Artur Schnabel
Artur Schnabel was an Austrian classical
Classical music
Classical music is the art music produced in, or rooted in, the traditions of Western liturgical and secular music, encompassing a broad period from roughly the 11th century to present times...

A pianist is a musician who plays the piano. A professional pianist can perform solo pieces, play with an ensemble or orchestra, or accompany one or more singers, solo instrumentalists, or other performers.-Choice of genres:...

, who also composed
A composer is a person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition, for interpretation and performance, or through direct manipulation of sonic material through electronic media...

 and taught. Schnabel was known for his intellectual seriousness as a musician, avoiding pure technical bravura. Among the 20th century's most respected and most important pianists, his playing displayed a vitality, profundity and spirituality in the Austro-German classics, particularly the works of Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven was a German composer and pianist. A crucial figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras in Western art music, he remains one of the most famous and influential composers of all time.Born in Bonn, then the capital of the Electorate of Cologne and part of...

 and Schubert
Franz Schubert
Franz Peter Schubert was an Austrian composer.Although he died at an early age, Schubert was tremendously prolific. He wrote some 600 Lieder, nine symphonies , liturgical music, operas, some incidental music, and a large body of chamber and solo piano music...

. His performances of these compositions have often been hailed as models of interpretative penetration, and his best-known recordings are those of the Beethoven piano sonatas. Harold C. Schonberg
Harold C. Schonberg
Harold Charles Schonberg was an American music critic and journalist, most notably for The New York Times. He was the first music critic to win the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism...

 referred to Schnabel as "the man who invented Beethoven".

The early years

Born in Lipnik (Kunzendorf) near Bielitz
Bielsko was until 1950 an independent town situated in Cieszyn Silesia, Poland. In 1951 it was joined with Biała Krakowska to form the new town of Bielsko-Biała. Bielsko constitutes the western part of that town....

, Galicia, Austro-Hungarian Empire (today a part of Bielsko-Biała
-Economy and Industry:Nowadays Bielsko-Biała is one of the best-developed parts of Poland. It was ranked 2nd best city for business in that country by Forbes. About 5% of people are unemployed . Bielsko-Biała is famous for its textile, machine-building, and especially automotive industry...

, Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

), Schnabel was the youngest of three children born to Isidor Schnabel, a Jewish textile merchant, and his wife Ernestine (née Labin). He had two sisters, Clara and Frieda.

The family moved to Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

 in 1884, when Schnabel was two. He began learning the piano at the age of four, when he took a spontaneous interest in his eldest sister Clara's piano lessons. His prodigious talent quickly became evident. At the age of six he began piano lessons under Professor Hans Schmitt of the Vienna Conservatorium (today the University of Music and Performing Arts, Vienna). Only three years later he was accepted as a pupil by the redoubtable and internationally celebrated piano pedagogue Theodor Leschetizky.

The Leschetizky years

Schnabel remained under Leschetizky's tutelage for seven years, between 1891 and 1897. His co-students of Leschetizky during that period included Ossip Gabrilowitsch
Ossip Gabrilowitsch
Ossip Gabrilowitsch was a Russian-born American pianist, conductor and composer.- Biography :...

, Mark Hambourg
Mark Hambourg
Mark Hambourg was a distinguished Russian-British concert pianist, among the most famous of his age.- Life :Mark Hambourg was the eldest son of the pianist Michael Hambourg , and was brother of the cellist Boris Hambourg and the violinist Jan Hambourg , and of the musical organiser Clement...

 and Ignaz Friedman
Ignaz Friedman
Ignaz Friedman Ignaz Friedman Ignaz Friedman (also spelled by languages Ignace or Ignacy; exactly Solomon (Salomon) Isaac Freudman(n), (February 13, 1882January 26, 1948) was a Polish pianist and composer. Critics (e.g. Harold C. Schonberg) and colleagues (e.g...


Initially, for his first year under Leschetizky, he was given rigorous preparatory technical tuition from Anna Yesipova
Anna Yesipova
Anna Yesipova was a prominent Russian pianist. Her name is cited variously as Anna Esipova; Anna or Annette Essipova; Anna, Annette or Annetta Essipoff; Annette von Essipow; Anna Jessipowa.Yesipova was one of Teodor Leszetycki's most brilliant pupils...

 (Leschetizky’s second wife and a famous pianist in her own right) and also from Malwine Bree who was Leschetizky's assistant. From age ten, he participated in all Leschetizky's classes.

Following a failed initial approach to Anton Bruckner
Anton Bruckner
Anton Bruckner was an Austrian composer known for his symphonies, masses, and motets. The first are considered emblematic of the final stage of Austro-German Romanticism because of their rich harmonic language, complex polyphony, and considerable length...

, Schnabel studied music theory and composition under Eusebius Mandyczewski
Eusebius Mandyczewski
Eusebius Mandyczewski was a musicologist, composer, conductor, and teacher. He was an author of numerous musical works and is highly regarded within Austrian, Romanian and Ukrainian music circles.- Family and friends :...

. Mandyczewski was an assistant to Johannes Brahms
Johannes Brahms
Johannes Brahms was a German composer and pianist, and one of the leading musicians of the Romantic period. Born in Hamburg, Brahms spent much of his professional life in Vienna, Austria, where he was a leader of the musical scene...

, and through him Schnabel was introduced to Brahms' circle and was often in the great composer's presence. The young Schnabel once heard Brahms play in a performance of his first piano quartet
Piano Quartet No. 1 (Brahms)
The Piano Quartet in G minor, Op. 25, was composed by Johannes Brahms between 1856 and 1861. It was Clara Schumann who owned this masterpiece, as she was the pianist for the first performance in 1861 in Hamburg. It was also played in Vienna on November 16, 1862 with Brahms himself at the piano...

; for all the missed notes, said Schnabel, it "was in the true grand manner."

Schnabel made his official concert debut in 1897, at the Bösendorfer-Saal
Bösendorfer is an Austrian piano manufacturer, and a wholly owned subsidiary of Yamaha. The brand is known for producing pianos with a uniquely rich, singing, and sustaining tone...

 in Vienna. Later that same year, he gave a series of concerts in Budapest
Budapest is the capital of Hungary. As the largest city of Hungary, it is the country's principal political, cultural, commercial, industrial, and transportation centre. In 2011, Budapest had 1,733,685 inhabitants, down from its 1989 peak of 2,113,645 due to suburbanization. The Budapest Commuter...

, Prague
Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. Situated in the north-west of the country on the Vltava river, the city is home to about 1.3 million people, while its metropolitan area is estimated to have a population of over 2.3 million...

 and Brünn (today Brno
Brno by population and area is the second largest city in the Czech Republic, the largest Moravian city, and the historical capital city of the Margraviate of Moravia. Brno is the administrative centre of the South Moravian Region where it forms a separate district Brno-City District...

, Czech Republic).

The Berlin years

Schnabel moved to Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

 in 1898, making his debut there with a concert at the Bechstein-Saal
C. Bechstein Pianofortefabrik
C. Bechstein Pianofortefabrik AG is a German manufacturer of pianos, established in 1853 by Carl Bechstein.-Before Bechstein:...

. Following World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, Schnabel also toured widely, visiting the United States, Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 and England.

He gained initial fame thanks to orchestral concerts he gave under the conductor Arthur Nikisch
Arthur Nikisch
Arthur Nikisch ; 12 October 185523 January 1922) was a Hungarian conductor who performed internationally, holding posts in Boston, London and - most importantly - Berlin. He was considered an outstanding interpreter of the music of Bruckner, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven and Liszt...

 as well as playing in chamber music
Chamber music
Chamber music is a form of classical music, written for a small group of instruments which traditionally could be accommodated in a palace chamber. Most broadly, it includes any art music that is performed by a small number of performers with one performer to a part...

 and accompanying his future wife, the contralto
Alto is a musical term, derived from the Latin word altus, meaning "high" in Italian, that has several possible interpretations.When designating instruments, "alto" frequently refers to a member of an instrumental family that has the second highest range, below that of the treble or soprano. Hence,...

 Therese Behr, in Lied
is a German word literally meaning "song", usually used to describe romantic songs setting German poems of reasonably high literary aspirations, especially during the nineteenth century, beginning with Carl Loewe, Heinrich Marschner, and Franz Schubert and culminating with Hugo Wolf...


In chamber music, he founded the Schnabel Trio with the violinist Alfred Wittenberg and the cellist Anton Hekking
Anton Hekking
Anton Hekking was a Dutch-born cellist and teacher. Born in The Hague, he served as first cello of the Boston Symphony from 1889 until 1891; he served in the same post for the New York Symphony from 1895 to 1898...

; they played together between 1902 and 1904. In 1905, he formed a second Schnabel Trio with Carl Flesch
Carl Flesch
Carl Flesch was a violinist and teacher.Carl Flesch was born in Moson in Hungary in 1873. He began playing the violin at seven years of age. At 10, he was taken to Vienna, and began to study with Jakob Grün. At 17, he left for Paris, and joined the Paris Conservatoire...

 (with whom he also played violin sonata
Sonata , in music, literally means a piece played as opposed to a cantata , a piece sung. The term, being vague, naturally evolved through the history of music, designating a variety of forms prior to the Classical era...

s) and the cellist Jean Gérardy. In 1914, with the outbreak of the First World War, Gérardy (a Belgian) left the trio as he could no longer remain in Germany. He was replaced by Hugo Becker
Hugo Becker
for french actor see Hugo BeckerHugo Becker was a prominent German cellist, cello teacher, and composer. He studied at a young age with Alfredo Piatti, and later Friedrich Grützmacher in Dresden.He was born in 1863 in Strasbourg; his father Jean Becker was a famous violinist...

 and this became the third Schnabel Trio.

Later, Schnabel also played in a quartet with violinist Bronisław Huberman, composer/violist Paul Hindemith
Paul Hindemith
Paul Hindemith was a German composer, violist, violinist, teacher, music theorist and conductor.- Biography :Born in Hanau, near Frankfurt, Hindemith was taught the violin as a child...

 and the cellist Gregor Piatigorsky
Gregor Piatigorsky
Gregor Piatigorsky was a Russian-born American cellist.-Early life:...

 (with whom he also played and recorded cello
The cello is a bowed string instrument with four strings tuned in perfect fifths. It is a member of the violin family of musical instruments, which also includes the violin, viola, and double bass. Old forms of the instrument in the Baroque era are baryton and viol .A person who plays a cello is...

 sonatas). Schnabel also played with a number of other famous musicians including the violinist Joseph Szigeti
Joseph Szigeti
Joseph Szigeti was a Hungarian violinist.Born into a musical family, he spent his early childhood in a small town in Transylvania. He quickly proved himself to be a child prodigy on the violin, and moved to Budapest with his father to study with the renowned pedagogue Jenő Hubay...

 and the cellists Pau Casals and Pierre Fournier
Pierre Fournier
Pierre Fournier was a French cellist who was called the "aristocrat of cellists," on account of his elegant musicianship and majestic sound....


He was friends of, and played with, the most distinguished conductors of the day, including Wilhelm Furtwängler
Wilhelm Furtwängler
Wilhelm Furtwängler was a German conductor and composer. He is widely considered to have been one of the greatest symphonic and operatic conductors of the 20th century. By the 1930s he had built a reputation as one of the leading conductors in Europe, and he was the leading conductor who remained...

, Bruno Walter
Bruno Walter
Bruno Walter was a German-born conductor. He is considered one of the best known conductors of the 20th century. Walter was born in Berlin, but is known to have lived in several countries between 1933 and 1939, before finally settling in the United States in 1939...

, Otto Klemperer
Otto Klemperer
Otto Klemperer was a German conductor and composer. He is widely regarded as one of the leading conductors of the 20th century.-Biography:Otto Klemperer was born in Breslau, Silesia Province, then in Germany...

, George Szell
George Szell
George Szell , originally György Széll, György Endre Szél, or Georg Szell, was a Hungarian-born American conductor and composer...

, Willem Mengelberg
Willem Mengelberg
Joseph Willem Mengelberg was a Dutch conductor, famous for his performances of Mahler and Strauss with the Concertgebouw Orchestra.- Biography :...

, and Sir Adrian Boult
Adrian Boult
Sir Adrian Cedric Boult CH was an English conductor. Brought up in a prosperous mercantile family he followed musical studies in England and at Leipzig, Germany, with early conducting work in London for the Royal Opera House and Sergei Diaghilev's ballet company. His first prominent post was...


From 1925 Schnabel taught at the Berlin State Academy, where his masterclasses brought him great renown. Among Schnabel's many piano pupils were Clifford Curzon
Clifford Curzon
Sir Clifford Michael Curzon, CBE was an English pianist.-Early life:Clifford Michael Siegenberg was born in London to Michael and Constance Mary Siegenberg...

, Rudolf Firkušný
Rudolf Firkusny
- Life :Born in Moravian Napajedla, Firkušný started his musical studies with the composers Leoš Janáček and Josef Suk, and the pianist Vilém Kurz. Later he studied with Alfred Cortot and Artur Schnabel. He began performing on the continent of Europe in the 1920s, and made his debuts in London in...

, Adrian Aeschbacher
Adrian Aeschbacher
Adrian Aeschbacher was a Swiss classical pianist.His father was Carl Aeschbacher. His youth was spent at Trogen where his father was professor of piano at the Conservatoire, and his father was his instructor from the age of four to sixteen. His teachers were Emil Frey and Volkmar Andreae...

, Lili Kraus
Lili Kraus
Lili Kraus was a Hungarian-born British pianist.-Biography:Lili Kraus was born in Budapest in 1903. Her father was from Czech Lands, and her mother from an assimilated Jewish Hungarian family....

, Leon Fleisher
Leon Fleisher
Leon Fleisher is an American pianist and conductor.-Early life and studies:Fleisher was born in San Francisco, where he started studying the piano at age four...

, Carlo Zecchi
Carlo Zecchi
Carlo Zecchi was an Italian pianist, music teacher and conductor.Zecchi was born in Rome. He led pianistic courses in Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Rome, and in Salzburg. Highly acclaimed performer of Domenico Scarlatti, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Claude Debussy works, and of Romantic...

, Claude Frank
Claude Frank
Claude Frank is a German-born, American Jewish pianist whose career has included appearances with highly reputed orchestras, at major festivals, and in major recital halls around the world...

, Leonard Shure
Leonard Shure
Leonard Shure was an American concert pianist, and heir to the tradition of the great Artur Schnabel, began his career as a performer at the age of 5 and as a teenager studied privately with Schnabel in Germany.-Life:Shure graduated from the Hochschule fur Musik in Berlin in 1927, at which time he...

, Alan Bush
Alan Bush
Alan Dudley Bush was a British composer and pianist. He was a committed socialist, and politics sometimes provided central themes in his music.-Personal life:...

, Nancy Weir
Nancy Weir
Nancy Mary Weir was an Australian pianist and teacher.-Biography:Nancy was born in Kew, Melbourne on 13 July 1915. Her father was a publican who ran a small hotel in Lockhart, near Wagga Wagga, and Nancy grew up "behind the bar" as she said. She studied piano with Ada Corder in Melbourne...

, Konrad Wolff
Konrad Wolff
Konrad Wolff was a German pianist and musicologist.He was born in Berlin, Germany, on March 11, 1907. From 1925 to 1930, he studied at the University of Heidelberg and the University of Berlin. He received his Doctor of Law degree at the University of Berlin, and forged lifelong friendships with...

, Jascha Spivakovsky, Eunice Norton
Eunice Norton
Eunice Norton was an American pianist.Norton was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She studied as a child at the University of Minnesota with William Lindsay, who later introduced her to Dame Myra Hess...

, Henry Jolles
Henry Jolles
Henry Jolles , born Heinz-Frederic Jolles, was a German pianist and composer. Uprooted from his native Germany by the rise of Nazism, he spent his last quarter-century in Brazil.-Life:...

, Maria Curcio
Maria Curcio
Maria Curcio was an Italian classical pianist who became renowned as a greatly influential and sought-after teacher. Her students included Martha Argerich, Radu Lupu, Dame Mitsuko Uchida, Leon Fleisher and Geoffrey Tozer...

, Noel Mewton-Wood
Noel Mewton-Wood
Noel Mewton-Wood was an Australian-born concert pianist who achieved some fame during his short life.-Life and career:...

 and radio personality Karl Haas
Karl Haas
Karl Haas was a German-American classical music radio host, whose distinctively sonorous voice and humanistic approach to making music appreciation contagious made him well-received by many...


The later years

Schnabel, a Jew, left Berlin in 1933 after the Nazi Party took control. He lived in England for a time while giving masterclasses at Tremezzo
Tremezzo is a comune of some 1300 people in the Province of Como, in the Italian region Lombardy.It is located on the western shore of Lake Como between Mezzegra to the south-west and Griante to the north-east, and about 20 km from Como...

 on Lake Como
Lake Como
Lake Como is a lake of glacial origin in Lombardy, Italy. It has an area of 146 km², making it the third largest lake in Italy, after Lake Garda and Lake Maggiore...

 in Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, before moving to the United States in 1939. In 1944, he became a naturalized citizen
Naturalization is the acquisition of citizenship and nationality by somebody who was not a citizen of that country at the time of birth....

 of the United States. There he took a teaching post at the University of Michigan
University of Michigan
The University of Michigan is a public research university located in Ann Arbor, Michigan in the United States. It is the state's oldest university and the flagship campus of the University of Michigan...

, returning to Europe at the end of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. Among his pupils in Michigan was composer Sam Raphling
Sam Raphling
Sam Raphling was an American composer and pianist. He studied under Artur Schnabel at the University of Michigan.He wrote in a variety of musical genres, including orchestral works, chamber pieces, and vocal art songs; the latter of which remain his most notable legacy...


He continued to give concerts on both sides of the Atlantic until the end of his life, as well as composing and continuing to make records, although he was never very fond of the whole studio process. He died in Axenstein, Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

 and was buried in Schwyz
The town of is the capital of the canton of Schwyz in Switzerland.The Federal Charter of 1291 or Bundesbrief, the charter that eventually led to the foundation of Switzerland, can be seen at the Bundesbriefmuseum.-History of the toponym:...

, Switzerland.


Schnabel married Therese Behr in 1905. They had two sons, Karl Ulrich Schnabel
Karl Ulrich Schnabel
Karl Ulrich Schnabel was an Austrian pianist, and the son of pianist Artur Schnabel and operatic contralto and lieder singer Therese Behr.-Biography:...

 (1909–2001) who also became a classical pianist and renowned piano teacher, and Stefan Schnabel
Stefan Schnabel
Stefan Schnabel was an actor best remembered for having portrayed Dr. Stephen Jackson for sixteen years on the CBS soap opera The Guiding Light, on which he appeared from 1965 to 1981...

 (1912–99) who became a well regarded actor.


Schnabel was best known for his devotion to the core German composers, especially the Viennese classics of Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , baptismal name Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart , was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. He composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, piano, operatic, and choral music...

, Beethoven and Schubert. He was also renowned for his playing of works by Brahms
Johannes Brahms
Johannes Brahms was a German composer and pianist, and one of the leading musicians of the Romantic period. Born in Hamburg, Brahms spent much of his professional life in Vienna, Austria, where he was a leader of the musical scene...

 and Schumann
Robert Schumann
Robert Schumann, sometimes known as Robert Alexander Schumann, was a German composer, aesthete and influential music critic. He is regarded as one of the greatest and most representative composers of the Romantic era....

. He also played and recorded works by Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach was a German composer, organist, harpsichordist, violist, and violinist whose sacred and secular works for choir, orchestra, and solo instruments drew together the strands of the Baroque period and brought it to its ultimate maturity...


However, his repertoire was wider than that. During his young virtuosic years in Berlin, he played works by other composers including Liszt
Franz Liszt
Franz Liszt ; ), was a 19th-century Hungarian composer, pianist, conductor, and teacher.Liszt became renowned in Europe during the nineteenth century for his virtuosic skill as a pianist. He was said by his contemporaries to have been the most technically advanced pianist of his age...

, Chopin
Frédéric Chopin
Frédéric François Chopin was a Polish composer and virtuoso pianist. He is considered one of the great masters of Romantic music and has been called "the poet of the piano"....

 and Weber
Carl Maria von Weber
Carl Maria Friedrich Ernst von Weber was a German composer, conductor, pianist, guitarist and critic, one of the first significant composers of the Romantic school....

. On his early American tours, he programmed works such as the Chopin Preludes and Schumann's Fantasie in C
Fantasie in C (Schumann)
The Fantasie in C major, Op. 17, was written by Robert Schumann in 1836. It was revised prior to publication in 1839, when it was dedicated to Franz Liszt. It is generally described as one of Schumann's greatest works for solo piano, and is one of the central works of the early Romantic period. ...

. Among other works that he played, as recalled by those such as Claudio Arrau
Claudio Arrau
Claudio Arrau León was a Chilean pianist known for his interpretations of a vast repertoire spanning from the baroque to 20th-century composers, especially Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Schumann, Liszt, Brahms and Debussy...

 and Vladimir Horowitz
Vladimir Horowitz
Vladimir Samoylovich Horowitz    was a Russian-American classical virtuoso pianist and minor composer. His technique and use of tone color and the excitement of his playing were legendary. He is widely considered one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century.-Life and early...

, who had heard Schnabel in the 1920s, were Chopin's E minor Piano Concerto
Piano Concerto No. 1 (Chopin)
The Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor, Op. 11, is a piano concerto written by Frédéric Chopin in 1830. It was first performed on 11 October of that year, in Warsaw, with the composer as soloist, during one of his "farewell" concerts before leaving Poland....

 and the Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor, and Weber's Konzertstück in F minor, Piano Sonata No. 2, and Invitation to the Dance
Invitation to the Dance (Weber)
Invitation to the Dance , Op. 65, J. 260, is a piano piece in rondo form written by Carl Maria von Weber in 1819. It is also well known in the 1841 orchestration by Hector Berlioz...

. Schnabel himself mentioned that he had played the Liszt Sonata in B minor
Piano Sonata (Liszt)
The Piano Sonata in B minor , S.178, is a musical composition for solo piano by Franz Liszt, published in 1854 with a dedication to Robert Schumann. It is often considered Liszt's greatest composition for solo piano. The piece has been often analyzed, particularly regarding issues of form.-...

 "very often", as well as the Liszt E-flat Piano Concerto
Piano Concerto No. 1 (Liszt)
Franz Liszt composed his Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-flat major, S.124 over a 26-year period; the main themes date from 1830, while the final version dates 1849. The concerto consists of four movements, which are performed without breaks in between, and lasts approximately 20 minutes...


It is not clear why Schnabel dropped those from his performing repertoire in the 1930s, after his final departure from Germany. He claimed that it was because he decided that he wanted to play only "music which is better than it could be performed". However, it has been suggested by some that "Schnabel, uprooted from his native heritage, may have been clinging to the great German composers in an attempt to keep his cultural origins alive".

Schnabel was known for championing the then-neglected sonatas of Schubert and, even more so, Beethoven, including his more challenging late works. While on a tour of Spain, Schnabel wrote to his wife saying that during a performance of Beethoven's Diabelli Variations
Diabelli Variations
The 33 Variations on a waltz by Anton Diabelli, Op. 120, commonly known as the Diabelli Variations, is a set of variations for the piano written between 1819 and 1823 by Ludwig van Beethoven on a waltz composed by Anton Diabelli...

he had begun to feel sorry for the audience. "I am the only person here who is enjoying this, and I get the money; they pay and have to suffer," he wrote. Schnabel did much to popularize Beethoven's piano music, making the first complete recording of the sonatas, completing the set in 1935. This set of recordings has never been out of print, and is considered by many to be the touchstone of Beethoven sonata interpretations, though shortcomings in finger technique mar many performances of fast movements (Sergei Rachmaninoff
Sergei Rachmaninoff
Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff was a Russian composer, pianist, and conductor. Rachmaninoff is widely considered one of the finest pianists of his day and, as a composer, one of the last great representatives of Romanticism in Russian classical music...

 is supposed to have referred to him as "the great adagio pianist"). It has been said that he suffered greatly from nerves when recording; in a more private setting, his technique was impeccable. Claudio Arrau
Claudio Arrau
Claudio Arrau León was a Chilean pianist known for his interpretations of a vast repertoire spanning from the baroque to 20th-century composers, especially Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Schumann, Liszt, Brahms and Debussy...

 has said that Schnabel's live performances during the 1920s were technically "flawless." He also recorded all the Beethoven piano concerto
Piano concerto
A piano concerto is a concerto written for piano and orchestra.See also harpsichord concerto; some of these works are occasionally played on piano...


Schnabel as composer

Despite his performing repertoire being concentrated largely on the works of Beethoven, Schubert, Mozart and Brahms, almost all of his own compositions (none of which are in the active repertoire) are atonal
Atonality in its broadest sense describes music that lacks a tonal center, or key. Atonality in this sense usually describes compositions written from about 1908 to the present day where a hierarchy of pitches focusing on a single, central tone is not used, and the notes of the chromatic scale...

. (It is interesting, in this regard, to note that Schnabel was a close friend of Arnold Schoenberg
Arnold Schoenberg
Arnold Schoenberg was an Austrian composer, associated with the expressionist movement in German poetry and art, and leader of the Second Viennese School...

, his Austrian-American compatriot, who was famous as a pioneering composer of atonal and twelve-tone
Twelve-tone technique
Twelve-tone technique is a method of musical composition devised by Arnold Schoenberg...


They are "difficult" yet fascinating and complex works, and are marked by genuine originality of style. Composers Ernst Krenek
Ernst Krenek
Ernst Krenek was an Austrian of Czech origin and, from 1945, American composer. He explored atonality and other modern styles and wrote a number of books, including Music Here and Now , a study of Johannes Ockeghem , and Horizons Circled: Reflections on my Music...

 and Roger Sessions
Roger Sessions
Roger Huntington Sessions was an American composer, critic, and teacher of music.-Life:Sessions was born in Brooklyn, New York, to a family that could trace its roots back to the American revolution. His mother, Ruth Huntington Sessions, was a direct descendent of Samuel Huntington, a signer of...

 have commented that they show signs of undoubted genius (see biography of Schnabel by Cesar Saerchinger). Schnabel's list of compositions eventually included three symphonies
A symphony is an extended musical composition in Western classical music, scored almost always for orchestra. A symphony usually contains at least one movement or episode composed according to the sonata principle...

, a piano concerto, a piano sonata (premiered by Eduard Erdmann
Eduard Erdmann
Eduard Erdmann was a Baltic German pianist and composer.Erdmann was born in Wenden in Livonia. He was the great-nephew of the philosopher Johann Eduard Erdmann. His first musical studies were in Riga, where his teachers were Bror Möllersten and Jean du Chastain and Harald Creutzburg...

 at the 1925 Venice ISCM Festival) and five string quartet
String quartet
A string quartet is a musical ensemble of four string players – usually two violin players, a violist and a cellist – or a piece written to be performed by such a group...

s, amongst various smaller works.

In recent years, a number of his compositions (notably championed by the violinist, Paul Zukofsky
Paul Zukofsky
Paul Zukofsky is an American violinist and conductor known for his work in the field of contemporary classical music.-Career:...

) have been recorded and made available on CD, including three of his string quartets, the three symphonies, a rhapsody for orchestra, and four solo piano works: his Sonata, Dance Suite, Piece in Seven Movements (1935–37) and Seven Pieces (1947).

Chamber Works

  • Duodecimet, chamber orchestra
  • Piano Quintet
  • Sonata for Solo Cello
  • Sonata for Solo Violin
  • Sonata for Violin and Piano
  • String Quartet No. 1
  • String Quartet No. 3
  • String Quartet No. 4
  • String Quartet No. 5
  • String Trio

Orchestral Works

  • Piano Concerto (Intermezzo & Rondo)
  • Rhapsody for Orchestra
  • Symphony No. 1
  • Symphony No. 2
  • Symphony No. 3

Solo Piano

  • Dance Suite
  • Piece in Seven Movements
  • Seven Piano Pieces
  • Sonata for Piano
  • Three Piano Pieces


"The notes I handle no better than many pianists. But the pauses between the notes—ah, that is where the art resides."
- Schnabel, in Chicago Daily News, June 11, 1958.

Further reading

  • Schnabel's book My Life and Music (reprinted 1988; Mineola, NY: Dover Publications; ISBN 0-486-25571-9), is a mixture of autobiography and commentary on a variety of musical subjects.
  • Saerchinger, C. Artur Schnabel. London, 1957 (with disc.)
  • Music and the line of most resistance. Princeton University Press, 1942

External links

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