Youth and first career steps in Germany
Katja Andy was born as Käte Aschaffenburg on May 23, 1907, in Mönchengladbach, Germany. She was the daughter of Jewish cloth manufacturer Otto Aschaffenburg and his wife Clara, née Ruben, an amateur pianist who had studied the piano with Clara Schumann. Käte started playing the piano at the age of three. Her parents used to accommodate touring soloists of the local philharmonic concerts at the family home, including stars like Adolf Busch, Joseph Szigeti, Eugen d’Albert, and Walter Gieseking. Pianist Edwin Fischer eventually became a close friend of the family. In 1924, Käte Aschaffenburg moved to Berlin to study with Edwin Fischer and Michael Wittels. She also attended piano lessons by Artur Schnabel.
From 1927, she gave duo concerts with pianist Agi Jambor. From 1930, she often played with Edwin Fischer's chamber orchestra and was his solo partner in the Mozart double concerto. In Bach's concertos for multiple keyboards, her fellow student and lifelong friend Grete Sultan joined Fischer and Aschaffenburg. For the 1933/1934 season, 60 concert dates had already been fixed.
Emigration to France
This promising start of a concert career was cut short by Adolf Hitler's rise to power in January 1933. When the new antisemitic regime told her that she was not allowed to teach so-called „Aryan“ students anymore, she fled to Paris in April 1933 and took the name of Katja Andy which she maintained ever since. However, as a German national, she was not allowed to work in France either and lived from illegal payments by Edwin Fischer and earnings from small jobs as a répétiteur and ballet school pianist. After she was denounced in 1937, she was expelled from France and travelled back to Germany to try to obtain an emigration permit. With the help of her tailor, a friend of Hermann Göring's, she actually got the necessary visa.
In 1937, Katja Andy emigrated to the United States, She accompanied the dancer, Lotte Goslar, in a national tour, before she settled in Detroit in 1938. Shortly after the war, she became a naturalized U. S. citizen in 1945. In 1948, she took up a teaching position at DePaul University in Chicago. In 1958, she became friends with Austrian pianist Alfred Brendel, himself a student of Edwin Fischer's, whom she met at the festival of Lucerne, Switzerland. From 1960, she lived in New York City, before she moved to Boston in 1964. There she first taught at the Boston Conservatory, and later took up a professorship at Boston's New England Conservatory. She stayed there into the 1980s and was honoured with an honorary doctorate from her faculty.
From 1991, Katja Andy spent her retirement in New York City. She died on December 30, 2013, at the age of 106.
- Moritz von Bredow: Katja Andy, in: Lexikon verfolgter Musiker und Musikerinnen der NS-Zeit (German)
- Moritz von Bredow: 2012. "Rebellische Pianistin. Das Leben der Grete Sultan zwischen Berlin und New York." (Biography). Schott Music, Mainz, Germany. ISBN 978-3-7957-0800-9 (Contains a description of her friendship with Grete Sultan, a separate biographic entry and two photographs).
- Alfred Brendel: Eine Musikerin der seltensten Art. Zum 100. Geburtstag der Pianistin Katja Andy, in: Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 23. Mai 2007 (German)
- Bredow, Lexikon verfolgter Musiker und Musikerinnen der NS-Zeit
- Brendel, Eine Musikerin der seltensten Art