Eugen d’Albert – Symphonic prelude to the opera Tiefland Op.34
(b. Glasgow, 10 April 1864 – d. Riga, 3 March 1932)
Eugen d’Albert was born in Scotland and baptized as Eugène. His father was an accomplished professional musician who worked primarily in London as a conductor and composer. Young Eugène was initially taught piano and the rudiments of music by his father. His early talent was rewarded with a scholarship to study at the National Training School for Music in London in 1876. In 1881, at age 17, he played his own piano concerto in London, with reviews comparing him to Mozart and Mendelssohn. His career as a concert pianist blossomed and in subsequent years he played for Anton Rubinstein, Clara Schumann and won the respect and adulation of the famed conductor Hans Richter. The latter recommended him for a Mendelssohn Scholarship for further study in Vienna. This was pivotal in his development as a pianist and musical artist. In Vienna he met both Brahms and Liszt, the latter inviting him to come to Weimar to study with him. He soon became one of Liszt’s most accomplished pupils/colleagues, with the latter referring to him as Albertus Magnus. Well into the 20th century, he was considered one of the leading piano virtuosi of the day with acclaimed performances throughout Europe and America. He had a parallel career as a composer, editor, conductor and administrator. Along the way he adopted the German form of Eugen, rather than Eugène, and considered himself to be German.
As so many of the great pianists of the romantic age, he too composed throughout his life. His output included 21 operas, orchestral music, keyboard works, chamber music and numerous songs. He also edited and published critical editions of Liszt, Beethoven and Bach keyboard works, as well as transcribing Bach’s organ works for the piano. In 1907, he succeeded the great violinist Joseph Joachim as director of the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin, one of the leading institutions in all of Germany. In 1914 he left Germany and moved to Zurich and became a Swiss citizen. D’Albert’s personal life story would make for juicy fodder in current tabloids and social media, having been married 6 times. He passed away in Riga, Latvia in 1932, where he travelled with his mistress in hopes of securing a divorce from his sixth wife. He was buried in a cemetery overlooking Lake Lugano in Switzerland. …
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