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Friday, January 6, 2012

Charles Wilfrid de Beriot the scion of a dynamic musical legacy

Charles Wilfrid de Beriot
Scarce autographed carte de visite photograph c. 1855 by Dupont of Brussels

The pianist and pedagogue extraordinaire is virtually a forgotten name in our own times.  The son of the legendary mezzo-soprano Maria Malibran and the virtuoso violinist Charles Auguste de Beriot, he deserves a rightful place with the major pianists of his period.  de Beriot lost his mother at the tender age of three.  His despondent Father ran to Vienna for several years, leaving the young son in the care of his legendary Aunt, Pauline Viardot, the mezzo soprano and younger sister of Maria Malibran. His Father's new wife Maria Huber was the adopted daughter of Prince Franz Joseph von Dietrichstein, who cared for him in Vienna while he convalesced from the shock of losing his young and beautiful Malibran.  Interestingly, the Prince was always rumored to be Sigismund Thalberg's Father and Thalberg became the young de Beriot's teacher. We can confirm that we had a letter in our possession by the elder de Beriot, written in 1838 while living with the Prince, which clearly stated Prince von Dietrichstein was Thalberg's Father. Thalberg's was considered at the time to be the one rival to Franz Liszt.  Later, the young de Beriot studied with Mendelssohn's piano pupil Hubert Ferdinand Kufferath at the Leipzig Conservatory and taught him Mendelssohn's "Singing Tone".   He passed along the technique to his pupils at the Paris Conservatoire, including; Enrique Granados, Maurice Ravel, Riccardo Vines, Joseph Bonnal, Justin Elie, Paul Loyonnet, Joachium Alats and Albert Lavignac.  Loyonnet was interviewed by Charles Timbrell and the interview is published in his book, French Pianism a Historical Perspective (Amadeus Press, Portland, 1999).  Loyonnet began with de Beriot at the age of 10 and said, 

His main interest was clarity and a singing tone.....I remember he often said "If a singer did what you are doing, one would laugh at him!"....Romantic that he was, he rarely made me study Bach.  Instead we did pieces by Field, Dussek, Hummel, and so on, to develop expression and velocity. (pages 184-185)

de Beriot was not only a professor, but a well known recitalist, whose forays at Salle Pleyel and other Parisian venues were much anticipated.  The pianist was also a composer of a number of large scale piano works including four piano concertos. 

We offer a Youtube video below of a rare recording of the de Beriot Second Piano Concerto played by Paul Wallfisch and an unnamed orchestra.  One can clearly hear the influences of Beethoven, Thalberg and also the pianist-composer Charles Litolff, who was well known in Paris in de Beriot's youth.  None-the-less a wonderful example of virtuostic pianoforte composition of the period.

The autographed photograph is currently available from Harmonie Autographs and Music, Inc.

1 comment:

  1. thank you for this interesting info. I very much enjoyed listening to peter wallfisch's recording of the piano concerto 2.