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Ossip Gabrilowitsch (Piano, Conductor)

Born: February 7, 1878 - St. Petersburg, Russia
Died: September 14, 1936 - Detroit, Michigan, USA

The notable Russian-American pianist, conductor and conductor, Ossip (Salomonovich) Gabrilowitsch (Russian: (Осип Сoломонович Габрилович,), was a pupil at the St. Petersburg Conservatory 1888 to 1894, studying piano with Anton Rubinstein and composition with Karel Navrátil, Anatoly Lyadov, Alexander Glazunov and Nikolai Medtner; graduated as winner of the Rubinstein Prize. HAE then completed his piano training in Vienna with Theodor Leschetizky (1894-1896).

Ossip Gabrilowitsch subsequently toured Germany, Austria, Russia, France, and England. In July 1905 he recorded ten pieces for the reproducing piano Welte-Mignon, one of the first pianists to do so. His first American tour (debut Carnegie Hall, New York City, November 12, 1900) was eminently successful, as were his 7 subsequent visits (1901-1916). From 1910 to 1914, he was conductor of the Munich Konzertverein (later known as the Münchner Philharmoniker). During the 1912-1913 season, he gave in Europe a series of 6 historical concerts illustrating the development of the piano concerto from J.S. Bach to the present day; on his American tour in 1914-1915, he repeated the entire series in several of the larger cities, meeting with an enthusiastic reception. Gabrilowitsch conducted his first New York concert on December 13, 1916. When he was in Munich in 1917, he was put in jail following a pogrom. Through the intervention of the nuncio to Bavaria, Archbishop Eugenio Pacelli (later Pope Pius XII), Gabrilowitsch was freed from jail, and then he headed to Zürich and the USA.

Ossip Gabrilowitsch settled in the USA and in 1918 was appointed conductor of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, while still maintaining his life as a concert pianist. Before accepting the conductor's position, he demanded a new auditorium be built, and this was the impetus for the building of Orchestra Hall. In 1926 he conducted the first performance in Detroit of J.S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244). From 1928 he also conducted the Philadelphia Orchestra, sharing the baton with Leopold Stokowski, while retaining his Detroit position.

Ossip Gabrilowitsch composed a few works, primarily short piano pieces for his own use. He was a National Patron of Delta Omicron, an international professional music fraternity.

On October 6, 1909, Ossip Gabrilowitsch married the contralto concert singer Clara Clemens (daughter of Mark Twain), with whom he frequently appeared in joint recitals. On August 18, 1910, their only child, Nina, was born at Mark Twain's home Stormfield, in Connecticut. Gabrilowitsch died from stomach cancer in Detroit in 1936. After his death, Clara re-married to Jacques Samossoud, a Russian born symphony conductor. She wrote biographies of Gabrilowitsch and of her father. She died at age 88 in San Diego, California. Gabrilowitsch along with Clara and her father, is buried in the Langdon plot of the Woodlawn Cemetery in Elmira, New York. Nina, the last known lineal descendent of Mark Twain, died on January 16, 1966 in Hollywood. She is also buried at the Woodlawn Cemetery in Elmira New York with the Clemens, and her father.


5 Klavierstücke, Op. 1
No. 3 Valse lente (c1897)
Gavotte in D minor, Op. 2
Compositions for the piano, Op. 3: No. 1 Caprice Burlesque (c1901); No. 2 Mazurka Mélancolique
Thème varié pour piano, Op. 4
Mélodie, Op. 8, No.1
La Czarina, Mazurka Russe (The Tsarina, Russian Mazurka)
Three Songs, Op. 11: No. 1 Good-bye (Christina Rossetti); No. 2 I love her gentle forehead (Richard Watson Gilder); No. 3 The new day (R. W. Gilder, c1917)
Two Piano Pieces, Op. 12: No. 1 Elegy; No. 2 Etude for the left hand
Near to thee ... [Song] Poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, English version by Clara Clemens (c1924)

Source: Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of 20th Century Classical Musicians (1997); Wikipedia Website (September 2011)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (November 2011); Richard McGrath (Dates, January 2013)

Ossip Gabrilowitsch: Short Biography | Recordings of Instrumental Works

Links to other Sites

Ossip Gabrilowitsch (Wikipedia)
Ossip Gabrilowitsch (1878-1936) - Russian-American Pianist (Forte-Piano-Pianissimo)
More Than the Notes » Ossip Gabrilowitsch
Ossip Gabrilowitsch: Touch--the Great Essential of Fine Pianoforte Playing (The Etude)
Ossip Gabrilowitsch - ussian pianist (Britannica Online Encyclopedia)

Gabrilowitz Family Tree: Ossip Gabrilowitsch
Ossip Gabrilowitsch (son-in-law of Mark Twain) (Mark Twain Online)
Victor Discography: Ossip Gabrilowitsch (instrumentalist : piano)
Mark Twain Project: Biographies: Gabrilowitsch, Ossip
Golden Age Autographs: Ossip Gabrilowitsch
Mark Twain and Bermuda (Bermuda Online)


Clara Clemens: My Husband Gabrilowitsch (New York, 1938)

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