Anna Yesipova became the first Russian pianist that achieved worldwide recognition, she won the hearts of European and American listeners by her unsurpassed skill. The musician was one of the first students of the outstanding musical teacher Theodor Leschetizky, and subsequently continued her tutor's lifework, implementing his pedagogical principles. Yesipova was the founder of one of the largest piano schools in Russia. The unique method of Leschetizky comprised the framework of her pedagogical methodology.
Anna Yesipova was born in St. Petersburg in 1851. The girl was naturally endowed with the delicate ear for music and immediately picked up tunes of any complexity by ear, but her professional training began only at the age of 13. At this age, Esipova entered the piano class at St. Petersburg Conservatory – primarily in the preparatory class under Alexander Villoing, and beginning from 1866, she continued her studies in the class of Theodor Leschetizky. At the request of the Conservatory board, the benefactor I. O. Utin paid for her education.
The style and artistic vision of Anna Esipova was formed due to Theodor Leschetizky. He trained the pianist’s self-discipline, time management skills and thorough mastering of performing techniques. After graduating from the Conservatory in 1871 with gold medal, Yesipova launched an active concert activity outside Russia. Her debut performance in Salzburg in 1868 brought her first serious success. On November 2, 1869, Yesipova performed in St. Petersburg with the Beethoven's Fourth Concerto with orchestra that was conducted by Eduard Nápravník. Since 1871, the pianist lived in Europe. The brilliant period of her active performing with concerts was from 1873 to 1914. Anna Yesipova success abroad was undoubted, as evidenced by rave reviews in the press. Rubinstein considered her "the greatest pianist among the living ones". Especially memorable was the season of 1874, when Yesipova toured in St. Petersburg, England and Poland.
Yesipova gave 105 concerts in New York, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago and other US cities in 1876-1877. Numerous reviews praised Yesipova technique. The pianist gained the status of the world star during this period. In 1884, she received an offer from the Paris Conservatoire to take part in one of the major Annual concerts. Traditionally only French musicians took part in such concerts. Extremely rarely the board retreated from this rule, and every exception was a major event in the cultural life of Paris — previously, only Anton Rubinstein and Henryk Wieniawski were herald with the honorific.
In 1887, Yesipova received an offer from Anton Rubinstein to take charge of the piano class at the Conservatory in St. Petersburg. Anna rejected the offer, since she was actively performing and had very tough schedule. In the period from 1887 to 1893, she played in Western Europe, England, Russia. One of the last concerts marked in her notebook in Warsaw in 1892 was, according to her counting, her 873rd performance.
Natural talent combined with excellent education allowed to play styles of piano music. Yesipova perfectly mastered her fingers’ technique and possessed recognizable delicate touch. The pianist rightfully occupied the leading position among the acknowledged Western pianists of that time, such as Sophie Menter, Leopold Godowsky, Ignacy Paderewski, Eugen d'Albert.
At the same time, the intellectual component was superior to the sensual one in Yesipova performances; therefore, her playing was not filled with emotional outbursts. The cardinal reinterpretation of traditional handling was not peculiar to the pianist, which did not depreciated the quality of her playing and did not make her “statuesque”. The whole range of her emotions was expressed in subtle nuances, phrasing and delicate touch. Yesipova had an extensive repertoire. Her concerts often consisted of three sections, with the total duration of three hours. The program was based on works by Franz Schubert, Frédéric Chopin, Robert Schumann, Ferencz Liszt and Felix Mendelssohn.
However, the pianist included salon pieces that met the preferences of the audience in her repertoire - the works by Moritz Moszkowski, Theodor Leschetizky, Sigismond Thalberg and Adolf von Henselt. However, the major composer in the pianist’s creative work was Frédéric Chopin, whose works she performed with particular awe and depth.
Small-scale piano pieces occupied a significant place in Anna Yesipova performing practice. She was the first in the musical history to perform programs dedicated to a single composer or subject. Thus, promulgating the small-scale forms, the pianist gave concerts dedicated to the history of etude - from Carl Czerny to Sergei Rachmaninoff, trying to demonstrate the dynamics of the genre.
In 1893, Esipova accepted Rubinstein's offer and returned to Russia for teaching. Being the outstanding pianist, she wanted to transfer her knowledge and skills to other talented musicians. Anna gave piano lessons being a student - she assisted Professor Theodor Leschetizky, and received permission to substitute the teacher when he was absent. She fully adopted his teaching methodology and put it into practice, passing it through the lens of her own perception. Even in times of active concerting, she found time to teach students. Thus, she gave lessons to Artur Schnabel in Vienna, who came to study under Theodor Leschetizky. The maestro entrusted the young pianist Yesipova to perfect his piano technique.
Since 1893, Anna devoted herself entirely to teaching. Being extremely punctual and obligatory woman, Yesipova demanded the same qualities from her students. She often arranged demonstration lessons, demanding the presence of the entire class, which contributed to more productive learning. She considered the principle of a live show to be the most important element in teaching, explaining and speaking little, and illustrated many things by her own playing.
In the early 1900s, Yesipova started to write the textbook on methodic - "The Piano School". The work remained unfinished, but many of its sections are rather detailed and are of professional interest. The methodology of Yesipova was based on individual approach to each student’s personality. The pianist was a supporter of active finger technique, and included the freedom of motion, the harmony of performing and facility of execution to the qualities that were necessary for a pianist. During several decades of teaching, Anna brought up about 260 pianists. Among them were Sergei Prokofiev, Alexander Borovsky, Maria Yudina, Isabella Vengerova, Gabriel Romanovsky, Jozef Turchinsky, Simon Barer and others.
In 1906, Esipova recorded some works from her repertoire on Welte-Mignon paper music rolls, making it possible to evaluate her performance skills. These are, Rigoletto by Verdi - Liszt, La Somnambula by Bellini - Thalberg, Mazurka in B-minor and Preludes by Chopin, Variationen F-moll uber thema von Clara Wyeck from Sonata No. 3 in F Minor, Op. 14 by Schumann.Anna Nikolaevna Yesipova died on August 18, 1914 in St. Petersburg at the age of 63 years.