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ClassicsOnline Home » Pupils of Chopin - MIKULI, K. / TELLEFSEN, T.D.A. / FILTSCH, C. / GUTMANN, A. (Rutkowski)
A respected pianist and authority on Chopin, Karol Mikuli composed some forty works notable for their virtuosity and meticulous care for beauty of sound. Adolph Gutmann, who was a member of Chopin’s intimate circle, wrote fashionable salon music that enjoyed widespread popularity. The Four Mazurkas of the Norwegian piano virtuoso Thomas Tellefsen, though clearly related to Chopin’s mazurka style, are highly individual works, incorporating elements from Norwegian folk-music. Of Carl Filtsch, who died aged only fifteen, Liszt said: “When this little one begins to tour, I will have to close up shop.”
By John Terauds
Piano Music by Pupils of Chopin
Karol Mikuli (1819–1897)
A Pole of Moldavian origin, Karol Mikuli was born on 20 October 1819, in Czerniowice, Bukovina. As a child he learnt to play the piano from Franciszek Kolberg, a concert pianist. In 1839 he started to study medicine in Vienna, where he met many prominent people from the world of music, including Eduard Hanslick. In 1844 he moved to Paris, where, during the next four years, he developed his skills as a pianist under the supervision of Fryderyk Chopin, becoming his favourite student relatively quickly and, shortly after, also one of his closest friends. Chopin used to commission Mikuli to copy his compositions before handing them over for publication. Mikuli was also very often the first one to hear Chopin’s works. In the years from 1847 to 1858 he gave concerts in France, Austria, Romania and Poland, with particular attention to the performance of Chopin’s compositions. Despite great successes, in 1858 he retired from his career to become head of the Conservatoire of the Galician Music Society in L’viv. He taught both theory and practice of piano-playing and gained considerable fame and recognition. Among Mikuli’s students were such outstanding pianists as Aleksander Michalowski, Maurice Rosenthal and Raul Koczalski. Mikuli died in L’viv on 21 May 1897.
Mikuli left some forty opus numbers, prevalent among which are solo and chamber compositions. He was also responsible for a few transcriptions for choir and instrumental ensemble of Chopin’s works. Most of his compositions are written in the late brillant style which was, however, affected by the more dense textures of Liszt. Mikuli was also the author of several theoretical works and the editor of a joint publication of Chopin’s works. His Polonaise in G minor, Op. 8, No. 1, represents an explicit reference to Chopin’s Polonaise in F sharp minor, Op. 44. The Polonaise in A flat major, Op. 8, No. 2, which from the point of view of texture is much more developed, is closer stylistically to that of Franz Liszt. Dix pièces pour Piano, Op. 24, dedicated to Hanslick, are a typical example of Mikuli’s writing. As in his other compositions, Mikuli gives the pianist the chance to display both his virtuosity (Etude in B major, Impromptu in G minor) and meticulous care for the beauty of sound (Cantilène in E flat major).
– Małgorzata Krzyżanowicz
Thomas Dyke Ackland Tellefsen (1823–1874)
Thomas Dyke Ackland Tellefsen left Norway in 1842 to study music in Paris. His first meeting with Chopin was in November 1844. Following this, he regularly took lessons with Chopin until May 1847. Chopin engaged him as a copyist and wanted Tellefsen to bring to fruition his plans for a piano school, a project that Tellefsen unfortunately did not complete. After Chopin’s death Tellefsen took on a number of his pupils and made a name for himself as a teacher. From the 1850s he reached a position as one of the best-known piano virtuosi of the time and toured successfully in France, England, and Scandinavia. While growing up, Tellefsen had acquired comprehensive knowledge of Baroque music and the Bach tradition, knowledge that he used extensively during his years in Paris in the 1850s, when he was one of the musicians involved in the revival of earlier musical traditions.
Tellefsen’s works include two piano concertos, five extensive chamber music works and several nocturnes, waltzes and mazurkas for piano solo. Even though the Four Mazurkas, Op. 3 (1849), show a clear relationship with Chopin’s mazurka style, Tellefsen also left his own stylistic mark on these pieces. In very much the same way as Chopin incorporated elements from Polish folkmusic into his works, Tellefsen incorporated motifs from Norwegian folk-music into some of his mazurkas. Mazurkas Nos. 2 and 3 contain melodic motifs and cadential formulae which are frequently used in the Norwegian folk-dance the springar. La petite mendiante, Op. 23 (1858), is based on a two-bar motif in flowing quavers. This motif is continuously varied throughout the piece. The Waltz, Op. 27 in D flat major, is made up from three related sections which are extended and varied in the second part of the piece. In the Impromptu, Op. 38 in G minor (1872), a rhythmic dotted motif is prevalent from the very first bars. In the contrasting cantabile section the same rhythmic motif is developed further.
– Ingrid Loe Dalaker
Carl Filtsch (1830–1845)
Carl Filtsch is one of the forgotten personalities of nineteenth-century music. “When this little one begins to tour,” said Liszt, “I will have to close up shop.” Few indeed have enjoyed so brilliant a childhood as did Filtsch. At six he launched his pianistic career with a tour of his native Transylvania. Not long thereafter he left home to continue musical studies in Vienna. “No sooner had my father and I taken off our furs and coats,” he wrote, “than we rushed to the great Mittag…Before becoming his pupil, Wieck (the father of the great Clara) took me in hand.” When Carl was ten, following a début at court, he left the Austrian capital. By December 1841, Carl and his brother Joseph were settled in Paris, where Carl would enjoy the guidance of Chopin for the next year and a half. In its review of Filtsch’s farewell performance in France, Le Monde Musical likened him to Mozart, adding “thus we remember Liszt twenty years ago”. In England, where the brothers settled next, critics would be more effusive still. “It must be admitted”, wrote one, “that the pupil [Filtsch] surpassed the master [Chopin]”. When Carl and Joseph returned to Vienna Carl fell ill while waiting in the theatre wings to give the première of an ambitious Konzertstück for piano and orchestra he had composed. He was brought to Venice to recuperate at the home of his patroness and died there of peritonitis; he was not yet fifteen. By the time of his death Carl Filtsch had begun to publish his own solo piano compositions, among them the Premières pensées musicales consisting of a Romanze ohne Worte, a Barcarolle and a Mazurka. Shortly after his death, Joseph Filtsch brought out the three other compositions presented here, an Impromptu in G flat composed under Chopin’s direction, an Impromptu (originally titled Scherzo) in B flat minor composed for Chopin after Filtsch had left Paris, and the ominous Das Lebewohl von Venedig (Adieu!).
– Ferdinand Gajewski
Adolph Gutmann (1819–1882)
Adolph Gutmann was born in 1819 in Heidelberg. In 1834 he moved to Paris to take lessons with Chopin. He soon became Chopin’s favourite pupil, a touring pianist and the dedicatee of the Scherzo in C sharp minor, Op. 39. In the Parisian Salle Pape, in March 1838, he performed together with Chopin, Zimmerman and Alkan, playing the Allegretto and the Finale of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, arranged by Alkan for eight hands and two pianos. Next to Fontana, Gutmann was the main copyist of Chopin’s works. He belonged to the closest circle of Chopin’s entourage and was a devoted companion to his master in the last years of the latter’s life. In 1866 he travelled to Egypt, Syria and Palestine and after the Franco-Prussian War moved to Florence. In 1880, he settled in La Spezia, where he died in 1882.
Gutmann’s published works include 55 compositions, from Op. 6 to Op. 60, which represent most of the genres and forms of nineteenth-century piano music. These compositions, although unexceptional, enjoyed recognition at the time and were published by significant German, French, Italian and English publishing houses. Most of the compositions fall into the current fashion of cantabile salon music marked by the late “brilliant style”. Over the years these works were forgotten. Gutmann, as a composer, made his début in 1843 with Fantaisie sur des Motifs d’Oberon, Op. 6. In his lifetime the work that enjoyed particular popularity was the collection Dix Etudes caractéristiques de concert, Op. 2, dedicated to Chopin. The Nocturne in A flat major, Op. 8, No. 1, makes a clear reference to Chopin’s style. The piece is made up of a cantabile part in the right hand with a chordal accompaniment. The Boléro in C minor, Op. 35, is also inspired by the master’s works and, in particular, by Chopin’s Boléro in C major, Op. 19. At the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries this Spanish folkdance became popular in Europe and was exploited by opera and instrumental composers. Le Réveil des oiseaux – Idylle, Op. 44, is one of the many pieces which have a programmatic title. Birds inspired Gutmann also as a painter. Next to flowers, tropical and colourful birds constituted the main theme of his oil paintings on silk. The character of sound in Awakening of the Birds and a few other compositions by Gutmann herald a new direction in music, impressionism.
– Ewa Sławińska-Dahlig
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