Rudolf Firkušný

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Rudolf Firkusny in 1960 Rudolf Firkusny 1960.jpg
Rudolf Firkušný in 1960
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Nuvola apps arts.svg You may hear Rudolf Firkušný performing Antonin Dvorak's Piano Concerto in G minor, Op.33 with George Szell conducting the Cleveland Orchestra in 1954 Here on

Rudolf Firkušný (Czech: [ˈrudolf ˈfɪrkuʃniː] ; 11 February 1912 19 July 1994) was a Czech-born, Czech-American classical pianist of Jewish descent [1] .

Pianist musician who plays the piano

A pianist is an individual musician who plays the piano. Since most forms of Western music can make use of the piano, pianists have a wide repertoire and a wide variety of styles to choose from, among them traditional classical music, jazz, blues, and all sorts of popular music, including rock and roll. Most pianists can, to an extent, easily play other keyboard-related instruments such as the synthesizer, harpsichord, celesta, and the organ.



Born in Moravian town Napajedla and being of Jewish descent [2] , Firkušný started his musical studies with the composers Leoš Janáček and Josef Suk, and the pianist Vilém Kurz. Later he studied with the legendary pianists Alfred Cortot and Artur Schnabel. He began performing on the continent of Europe in the 1920s, and made his debuts in London in 1933 and New York in 1938. He escaped the Nazis in 1939, fled to Paris, later settled in New York and eventually became a U.S. citizen. [3]

Moravia Historical land in Czech Republic

Moravia is a historical region in the Czech Republic and one of the historical Czech lands, together with Bohemia and Czech Silesia. The medieval and early modern Margraviate of Moravia was a crown land of the Lands of the Bohemian Crown, an imperial state of the Holy Roman Empire, later a crown land of the Austrian Empire and briefly also one of 17 former crown lands of the Cisleithanian part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire from 1867 to 1918. During the early 20th century, Moravia was one of the five lands of Czechoslovakia from 1918 to 1928; it was then merged with Czech Silesia, and eventually dissolved by abolition of the land system in 1949.

Napajedla Town in Czech Republic

Napajedla is a town in the Zlín Region, Czech Republic. It has about 7,500 inhabitants.

Leoš Janáček Czech composer

Leoš Janáček was a Czech composer, musical theorist, folklorist, publicist and teacher. He was inspired by Moravian and other Slavic folk music to create an original, modern musical style.

Firkušný had a broad repertoire and skillfully performed the works of Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Chopin, and Brahms as well as Mussorgsky and Debussy. However, he became known especially for his performances of the Czech composers Bedřich Smetana, Antonín Dvořák, Janáček, and Bohuslav Martinů (who wrote a number of works for him).

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Austrian composer of the Classical period

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, baptised as Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart, was a prolific and influential composer of the classical era.

Ludwig van Beethoven German classical and romantic composer

Ludwig van Beethoven was a German composer and pianist. A crucial figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras in classical music, he remains one of the most recognised and influential of all composers. His best-known compositions include 9 symphonies; 5 piano concertos; 1 violin concerto; 32 piano sonatas; 16 string quartets; a mass, the Missa solemnis; and an opera, Fidelio. His career as a composer is conventionally divided into early, middle, and late periods; the "early" period is typically seen to last until 1802, the "middle" period from 1802 to 1812, and the "late" period from 1812 to his death in 1827.

Robert Schumann German composer

Robert Schumann was a German composer, pianist, and influential music critic. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest composers of the Romantic era. Schumann left the study of law, intending to pursue a career as a virtuoso pianist. His teacher, Friedrich Wieck, a German pianist, had assured him that he could become the finest pianist in Europe, but a hand injury ended this dream. Schumann then focused his musical energies on composing.

Firkušný championed Dvořák's only piano concerto, which he played with many different conductors and orchestras around the world and also recorded several times. Originally, he performed the revised version made by his teacher Kurz and even arranged it further; yet in the end, he came back to the original Dvořák score.

Piano Concerto (Dvořák) concerto by Antonín Dvořák

The Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in G minor, Op. 33, is the only piano concerto by Czech composer Antonín Dvořák. Written in 1876, it was the first of three concertos that Dvořák completed, followed by the Violin Concerto, Op. 53 from 1879 and the Cello Concerto, Op. 104, written in 1894–1895. The piano concerto is probably the least known and least performed of Dvořák's concertos.

Firkušný was also a devoted chamber player, and among his most prominent partners were cellists Pierre Fournier, Gregor Piatigorsky, János Starker, and Lynn Harrell; violinists Nathan Milstein and Erika Morini; violist William Primrose; and the Juilliard String Quartet. He also gave many first performances of contemporary composers, not only Czech such as by his friends Martinů and Vítězslava Kaprálová but also Howard Hanson, Gian Carlo Menotti, Samuel Barber, and Alberto Ginastera.

Chamber music form of classical music composed for a small group of instruments

Chamber music is a form of classical music that is composed for a small group of instruments—traditionally a group that could fit in a palace chamber or a large room. Most broadly, it includes any art music that is performed by a small number of performers, with one performer to a part. However, by convention, it usually does not include solo instrument performances.

Pierre Fournier French cellist

Pierre Léon Marie Fournier was a French cellist who was called the "aristocrat of cellists," on account of his elegant musicianship and majestic sound.

Gregor Piatigorsky Russian-born American cellist

Gregor Piatigorsky was a Russian-born American cellist.

Firkušný taught at the Juilliard School in New York, and in Aspen, Colorado as well as in the Berkshire Music Centre in Tanglewood. Among his students were Yefim Bronfman, Eduardus Halim, Alan Weiss, Sara Davis Buechner, Carlisle Floyd, Kathryn Selby, Avner Arad, June de Toth, Richard Cionco, Robin McCabe, Anya Laurence, Natasa Veljkovic and Carlo Grante. After the fall of the communist government in his homeland (the "Velvet Revolution" of 1989), Firkušný returned to Czechoslovakia to perform for the first time after more than 40 years of absence. This was acclaimed as one of the major events of his festival, along with the return of his compatriot and friend the conductor Rafael Kubelík. Firkušný retained his remarkable talents well into his later years and, for example, played a full Dvořák-Janáček-Brahms-Beethoven sonata recital in Prague on 18 May 1992 together with the violinist Josef Suk (the namesake and grandson of his teacher, and great-grandson of Dvořák). He played only two times at the Prague Spring International Music Festival, first in 1946 performed Dvořák's piano concerto, and in 1990 he played the second piano concerto of Martinů.

Juilliard School American performing arts conservatory in New York City

The Juilliard School, informally referred to as Juilliard and located in the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, New York City, is a performing arts conservatory established in 1905. The school trains about 850 undergraduate and graduate students in dance, drama, and music. It is widely regarded as one of the world's leading drama, music and dance schools, with some of the most prestigious arts programs. In 2016, QS Quacquarelli Symonds ranked it as the world's best institution for Performing Arts in their inaugural global ranking of the discipline.

New York City Largest city in the United States

The City of New York, usually called either New York City (NYC) or simply New York (NY), is the most populous city in the United States and in the U.S. state of New York. With an estimated 2017 population of 8,622,698 distributed over a land area of about 302.6 square miles (784 km2), New York is also the most densely populated major city in the United States. Located at the southern tip of the state of New York, the city is the center of the New York metropolitan area, the largest metropolitan area in the world by urban landmass and one of the world's most populous megacities, with an estimated 20,320,876 people in its 2017 Metropolitan Statistical Area and 23,876,155 residents in its Combined Statistical Area. A global power city, New York City has been described as the cultural, financial, and media capital of the world, and exerts a significant impact upon commerce, entertainment, research, technology, education, politics, tourism, art, fashion, and sports. The city's fast pace has inspired the term New York minute. Home to the headquarters of the United Nations, New York is an important center for international diplomacy.

Aspen common name for certain tree species

Aspen is a common name for certain tree species; some, but not all, are classified by botanists in the section Populus, of the Populus genus.

Firkušný won praise from his famous colleague Vladimir Horowitz, who once exclaimed, "Rudolf Firkušný can play Schubert, that's for sure. I heard him on the radio this afternoon ... playing the three Klavierstücke. Beautiful!" [4] And the noted piano teacher and critic David Dubal called Firkušný "the preeminent Czech pianist of the twentieth century." [5]

Firkušný died in Staatsburg, New York in 1994. [6] In 2007, his ashes and those of his wife, Tatiana Nevolová Firkušný, were reburied together in an honorary place at the Central Cemetery in Brno, close to his first teacher, Janáček, and directly next to the grave of Czech composer Jan Novák. In 2012, coinciding with the 100th anniversary of his birth, there was a large festival held by Brno's Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts to commemorate the centennial, featuring many of his former alumni from the Juilliard School. In 2013, the Prague Spring Festival established the Rudolf Firkušný Piano Festival held in Prague.

His student Carlisle Floyd wrote his only Piano Sonata in the 1950s, for Firkušný, who performed it once, at a Carnegie Hall recital. It then languished until being taken up in 2009 by the 74-year-old Daniell Revenaugh, who studied it with the composer and made its first recording. [7]

Discography selection

See also


  1. Miloslav,, Rechcígl,. American Jews with Czechoslovak roots : a bibliography, bio-bibliography and historiography. Authorhouse,. Bloomington, IN. ISBN   1546238956. OCLC   1042351759.
  2. Miloslav,, Rechcígl,. American Jews with Czechoslovak roots : a bibliography, bio-bibliography and historiography. Authorhouse,. Bloomington, IN. ISBN   1546238956. OCLC   1042351759.
  3. Whitney, Craig R., "Rudolf Firkusny Once Again Plays In Czechoslovakia". The New York Times, May 29, 1990.
  4. Dubal, David, Evenings with Horowitz: A Personal Portrait, Amadeus Press, 1991, p. 101.
  5. Dubal, David, The Art of the Piano, A Harvest Book, 1995, p. 80.
  6. Oestreich, James R. (July 20, 1994). "Rudolf Firkusny, an Elegant and Patrician Pianist, Is Dead at 82". The New York Times. Arthur Sulzberger Jr., Chairman & Publisher.
  7. Tabitha Yang (September–October 2009) The Restoration of Carlisle Floyd. Tallahassee Magazine

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