Rafael Joseffy was born in (Hunfalu present-day Huncovce), in Szepes County (present-day Slovakia) in 1852. His youth was spent in Miskolc, and he began his study of the piano there at the age of eight. He studied in Budapest with Friedrich Brauer, the teacher of Stephen Heller. In 1866 he went to Leipzig, where his teachers were Ignaz Moscheles and Ernst Ferdinand Wenzel. In 1868 he became a pupil of Carl Tausig in Berlin, remaining with him for two years. Later he spent two summers with Franz Liszt in Weimar.
He made his debut in Berlin in 1872 and was immediately acclaimed as a master pianist of great brilliance. In a review of 1874 Hanslick admired his brilliant technique but found his playing cold. He moved to the United States in 1879, where he lived in New York City. Joseffy made his American debut in New York in 1879, with an orchestra under Leopold Damrosch. He soon after played with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, and subsequently made many appearances in New York and other American cities with Theodore Thomas and the Theodore Thomas Orchestra. Joseffy was soloist for the inaugural concerts of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on October 16 and 17, 1891, performing Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto with Thomas conducting at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago.
Joseffy's style was broad and comprehensive, yet his playing had a certain incisiveness. He produced numerous popular compositions for the piano as well as editing works of Frédéric Chopin and other composers for G. Schirmer music publishers. Later in life he virtually retired from the concert platform and devoted his attention to teaching. He was a very reserved man. Henry Wolfsohn claimed to have offered Joseffy huge sums for concert tours but the pianist found concert life so severe upon his nerves that he would not accept. He preferred the smaller income of a teacher to the glare of the footlights. Joseffy continued to care absolutely nothing for fame or applause. To him his art was supreme and other things mattered little. While in New York, he spent his summers in Tarrytown.
He died in New York City in 1915, aged 62.
- Darryl Lyman: Great Jews in Music. J. D. Publishers, Middle Village, N.Y, 1986.
- Stanley Sadie, H. Wiley Hitchcock (Ed.): The New Grove Dictionary of American Music. Grove's Dictionaries of Music, New York, N.Y. 1986.
- Finding Aid for Rafael Joseffy Music and Personal Papers, 1899-1905 The Sousa Archives and Center for American Music
- Grove Music Online: Joseffy, Rafael
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- James Huneker (July 4, 1915). "THE RARE ART OF RAFAEL JOSEFFY; The Passing of the Famous Virtuoso Last Week Severed a Career of Triumph in Musical World". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-08-08.
- Rafael Joseffy - Bach-Cantatas
- Free scores by Rafael Joseffy at the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP)