Walter Gieseking

Walter Gieseking was one of the most extraordinary pianists of his time. He is said to have been a natural and intuitive pianist and聽was largely self-taught. He was born in France and traveled with his family (his father was a distinguished doctor and entomologist) in France and Italy until he enrolled at the Hannover Conservatory, where he came under the tutelage of Karl Leimer, graduating in 1916.

After the War, he undertook the life of a working musician, accompanying singers and instrumentalists, playing in chamber music ensembles, and working as an opera coach. He could hardly avoid the heady artistic atmosphere of post-war Germany, and he became an advocate of new music, playing works by聽Arnold Schoenberg,聽Ferruccio Busoni,聽Paul Hindemith and others. His debuts were highly acclaimed, with audiences and critics responding enthusiastically to Gieseking's subtle shadings and contrapuntal clarity. After that he appeared regularly in the USA and Europe with orchestras and in solo recitals.

During the hostilities of World War II, Walter Gieseking, like many other artists, remained in Germany, and also performed sometimes in Nazi-occupied France. After the War he became the centre of political controversy when he arrived in the USA in 1949 for a concert tour; he was accused of cultural collaboration with the Nazi regime, and public protests forced the cancellation of his scheduled performances at Carnegie Hall in New York. However, he was later cleared by an Allied court in Germany and was able to resume his career in America, with the success it had formerly enjoyed. He appeared again at a Carnegie Hall recital in April 1953, and until his death continued to give numerous performances in both hemispheres.

Parallel to Gieseking's work as a performing artist he was also a composer, but his compositions were hardly known in his lifetime, as he made no attempt to give them publicity.