Theodor Leschetizky was born on the estate of the family of Count Potocki in Łańcut. His Jewish father was a gifted pianist and music teacher of Viennese birth. His mother Therèse (von) Ulmann was a gifted singer of German origin. His father gave him his first piano lessons and then took him to Vienna to study with Czerny. At age eleven, he performed a Czerny piano concerto in Lemberg (near Łańcut), with Franz Xaver Wolfgang Mozart (the son of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart) conducting. At the age of fourteen, he started to tutor his first pupils. By the age of eighteen he was a well-known virtuoso in Vienna and beyond. His composition teacher was Simon Sechter, subsequently the teacher of Anton Bruckner, who also gave Schubert one lesson in counterpoint a few weeks before his untimely death.
At the invitation of his friend Anton Rubinstein, he went to St. Petersburg to teach in the court of the Grand Duchess Yelena Pavlovna. Remaining there from 1852 to 1877, he was one of the founders of the St. Petersburg Conservatory of Music in 1862. While in Russia he married one of his most famous pupils, Anna Yesipova (the second of his four wives), and had two children (one of them Robert Leschetizky).
In 1878 he returned to Vienna and began teaching there, creating one of the most eminent private piano studios in history, second only perhaps to that of Franz Liszt in Weimar. He taught thousands of students in the Weimarerstraße (formerly the Carl Ludwigstraße) XIX. Bezirk Wien, Vienna. They came from all over the world, many from the United States. He taught until the age of 85, leaving for Dresden in 1915, where he died that year.
He was survived by a son, Robert (Dresden), whose family returned to Bad Ischl after his death. His descendants still live in Bad Ischl and there is a Leschetizky Villa at the Leschetizky Straβe, the summer resort where he often vacationed with his friend Johannes Brahms.
Leschetizky had a granddaughter, Ilse Leschetizky (1910–1997), who was a distinguished pianist and teacher. One of her daughters, Margret Tautschnig, continues the Leschetizky tradition with the Leschetizky Verein Ősterreich in Bad Ischl. This organisation was co-founded by the Belgian pianist Peter Ritzen.
Herr Professor & his famous students
Among his celebrated Vorbereiter (assistants who prepared students to play for him) were Vorbereiterinnen Katharine Goodson, Annette Hullah, Marie Prentner and Malwine Brée, author of The Leschetizky Method (a title he approved of even though he said there "was no method!"). The list of legendary pianists he taught includes Anna Yesipova, Richard Buhlig, Ignaz Friedman, Ignacy Jan Paderewski, Artur Schnabel, Mark Hambourg, Alexander Brailowsky, Alexander Winkler, Benno Moiseiwitsch, Burce Sutherland, Paul Wittgenstein, Ossip Gabrilowitsch, Elly Ney, Natalia Polnazkovski and Mieczysław Horszowski.
Perhaps the secret of his successful teaching was that he worked with each student's personality and technical abilities in an individual way. His famous weekly classes provided his students the opportunity to try out their pieces prior to public performances before a discerning audience of their fellow students and invited guests.
A humorous probable allusion to Leschetizky occurs in the "Stella in Oxford" Chapter (Book Three, Chapter 10) of Compton Mackenzie's 1913-1914 novel Sinister Street, which mentions a notable piano teacher in Vienna "with a perfectly impossible name beginning with L".
Until his death he espoused a philosophy of music-making and life, captured in one of his most famous sayings (translated from the German):
- "No art without life, no life without art."
Leschetizky the composer
Leschetizky composed over a hundred characteristic piano pieces, two operas: Die Brüder von San Marco and Die Erste Falte, thirteen songs and a one-movement piano concerto. Opus numbers were given to 49 works.
Although his piano pieces are primarily smaller works in the salon music vein, they are expressively lyrical on the one hand while exploiting the piano's technical capabilities to great effect on the other. Most of his music has been out of print since the early twentieth century except for the Andante Finale, Op. 13 (a paraphrase for piano left hand on the famous sextet from the opera Lucia di Lammermoor by Donizetti); and Les deux alouettes, Op. 2, No. 1.
- In February 1906, Leschetizky recorded twelve piano rolls for Welte-Mignon, including seven of his own compositions.
- Piano Concerto, op.9; Overture to "Die erste Falte/ Contes de Jeunesses" - Peter Ritzen, piano Naxos Records 8.223803 (CD)
- Piano Works (with the famous left hand piece Andante Finale, op.13) - Peter Ritzen, piano Naxos Records 8.223525 (CD)
- Leschetizky Piano Music Centaur CRC2319
- Malwine Brée: The groundwork of the Leschetizky method: issued with his approval / by Malwine Brée; with forty-seven illustrative cuts of Leschetizky's hand; translated from the German by Dr. Th. Baker. Mayence (Mainz), 1903.
- Malwine Brée: The Leschetizky method: a guide to fine and correct piano playing. English translation by Arthur Elson; introduction by Seymour Bernstein. Mineola, Dover Publications, 1997.
- Theodor Leschetizky: Das Klavierwerk. Köln (Cologne), Haas 2000.
- Comtesse Angèle Potocka: Theodore Leschetizky, an intimate study of the man and the musician. New York, The Century co., 1903
- Annette Hullah: Theodor Leschetizky. London, Lane, 1906 (Reprinted 1923).
- Markus von Hänsel-Hohenhausen: There can be no life without art, and no art without life - Theodor Leschetizky, in: M. v. H.-H.: On the Wonder of the Countenance in its Photographic Portrait. Charleston 2013, ISBN 9781481283373
|Wikisource has the text of a 1922 Encyclopædia Britannica article about Theodor Leschetizky.|
- Free scores by Theodor Leschetizky at the International Music Score Library Project
- Theodor Leschetizky today playing his 1906 interpretations (The Welte Mignon Mystery vol. XIII)
- Piano Rolls (The Reproducing Piano Roll Foundation)
- Leschetizky Piano Concerto op. 9 /Overture/ Piano Pieces (Peter Ritzen, Piano) link
- Leschetizky Piano Works (Peter Ritzen, Piano) link
- Leschetizky Piano Music (Clara Park, Piano) link
Much of the text on this page is copied directly from materials created by and published by The Leschetizky Association.