Two Piano Teams of History

Two Piano Teams of History

The genre of two-piano teams is common on today’s concert stage, and it is interesting to look at the history of these popular ensembles.

Vronsky and Babin

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A wonderful merging of musical artists occurred when Viktor Babin met Vitya Vronsky while they were both studying piano with Artur Schnabel in Berlin. They became known world wide and brought the art of two-piano playing to the forefront in concert halls.

Vitya was born in Russia on August 22,1909, and Viktor was also born in Russia, on December 13,1908. They met as advanced students in Schnabel’s class at the Hochschule fur Musik in Berlin. True, there were others who went before…specifically the American Sutro sisters,Ottilie and Rose, to whom Max Bruch dedicated his Concerto for Two Pianos, but the advent of recording resulted in Vronsky and Babin becoming world famous.

Shortly after they married, pianist Josef Hofmann heard them play and arranged a New York City recital through his agent in 1937. From that time on they were a success. Babin became head of the Cleveland Institute of Music, which position ended with his death in 1972, after which Vronsky continued teaching at the school. She died in 1992

Jose Iturbi and Robert Casadesus

Iturbi had a talented sister, Amparo, who was also a pianist and they played many concerts together. They were even seen in a movie or two. The brother and sister toured until shortly before her death in 1971.

Robert Casadesus (1899-1974), was another successful concert pianist who teamed up with his wife Gaby for occasional two-piano appearances.

Ossip Gabrilowitsch and Harold Bauer

Two more internationally acclaimed solo pianists joined forces on several occasions to present programs of music for two pianos. Gabrilowitsch was born in 1878 and studied with Anton Rubinstein, Alexander Glazunov and Anatole Liadow in Russia, followed by further training in Vienna with Theodor Leschitizky. Harold Bauer (1873-1951) was educated to be a violinist but switched to the piano when jobs for violinists were scarce!

Another interesting collaboration was that of the virtuoso Vladimir de Pachmann (1843-1933) and his wife Maggie Oakey. They toured America in 1891 and while most of the recital appearances were Vladimir’s solo stints, there were a couple of two-piano concerts.

A short article can only scan this subject and these days we have had many important and interesting two-piano teams including Luboshutz and Nemenoff, Ferrante and Teicher, Whittemore and Lowe, Nelson Friere and Marta Argerich, Katie and Marielle Labeque, Gold and Fizdale and and Alexander and Daykin, whose recording of Bach’s Art of the Fugue was named one of the ten best recordings for that year.

Audiences love to hear two piano works and enjoy watching the pianists as they weave in and out with their specific parts. There has been a surge in compositions for this ensemble and it is to be hoped that more composers will take on this challenging but rewarding genre.

Sources

Visiting Cards of Pianists F.C.Schang Joseph Patelson Music House New York 1979

Privately printed memoir Mme. Maria Vegara Toronto 1970

For further reading about pianists see Famous Female Pianists

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