Historical interpretations of Friderick Chopin works

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Josef Lhévinne - biography


Josef Lhévinne, a Russian pianist, was born on 13 December 1874 in Oryol (Russia), and died on 2 December 1944 in New York. He came from a family of musicians. In 1885 he entered the Moscow Conservatory to study piano under Vasilij Safonov. Along with Scriabin and Rachmaninoff, he also learnt under Nikolay Zverev. In 1889 in Moscow, just before his fifteenth birthday, he made his first public appearance playing the Beethoven Concerto in E flat major with Anton Rubinstein as the conductor. Upon his graduation in 1891, he was awarded the Conservatory Gold Medal. In 1895 he won a gold medal in the Rubinstein Competition in Berlin. On 27 January 1906 he debuted in New York performing the Rubinstein Concerto in E flat major with Safonov conducting the Russian Symphonic Orchestra, which was an opening to his tour of the United States. In 1907 he emigrated from Russia due to political upheaval. Until 1919 he lived in Berlin, where he earned a reputation as one of the most eminent virtuosos and teachers of his day. Next he settled in New York. Lhévinne performed solo and with orchestras. His repertoire consisted mainly of works by Romantic composers - Chopin, Schumann, Liszt, Tchaikovsky - as well as of masterpieces and piano paraphrases. He often performed in a duo with his wife Rosina, also a pianist. His playing was captivating with its sonorous tone, excellently developed phrasing, great musicianship, and perfect technique. As Harold Schonberg, a well-known American critic wrote: "His tone was the morning stars singing together, his technique was flawless even measured against the fingers of Hofmann and Rachmaninoff, and his musicianship was sensitive." His recordings were released by the American companies RCA Victor and Disc. Lhévinne was a passionate teacher, and valued teaching more than performing. Between 1900 and 1902 he taught at the Tiflis Conservatory (today Tbilisi), from 1902 to 1906 he was professor of piano at the Moscow Conservatory, and from 1924 he lectured at the Juilliard Graduate School in New York. He is the author of Basic Principles in Pianoforte Playing (1924; Polish edition of 2006: Podstawowe zasady gry na fortepianie). His pupils included inter alia Arthur Gold, Sascha Gorodnitzki, Adele Marcus, Homer Samuels and Brooks Smith.

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