Leschetizky, Theodor

Biography

Theodor Leschetizky nurtured a whole generation of the brilliant pianists that became the adornment of the era. The priceless recordings of Leschetizky, testifying his unique talent are stored in the Museum Collection.

There are no gramophone records of Theodor Leschetizky playing piano. That is why the Welte-Mignon rolls are the only examples of his performance. Taking into consideration the pianist’s invaluable contribution in the history of world music, those recordings are of tremendous cultural significance.

Theodor Leschetizky was a Polish pianist, composer and teacher. He was born in 1830 in the Polish town Lancet. Theodore's father was a talented pianist and music teacher, originally from Vienna; his mother was a singer, originally from Germany. His father became the first music teacher for Theodor. The teaching approach of Josef Leschetizky was extremely strict, and this turned Theodor's lessons into torture. Thanks to the influence of his mother, the young musician did not lose his love for music, and by the age of 9, he was ready to perform a concert in Lemberg. This debut made Theodor Leschetizky highly demanded performer. He gained fame as a prodigy and was invited to participate in concerts and salon evenings.

A little later, Theodor was invited to perform in front of Klemens von Metternich. The talent of Theodor fascinated the nobleman.

At the age of 10, Theodore left for Vienna with his family. Here he began his studies with Carl Czerny, whose piano school was already known throughout Europe. Sigismond Thalberg and Franz Liszt had been already taking lessons from him.

Theodor's father demanded a great musical taste and feeling; hence, Czerny insisted on accuracy, virtuosity and pianistic effects. Thanks to Czerny’s lessons, the technical mastery of Leschetizky quickly progressed. Czerny was acquainted with many prominent musicians. Theodor's fateful acquaintance with Anton Rubinstein happened  at the Prince Esterházy court during the performance of Leschetizky.

Theodor had a beautiful voice since childhood, thus he performed as a singer in front of famous composers and singers. Leschetizky began his teaching career since the age of 14. His reputation as the outstanding pianist ensured him constant influx of students. His father rented two rooms next door for his son teaching activities. At the same time, Theodore continued his own studies, taking lessons on the counterpoint. The performance of Czech pianist Julius Schulhoff, which he heard one evening at a friend's house, motivated Leschetizky. This pianist, fluent in technical side of the performance, achieved much more - the instrument “sang” under his fingers. This meeting changed the Theodor's conception of the playing sound extraction. Theodor locked himself in his room. For several months and did not perform publicly, until the day when he achieved a similar effect from his playing.
In 1845, at the age of 15, Leschetizky was enrolled in the philosophical department of the Vienna University, combining his own studies with teaching practice.

He was so busy with studies and work that he had to play in the early morning hours. In 1848, due to the March Revolution, he was forced to stop teaching.

In 1852, Leschetizky went to Russia. Very soon a circle of pupils was formed around him, it began to grow rapidly. He was already known in Russia as a brilliant pianist, thus  shortly after his arrival he was invited to play for the Emperor Nicholas I.

Leschetizky liked to live in Russia. Anton Rubinstein, one of his youthful friends, was also in St. Petersburg at that time. They began their joint creative work. At that time, Rubinstein was a concertmaster at the Court of the Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna, sister of Nicholas I. Shortly after Leschetizky arrived to Russia, Rubinstein went on a tour, asking his friend to take over his duties temporarily. Theodor agreed, provided that he could continue his private teaching practice in parallel. His duties included organizing all musical events at the Court, giving vocal lessons to the daughter of the Grand Duchess and her maid of honor, Anne de Friedebourg. In 1856 they got married.

Meanwhile, with the growth of his pedagogical fame, his class became larger and larger. The most brilliant students of Leschetizky became his assistants. At the invitation of Anton Rubinstein, who founded the St. Petersburg Conservatory, Leschetizky headed his class and became the head of the entire piano department. Leschetizky was only 32 years old when he headed the piano department, but by this time, he was already a famous pianist and a teacher. Students from all over Europe dreamed of getting into his class. Despite his pedagogical activity, he toured extensively in the cities of Russia, Poland, Germany as a pianist and conductor. The pianist noted that conducting was much easier than piano performances.

In 1872, Leschetizky divorced his first wife. In the early 1880’s, he began a romantic relationship with one of his most outstanding students, Anna Esipova. The pianist had a brilliant career, but for a long time she continued to be his assistant. Anna became a student of Leschetizky in 1863, being a 12-year-old girl. She was the main pride of the teacher.

Leschetizky bought a house and wanted to take some time off from the enormous pedagogical burden, but his whereabouts quickly revealed and the students began to flock to him again from all over the world.

In 1882, his second opera, “The First Wrinkle” (Die erste Falte), was staged in Mannheim. The premiere was successful and was subsequently performed in other German cities.
In 1884, Leschetizky meet Ignacy Paderewski, a 24-year-old unknown pianist. The brilliant teacher decided to accept the challenge of fate. He converted the Paderewski technique, quickly finding out what the later was doing wrong. He explained to Ignacy the importance of effective practicing. His lessons brought enormous dividends. Paderewski took only 30 lessons from Leschetizky during three years, but they became crucial for his development as a pianist. Paderewski attributed his success to the lessons of Leschetizky and deeply revered his teacher.

Paderewski finished studying under Leschetizky in 1887. Moreover, in 1888 he debuted in Paris, the next year - in Vienna. Practically immediately, he gained the worldwide fame. Paderewski's growth was so rapid and brilliant that everyone was wondering, who was his teacher. The answer was obvious – it was Theodor Leschetizky. From that moment the stream of those who wanted to learn under the genius teacher or at least get his advice flocked to Leschetizky.

The fantastic success of Leschetizk-teacher was widely acclaimed. The method of Leschetizky was based on training in accordance with the individual characteristics and requirements of each student. Everyone was trained differently; Theodor was repelled by the individual characteristics and qualities of each pupil. These were the common points that Leschetizky demanded - the position should be light and relaxed, hands should be on the level with the keys or slightly lower, while the fingers were on the keyboard. Twitching while playing or shaking the head was strictly forbidden. Eyes should be looking straight ahead, so as not to be distracted by the fingers. Accurate muscle control, complete body relaxation - this is what the teacher demanded.

Since Leschetizky was literally “burning” in class and had already crossed the sixty-year boundary, he tried to save his strength and did not give more than four lessons a day. Perhaps thanks to this mode, he was always fresh, cheerful and energetic. His physical stamina was astounding. The price for his lessons was relatively inexpensive, especially taking into account his worldwide known name.

Leschetizky and Esipova gave famous series of joint concerts until 1887. When Leschetizky stopped performing with Esipova, he ended his solo career, despite the fact that the public required him to perform. His last official performance was a concert in Frankfurt in 1887, when he performed the Piano Concerto No. 5 by Beethoven in E-flat major. In 1892, when Leschetizky was 62 years old, the couple divorced. Two years later, he again married his student Davimirskaya.

At the turn of the 20th century, 70 years old Leschetizky reduced the size of his class and refused to accept new students. When 16-year-old Ethel Leginska came to his doorstep in 1902, he refused to see her. Nevertheless, Ethel was a girl with great willpower - she spent several hours on the threshold of his house, sending notes to the maestro and forced Leschetizky to capitulate at last. Her motivation and pressure impressed Theodor.
Leschetizky loved his students as if they were his own children. Despite the fact that his lessons were commercial, he returned the full amount paid to his most gifted students. The time of the following lesson was never been fixed. Leschetizky helped the most talented pupils in the subsequent employment, accompanying them with a letter of recommendation.

Leschetizky had pupils until the end of his life at his house in Vienna. The third marriage also ended in divorce. In 1908, when Leschetizky was already 78 years old, a fourth marriage with another student followed - Marie Gabriel Rozborska. the same year she  was performing publicly in London under the name Madame Leschetizky. Spouse survived Leschetizky, being cosiderably younger. She recorded paper music rolls for Hupfeld and Ampico and lived until 1944.

Leschetizky composed about 50 piano pieces, 20 of which were recorded on paper music rolls. His compositions were performed by a variety of pianists, including the students of Theodor Leschetizky. Leschetizky himself did not record anything for Duo-Art or Ampico, since these systems were invented when he was already over 80. His last spouse made a record for Hupfeld. However, when he was 70 years old, he recorded 13 paper music rolls for Welte-Mignon. Leschetizky recorded his own compositions on eight of them, and on the remaining five, he performed musical works by other composers. Recordings on Welte-Mignon is the single example of the pianist playing. They have great historical value.

T. Leschetizky died in 1818 at the age of 86 years.

Valuable records of Leschetizky, confirming the unique talent of the pianist are stored in Museum COLLETION fund.