Prof. Heinrich (Harry) NEUHAUS - a teacher of the Masters.


Heinrich Neuhaus was born on April 12, 1888 in Elisavetgrad, today Kirovograd, in the West Ukraine. His father was Gustav Neuhaus, the German pianist and a teacher of the German language, who arrived to Ukraine from Rheinland (Germany) in 1870; G. Neuhaus studied the piano in Köln (Germany) by Ferdinand Hiller. The future Great Neuhaus' mother was Olga Blumenfeld, a highly talented pianist (hers mother, so - Harry's Grandmother - was born Szymanowska; she belonged to the same family Karol Szymanowski was born in

It should be apparent that in such family as was the Neuhaus', the future Professors' and even Rector's of the P. Tchaikovsky Conservatory one, relations with music were very close, intensive and fruitful. As Prof. Neuhaus later said, he became "infected with music just from the early childhood". The decisive impact on his musical development he got from his uncle, a legendary teacher Feliks Blumenfeld (among his students were Simon Barere and Vladimir Horowitz); thinking about his musical growth yet, we should not disregard the powerful influence of generous atmosphere ruling the Neuhaus family's life. The Neuhaus' have used to play chamber music together, they friendly and actively supported each other to become better in performing, deeper learned, more enlightened, etc. All these took place in truly friendly, informal, warm and deeply human atmosphere created in their home by Neuhaus' themselves and by their such brilliant musical friends as violinist Paweł Kochański, singer Stanislawa Szymanowska, pianist Feliks Szymanowski, who both were the siblings of Karol Szymanowski; of course Karol by himself participated very actively in these family music making, as well as a poet and writer Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz and the future worldwide known virtuoso pianist Arthur Rubinstein, too.

The piano education of Harry Neuhaus become finalized in 1915 in the Conservatory of Music of St. Petersburg; Harry prepared the diploma exam under artistic guidance of his uncle, Feliks Blumenfeld and got at last the title "Liberated artist". This diploma formalized the Harry's former musical studies in Berlin, where he studied the theory of music by Max Bruch and Engelbert Humperdinck and by Karl H. Barth - piano and organ. Within 1912 - 1914 he studied the piano under Leopold Godowski in Vienna. At the same time he studied musical aesthetic, acoustic, harmony, piano literature, instrumentation, analyze of musical forms and history of music; young Harry participated as well in the seminar of solo performance with orchestra led by Ferdinand Löwe. The diploma exam he passed through on the 6-th of April 1914 had been honored by the Austrian State Award (Staatspreis).

On the 12-th of January 1914 Neuhaus gave a recital in the Bechstein-Hall in Berlin, playing 6 Choral Vorspiele of Bach-Busoni, 3 Intermezzi op. 117 and Rhapsody op.119 of Brahms, Sonata op. 58 of Chopin and of Karol Szymanowski - II Sonata in A Major. Within years of his studies in Berlin and Vienna he visited Kalkar n. Köln, a hometown of his father Gustav, and (in 1908) – together with his cousins, Karol and Feliks Szymanowski – he went to visit Italy. Young tourists, Harry was 17 years old, started from Nervi, Genova, Rome and Naples. In Autumn of 1908 Harry Neuhaus traveled to Ukraine and back to the Central Europe via Lviv/Ukraine, Budapest and Fiume - to Venice and Firenze. These journeys were not the concert tours: young Neuhaus just saw museums, went sightseeing, listened to concerts and operas, went to theatres and saw exhibitions. He actually tried to absorb as much as possible from the culture, he liked to live and work in; from the culture, he becomes so suddenly and brutally separated from...

Immediately after his studies in Vienna, when the First World War begun, Neuhaus, the genuine European, humanist and artist - had to come back to Ukraine, which was a part of the Imperial Russia and his own words "got stuck into piano pedagogical mud". He started teaching the piano in Elizavetgrad, after then he has been invited to the musical conservatories of Tbilisi and Kiev, and after - while extremely positive resonance on his piano pedagogic talent "went before him" - he became invited to and started his work in the P. Tchaikovsky Conservatory of Music in Moscow (in the 40-ties interrupted by more than a year long imprisonment in the famous Soviet punitive complex Lubianka). Despite the horrible war circumstances Neuhaus gave concerts; at one evening he could play all the Sonatas of Skriabin; his interpretation of the 24 Preludes of Debussy has been approved in Moscow as the real artistic wonder.

But before all he was the pedagogue, by whom liked to study all the most talented young pianists from the whole Soviet Union. Harry Neuhaus becomes the greatest piano teaching authority not only because of his great piano instrumental and piano pedagogical skills, but as well due to the fact, he - living in circumstances no one of us today could even superficially imagine - represented the values of the truly interminable quality: Professor Neuhaus, due to the place of birth, thanks to kind of received education and because of his profoundly personal convictions, was the representative of traditional European thought, idea, civilization and culture. And, however, without doubts, in many meanings of the word he must accept the circumstances he was forced to live in, in my opinion - he offered his students such kind of feeling of  mental and moral STABILITY  in the world, which could destroy the life of tens of millions human beings, openly said - in minutes, and due to this truly rare ability of him - to be morally STABLE, his students become able to work more creatively and more strongly than they, who were guided by just the "pure artists"...

The list of Prof. Neuhaus' students, who made a huge international piano career, could be very long. In my opinion it would be much enough to maintain the two of them only - Sviatoslav Richter and Emil Gilels - to understand, who was the teacher we now are speaking about. His importance has been built not only via his students: his writings, and especially, his legendary book, The Art of Piano Playing, translated not only into main languages of the World, but as well into - I suppose - any language the civilized nation might like to speak and write in, persistently do its encouraging work. It gives pianists the definitely incomparable possibility to prolong the contact with so open-minded piano teaching idea, shaped by Prof. Neuhaus, in spite of the question of its belonging to any "piano school". Of course, working in Russia, and being deeply acquainted with great Russian literature, music and poetry, he - in certain sense of world - belongs to the Russian piano tradition, but as well he belongs to the German cultural tradition. The Polish cultural sphere was apparently very present in Prof. Neuhaus' artistic life, and not only the family ties connect him to the Polish piano tradition; his intellectual formation has happened in the same field that shaped such different personalities as Arthur Rubinstein, Ignacy J. Paderewski or maintained above Karol Szymanowski. It is, maybe, worth to say that he not only very fluently spoke Polish language, but as well could recite much more Romantic Polish poetry than many "genuine" Poles would able to...

I would like to stress again the Neuhaus' piano pedagogic connections with the Chopin's Piano Method. Prof. Zbigniew Drzewiecki in his introduction to Polish edition of the Neuhaus' book wrote: "The uncommonly large learning and erudition of Prof. Neuhaus could be approved by the fact, his piano instrumental technique and teaching were grounded on these not numerous still representing the genius dimension guidelines, given by Chopin" (introductory words to the Polish edition of The Art of Piano Playing by H. Neuhaus, PWM, Kraków 1970, p. 9).

Neuhaus was the greater admirer of poetry of Adam Mickiewicz, he actively propagate the works of Szymanowski; Prof. Drzewiecki remembered the evening spent together with Prof. Neuhaus in Warsaw in 1937, when he, declaimed ex tempore large fragments of Polish national poem "Pan Tadeusz" by hearth (H.N. was a member of the jury of Third International Chopin Piano Competition). Not many contemporary Polish Professors, even of the Polish literature, I suppose, would be ready to do the same today...

Henryk to Polish people, Heinrich - to Germans, Gienrich Gustavovich - to Russians, Harry - at home, Neuhaus died in one of the Moscow hospitals on 10th of October 1964. Literally some hours before his death Arthur Rubinstein came and saw him, giving nearly symbolical goodbye to this greater Artist in the name of tradition and culture, the whole refinement, fullness, taste and charm Prof. Neuhaus so generously sowed around in his legendary lessons.

His book, translated into majority of languages the manhood is used to speak in, should been not only read, but as well understood: Prof. Neuhaus' work should actually be continued; its Author strongly believed in possibility to make better, make more and generally – to develop anybody and anything. His optimism should work in us, too.

As Vladimir Horowitz said, I cite after the famous David Dubal's book, "After Blumenfeld - Neuhaus was the artist, whom I owe most of all".

Writing these comments, I would like to express my very profound esteem and love to Professor Neuhaus and his great piano idea. At the end of this very short notice I would like, Dear Reader, to invite you to the Internet Site that publishes some thoughts of V. Horowitz, related to refining of technique of playing the piano. His point of view represents equally the same great line in thinking about our instrument that could be found in the whole positive piano tradition from Bach, via Mozart, Chopin, older (so, not young) Liszt, Debussy, Anton Rubinstein, Joseph Hofmann and other great masters. Lately, I have found the actually parallel phrases reading the introductory article to the Maestro Lang Lang's DVD, recorded in Carnegie Hall in 2004. Mr. Lang Lang considered his American mentor, Prof. Gary Graffman, a former student of Vladimir Horowitz, who spoke to him about extraordinary significance of making clear the Idea of the performed piece and necessity to convey it to the listeners. One could say: nothing new, factually...! This is, factually - the truth, but as well, this idea probably is the most forgotten thing in the piano education worldwide. The Site you actually visit tries to change such upsetting situation.

Even a little bit...       

Thank you for your visit on this page - SK


Published: 2015-03-24