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Saturday, January 7, 2012

America's Original Rock Stars on Tour; a Book Recommendation

I often recommend books to our clients.  One book which I always recommend is R. Allen Lott's 2003 work on the European piano virtuosos who first toured America;

From Paris to Peoria, How European Virtuosos Brought Classical Music to the American Heartland; Oxford University Press, New York, 2003.

A superbly researched book, which reads as a scholarly work and at the same time is entirely approachable, tells the tale of the original pianists to tour this Country starting with "The Lion" Leopold de Meyer in 1845. De Meyer was a true charlatan and showman, trained by Liszt's teacher Carl Czerny. De Meyer had some skill, however, he ran his concerts like a sideshow carnival, playing virtuostic paraphrases and fantasias of the popular operas of the day and popular themes, such as works based on the imagined music of the mystical Near East and far away places like Morrocco.  He learned very quickly that riffs on patriotic songs like "Yankee Doodle Dandy" and "Hail Columbia" sold tickets and brought even greater applause.  Initially his playing was heralded, though through his bombast, shameless self promotion and ability to create controversy he often drew the wrath of the critics.  Lott then goes on to describe the end of de Meyer in America when his sail was clipped by the Austrian born, French pianist Henri Herz, who in fairly rapid fashion sent the "Lion" packing back to Europe.

Through the use of maps, critiques of the time, programs, sheet music and musical examples; Lott takes the reader on tour with the even greater virtuosos who came to our shore; Sigismund Thalberg, Hans von Bulow and Anton Rubinstein.  Also the great touring European violinists who shared the concert platform with the pianists, Olle Bull, Camille Sivori and Henryk Wieniawski work their way into the narrative.  For those who thought P.T. Barnum and Jenny Lind was the only classical tale out of America prior to and just after the Civil War, Lott's book brings to light the much wider scope of these extraordinarily important musicians who reached our shores during America's first Century and dazzled our ancestors.

An autographed musical quotation by pianist Henri Herz , Paris, 1856

A period lithograph portrait of Henri Herz

An autographed musical quotation by Leopold de Meyer, Paris, 1852

A broadside for a concert by Leopold de Meyer in Philadelphia

An autographed carte de visite photograph of Anton Rubinstein

An autographed musical quotation by Hans von Bulow, Dresden, 1872

A Youtube clip of Howard Shelley and the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra play the first Piano Concerto of Henri Herz

A Youtube clip of Osamu N. Kanazawa playing de Meyer's Fantasie Orientale

Harmonie Autographs and Music, Inc. receives no financial benefit for the sale of this book.

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