acrobatic skill"
Theodor Leschetizky (1830-1915)
Andante Finale, Op. 13
Suite "A la campagne", Op. 40
Two Pieces, Op. 35
Aria, Op. 36, No. 1
Intermezzo en octaves, Op. 44, No. 4
Six Méditations, Op. 19
Three Pieces, Op. 48
Theodor Leschetizky was born on 22nd June
1830 at Lancut near Lemberg (L'vov) in Austrian Poland. His father Józef
Leschetizky was Bohemian in origin and his mother, née Therese von Ullmann,
Polish, and they lived on the estate of Count Alfred Potocka, whose daughters Józef
Leschetizky served as music-master. Theodor Leschetizky made his début 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 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.
1852 was an important year for Leschetizky.
In this year he completed his first opera, Die Brüder von Marco, and made his
début in Russia, where he appeared before Tsar Nicholas I, settling in St.
Petersburg. 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. He 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 included Paderewski, Schnabel,
Elly Ney, Mark Hambourg, Ossip Gabrilovich, Ignaz Friedman, Alfred Grünfeld,
Mieco Horsovski, Benno Moiseivich 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 Academy for piano. Here the traditions of Leschetizky are kept alive,
not least through the playing of his Compositions.
The Andante Finale, Op. 13„ with its
beautiful opening D flat major chords, is a remarkable paraphrase of the sextet
"Chi me frena in tal momento" from Donizetti's opera Lucia di Lammermoor,
based on the novel by Sir Walter Scott The Bride of Lammermoor. The agony of
doubt in the heart of Lucia, the result of love and seeming infidelity, takes
shape in Leschetizky's treatment in poignant arpeggios, growing, in the manner
of Liszt, to encompass the whole keyboard.
The Suite "A la campagne" (In the
Country), Op. 40, offers a series of more intimate pictures. Jeux d'ondes (Play
of the waves), in the form familiar from the Etudes of Chopin, conjures up the
sparkling play of fountains, with inner voices, so typically of Leschetizky,
leading to a harmonic cadenza and a final chord, when the fountain stops,
leaving us with a great silence, the black mass of the water and the stars
shining overhead. Romance, the second piece, is consolatory in mood, to be
followed by the flowers of spring, the mountain flower, the edelweiss and a
strong evocation of the spirit of Poland in A la mazurka. Danse à la russe
evokes in characteristic fashion a world with which the composer, resident in
Russia for more than a quarter of a century, was very familiar.
Le bal d'hier (Yesterday's Ball) presents
an image of sitting by the window on a rainy Sunday morning, recalling the
mazurka-like waltzes of the evening before, the delicate steps of the dance
fondly remembered. The second piece on Opus 35, Souvenir d'Ischl, bears witness
to the town where Leschetizky spent his summers. Here there is now a street
named in his memory, with No. 8 his own house, now the residence of his
granddaughter, whose own daughter Margarethe Tautschnig-Leschetizky heads the
Leschetizky Verein in Bad-Ischl.
Marche militaire, Op. 17, takes us back to
the 1860s, when Leschetizky was at the Imperial Conservatory in St. Petersburg.
This was the age of grand opera, of the ballet and other Imperial celebrations,
a world suggested in the present work.
Aria, Op. 36, No. 1, a song without words,
is dedicated to Anton Rubinstein, a close friend of Leschetizky and a pianist
in the grand style. In texture, particularly when the melody moves to an inner
part, suggests one facet of Rubinstein's manner of performance. The Intermezzo
in octaves, Op. 44, No. 4, comes from a set of four pieces dedicated to
Maurizio Rosenthal, one of the greatest of Liszt's pupils.
The Six Méditations, Op. 19, is again from
the earlier period of Leschetizky's life. The first piece, a Lisztian prelude,
evokes the fairy world of Mélusine, followed by Réponse (Reply), an answer from
a broken heart. In L'approche du printemps (The Approach of Spring) the new
season draws near in a delicate siciliano. The second album opens with a very
Polish Berceuse, followed by a rhapsodic Découragement, with its cadenza ending
in silence. The whole set comes to an end with Consolation, in which the thumbs
are used for the melody, in a manner that Leschetizky favoured.
The Three Pieces, Op. 48, are relatively
late, in a style now fully developed. There are suggestions of Debussy in the
initial Prélude humoresque and a more advanced harmonic vocabulary in the
second Intermezzo scherzando. The final Etude héroïque returns to the grand
style with a heroic melody played by the thumb of the left hand. The piece is
technically and musically demanding, recalling the work of Liszt.
by Keith Anderson
Peter Ritzen was born in the Flanders city
of Ghent, where he studied at the Royal Conservatory before proceeding to the
Salzburg Mozarteum and the Paris Ecole Normale de Musique Alfred Cortot. He has
won a number of special awards at international piano competitions, with
particular distinction as Laureate of the Young Virtuosos International Piano
Competition in Antwerp and the Alex de Vries Award. As a composer he has been
strongly influenced by the music of China and has written several Chinese
Rhapsodies, Chinese songs, a Chinese Piano Concerto and a Chinese Requiem. He
has broken new ground with his first recording on compact disc of music by
Leschetizky and is artistic director of the Theodor Leschetizky International
Summer Academy in Vienna and Bad Goisern. Recent concert appearances include
performances at the Vienna Musikverein and at Carnegie Hall in New York.
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