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Rafael Joseffy (Composer, Arranger)

Born: July 3, 1852 - Hunfalu, Hungary
Died: June 25, 1915 - New York City, New York, USA

The Hungarian pianist and composer, Rafael Joseffy, spent his youth was spent in Miskolcz, and there, when a boy of 8 years, he began his study of the pianoforte. Although he was not in any respect an infant prodigy, his father made him continue his studies in Budapest, under Brauer, who years before had been the teacher of Stephen HelIer. Joseffy entered the Couservatory in Leipzig in 1866, when he was 14 years old. Here he came under the instruction of Ernst Friedrich Wenzel chiefly, though he also had a few lessons from Ignaz Moscheles. In 1868 he went to Berlin to study with Carl Tausig, remaining with him for two years. Another potent influence was exerted upon the young man by Franz Liszt, with whom in Weimar he spent the summers of 1870 and 1871, becoming one of his favorite students.

Rafael Joseffy made his first public appearance in Berlin in 1872, and was immediately acclaimed as a master pianist of great brilliance. He thereafter gave a number of concerts in Vienna, and in most of the continental musical centres, that brought him the reputation of a virtuoso of remarkable technical powers. His style at this time, as described by Hanslick, was of great brilliance, showing Carl Tausig's influence in a. thorough development of his technique, his clearly and sharply chiselled phrasing, and the rich variety of his touch and tone; but it was lacking in some of the finer qualities of poetic insight. So it was when he went to the USA in 1879, where he made his home, living in New York in the winter and at Tarrytown on the Hudson in the summer. His style was broad and comprehensive, yet his playing had a certain incisiveness. He made his American debut in New York in 1879, with an orchestra under Dr. Leopold Damrosch. He soon after played with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, and subsequently made many appearances in New York and other American cities with Theodore Thomas and his orchestra: With advancing years his artistic nature ripened and deepened, and he put his transcendent technical powers at the service of a richer and mellower musical style. He did pioneer work in spreading a knowledge and appreciation of Johannes Brahms's pianoforte works in the USA, and was one of the first to give frequent performances of his second concerto.

Rafael Joseffy was a true miniaturist - with delicacy and poetry, and due to his singing tone and pianissimo shadings he was called The (Adeline) Patti of the Piano. If you read (and believe) the verdict of the critic James Huneker - Joseffy must have been quite exceptional: "Joseffy stands today (1911) for all that is exquisite and poetic in the domain of the piano. A virtuoso among virtuosi, and the beauty of his tone, its velvety, aristocratic quality gives him a unique position in the music-loving world. There is magic and moonlight in his playing of a Chopin's Nocturne, and meteor-like brilliance in his performance of a Liszt concerto". Well - Huneker was a man of a rare and special critical poetry - but he knew what he was talking about - and knew it better than any of his colleagues. Joseffy also was highly esteemed among his virtuoso colleagues, and apart from envy, jealousy and other mundane things, they are often the best judges. Unfortunately, Joseffy never made just one record.

In his earlier years Rafael Joseffy produced numerous popular compositions for the pianoforte. Later in life he virtually retired from the concert platform and devoted his attention to teaching. He taught privately and at The National Conservatory of Music in New York City. He was a very reserved man. Henry Wolfsohn claimed to have offered Joseffy huge sums for concert tours but the pianist found concert life so severe upon his nerves that he would not accept. He preferred the smaller income of the teacher to the glare of the footlights. Joseffy continued to care absolutely nothing for fame or applause. To him his art was supreme and other things mattered little. His chief contribution to the literature of the instrument is his important School of Advanced Piano Playing (New York, 1902), upon which he worked for many years. He also edited a large number of pianoforte compositions.

Source: Wikipedia Website (based on a text from the Etude magazine, prior to 1923); Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1952 Edition; Author: Richard Aldrich); Piano Music for the Left Hand Alone Website
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (June 2007)

Rafael Joseffy: Short Biography | Piano Transcriptions: Works | Recordings

Links to other Sites

Rafael Joseffy (Wikipedia)
Rafael Joseffy (Encyclopaedia Britannica)

Rafael Joseffy (Piano Music for the Left Han Alone)



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