Born: June 29, 1898 - Ermont, Seine-en-Oise, France
Died: January 23, 1986 - Paris, France
Yvonne Lefébure was one of the premier French pianists and teachers of the 20th century. A prodigy, she studied with Maurice Emmanuel (with whose family she remained close throughout her life) and Charles-Marie Widor at the Paris Conservatoire. She has also studied with Marguerite Long, first at a private school called the Conservatoire Femina-Musica (which provided Nadia Boulager with her first official teaching post) and then in Long's preparatory class at the Conservatoire (1ère médaille). Alfred Cortot is said to have had the greatest influence over her playing. Her primary studies with A. Cortot were in his advanced Conservatoire class, which she entered in 1911 and from which she graduated with a 1er Prix in 1912. She also had some private lessons with A. Cortot, particularly in the years 1919-1939 when she was one of his principal teachers at the Ecole Normale. There were still more ancillary studies. Yvonne Lefebure was a remarkably well-rounded and cultured musician, whose formation was far more comprehensive than the bulk of French pianists of her era: After earning her first prize in piano, she pursued other subjects, winning prizes in harmony, accompaniment, counterpoint and fugue.
Yvonne Lefébure maintained a lifelong concert schedule and was a favorite of conductors such as Igor Markevitch, Sir Adrian Boult, Wilhelm Furtwängler, and in particular Pablo Casals, who regularly employed her in his Prades and Perpignan festivals of the 1950's and 1960's. These conductors liked her no-nonsense approach, which was tempered with a high emotional sensitivity and an artistic flair. As Lefébure could balance all of these disparate elements with a sense of strong self-discipline, yet flexibility, it made her an ideal choice in concerto literature.
But Yvonne Lefébure's work on the concert platform paled in comparison to her activities as a piano teacher. She held two major, long-term engagements as an instructor; first as the Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris and later at the Paris Conservatoire, where she taught until 1969. She continued in private lessons up until her death in 1986. While the names Samson François and Dinu Lipatti are often brought up as prize pupils befitting from Lefébure's training, the full roster of her students reads like a who's who of late 20th century concert artists (including names as Michaël Lévinas, Catherine Collard and Imogen Cooper). Some of her commentary and teaching was gathered into a posthumous volume entitled La leçon de musique de Yvonne Lefébure. She also spoke on music and gave instruction to the general public via radio and television broadcasts.
Unfortunately, Yvonne Lefébure only seldom recorded. Particularly exceptional is her recording with Pablo Casals from Perpignan of Mozart's Piano Concerto in D minor, K. 466. Made in 1951, it remained unreleased until after her death in 1994, as Columbia was unable to find an appropriate "coupling" to go with it at the time it was made. Lefébure's later recordings, for the last ten years of her life, up until her death in 1986, were made for the French label Solstice, and her recording of the piano works of Ravel was awarded the coveted Grand Prix du Disque of the Académie Charles