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In this series of letters written between November 1869 and May 1875, a young American pianist, Amy Fay, recounts the thrilling experience of studying piano with such great teachers as Liszt, Tausig, and Kullak. Printed 21 times in America, published also in London, and translated into French and German, this book has clearly established its wide appeal to music students.
The author describes the customs and mores, the place of interest, and the people she encountered during her stay in Germany, then the music capital of the world. In a vivid style and with youthful exuberance, she imparts to the reader her impressions of performances by Anton Rubinstein, Clara Schumann, Tausig, Liszt, the great violinist Joachim, Wagner (as conductor), and other notables of music history. Her account of a reception and concert in honor of Wagner is especially fascinating.
But the sections of this entirely engaging work that are of primary importance to music students, particularly to students and teachers of the piano, are the author’s detailed accounts of the teaching methods of the great piano virtuosi. Interesting pictures of lessons of Tausig’s conservatory, of Kullak’s teaching techniques, and, above all, a unique portrait of Liszt the man, the teacher, and the performer emerge from these letters. So valued are Amy Fay’s impressions of Liszt, in fact, that these sections alone are regarded as a miniature classic. For this Dover edition, Professor Frances Dillon of the Mannes College of Music contributed an informative introduction.
Because of her position as a student working closely with Liszt, Tausig, Kullak, and Deppe, Amy Fay was able to reveal many little-known facets of their work and their teaching techniques. Her obvious enthusiasm and serious attitude towards her study make this a work of great liveliness and rare insight. Not only students of the piano, but all musicologists will find her comments and descriptions invaluable. And the general reader should enjoy the many anecdotes and personal glimpses of these famous names in music.