Portraits of Pianists and Pianist-Composers on the cover pages of Le Pianiste (1833-1835)
From November 10, 1833 to October 20, 1835, the Librarie J. Delacour in Meudon and Vaugirard published the French pedagogical music journal, Le Pianiste. In its first year of publication, the journal dealt only with subjects related to the piano. Thereafter, it began covering the musical world at large, with concert reviews, anecdotes, and information about musical archives. The pianist and pedagogue, Charles Chaulieu was the only contributor who signed articles and, although there is no official mention that he was the journal’s editor, it is generally considered that Chaulieu fulfilled that role.
One of the interesting features of the journal is a lovely series of portraits of well- and lesser-known pianists and pianist–composers. These illustrations appeared on the cover of its issues. The portraits were often accompanied by studies, with biographical notes, offering insights into the individual’s compositions, talent, style, personality, qualities as a performer, and pedagogical exercises. In all there are twenty-four portraits, eight of which are reproduced below. Each is followed with a quote from the journal, translated into English, that helps define the manner in which the individual was viewed by his contemporaries. We thought you might enjoy seeing them.
J. N. Hummel (of Vienna) [Lith. by J. Delacour in Vaugirard] (1, 2, December 1833)
“He is the founder of the modern school. He is today the greatest of composer pianists, which is not to be confused with the pianist composers.”
F. Kalkbrenner [Lith. by Benard, rue de l’Abbaye 4] (1, 3, January 1834)
“Look at Kalkbrenner, when he touches the piano… neither his body nor his face reflect the immense difficulties his fingers master. As a performer, Kalkbrenner stands as a model.”
J. B. Cramer [Lith. by Benard] (1, 4, February 1834)
“We can confidently give all of Cramer’s works to students; their fingers and ears will surely be well trained. This is a privilege not shared by many of today’s composers.”
D. Steibelt [Lith. by Benard] (1, 6, April 1834)
“[Steibelt] was truly a salon pianist: loved, adored by the women of society, he knew how to cater to their pleasures.”
Henri Herz [Lith. by Benard] (1,7, May 1834)
“Germany sends you this malicious mockery, from the Gazette of Leipzig, namely: It is only the women without esprit and without talent that enjoy the music of H. Herz.”
J. L. Dussek [Lith. by Benard] (1, 10, August 1834)
“Today we select Dussek for our leaflet: the famous Dussek, so refined without softness, so educated without pedantry, and whose playing was, so to speak, as beautiful to watch as it was delightful to hear.”
G. F. Handel, born in 1682, died in 1759 (1, 12, October 1834)
“The Italians who possessed him for years, called Handel il Sassone [the Saxon], and the English, with whom he remained for forty-seven years and for whom he composed all of his oratorios with English words, considered him a compatriot.”
J. Haydn [Impr. of J. Delacour in Vaugirard] (2, 16, 1835)
“With a physiognomy a bit gruff and a kind of terseness when speaking which would seem to indicate a coarse man, Haydn was cheerful, open minded and pleasant by nature. This vivacity was easily suppressed when he was in the company of strangers or of people of a superior rank.”
Search Tip: The full text of Le Pianiste is available in the RIPM Online Archive. To explore the other portraits, select Le Pianiste in journal title field and “illustrations “ in the record type field of the RIPM Retrospective Index. Thereafter simply “click” through the results. You might also wish to use Browse Mode to explore this fascinating French perspective on pianists and pianist-composers in the 1830s.