Historical interpretations of Friderick Chopin works

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Józef Hofmann - biography


Józef Hofmann, a Polish pianist, composer, and inventor, was born on 20 January 1876 in Krakow, and died on 16 February 1957 in Los Angeles. His mother was a vaudeville singer, and his father was a composer and conductor. Being incredibly gifted, he began to learning to play the piano on his own, and at the age of only four he could play the Chopin Polonaise in A flat major by ear. His first music teacher was his father, and in 1884 he performed in Warsaw for Anton Rubinstein, who said: "such a boy wonder has not been known to the history of music so far". In the following year, in Warsaw, he performed with an orchestra playing the Weber and Liszt Polacca brillante, in a duo with the pianist Aleksander Michałowski playing the Schumann Andante and Variations in B flat major Op. 46, and as a soloist playing among others also his own compositions. In the same year he went on his first tour of Europe playing in the Czech lands, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, France and England. On 29 November 1887 he made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, which was followed by a ten-week concert tour of the United States, during which he gave fifty-two performances. In 1888, he withdrew from concert life until 1894 to study piano under Eugen d’Albert and Anton Rubinstein, and composition under Henryk Urban and Maurycy Moszkowski. In 1895 he gave a series of sensational concerts in Poland and Russia where his playing received enthusiastic critical reviews. "As he once was a child prodigy, he now is a wonder youth [...]. What we are witnessing here is not just an ordinary virtuoso but a musical genius [...]. From a technical point of view, his playing is so accomplished that any comparison would be inappropriate. Better octaves than in Liszt's Rapsody no 6 can by no means be heard elsewhere [...]. The elegance and cheerfulness with which Jozio played Rubinstein's Waltz in A flat major has not been developed in this piece even by Sliwiński. Moszkowski's Caprice espagnol, added extra to the programme, was full of sparkling wit." In 1898 he went on his second tour of the United States and established himself as one of the world's greatest pianists. In the season of 1912/1913 he appeared in Russia, where his performances were received with great acclaim. At the beginning of the 1920s, he engaged himself into founding a new musical school in Philadelphia, since 1924 known as the Curtis Institute of Music, where he initially headed the piano department and later became the director. On 28 November 1937, under the patronage of President Roosevelt and Count Jerzy Potocki, Polish Ambassador to the United States, a golden jubilee concert celebrating the 50th anniversary of Hofmann's American debut took place at the Metropolitan Opera House, during which he played the Rubinstein Concerto in D minor, a few solo pieces by Chopin and his own composition Chromaticon for piano and orchestra. In 1934, 1935 and 1938 he gave performances in Poland. On 18 January 1946, he ended his stage career with a recital at Carnegie Hall. His compositional output, published under the pseudonym Michel Dvorsky, comprises mainly piano pieces: five concertos, Chromaticon, Variations and a fugue Op. 14, two sonatas, mazurkas, preludes, Impresje, Noveletty, Szkice charakterystyczne, impromptus and others. He is the author of two books: Piano Playing and Piano Questions Answered. As an inventor, he patented about a hundred inventions, including a piano stool with adjustable height, windscreen wipers and car telescopes, a paper clip, an electric clock, an electric device for cooking and construction ideas for pianos, balloons and planes. In 1904 he built a car which he drove around Europe with his friend Konstanty Sternberg. His pupils included Ellen Ballon, Abram Chasins, Shura Cherkassky, Ruth Slenczynska, Walter Susskind, Teresita Tagliapietra, Aleksander Wielhorski and Leopold Zieliński.

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