Heinrich Neuhaus

 

Heinrich Gustavovich Neuhaus (Born on April 2, 1888 in Elizavetgrad, Ukraine – Died on October 10, 1964 in Moscow, Russia) was a Ukrainian-born pianist and teacher of German and Polish descent. He taught at the Moscow Conservatory for 40 years and became one of the most loved and respected pianists and pedagogues of the 20th century.

Biography

Heinrich’s parents were both music teachers. His father Gustav was of German descent. His mother Olga Blumenfeld was of Polish descent. She was the sister of the composer Felix Blumenfeld, a renowned pianist, composer, and teacher who taught at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. Heinrich Neuhaus was also the cousin of the renowned Polish composer Karol Szymanowsky.

Heinrich Neuhaus was precocious and had already become a successful concert pianist by age 17. He was also a polyglot, being fluent in Ukrainian, Russian, German, French, English, and Italian.

In 1904, the whole family visited Berlin with Felix Blumenfeld and Karol Szymanowsky. In 1905, under Felix Blumenfeld’s advice, Neuhaus went to Berlin to study under Leopold Godowsky. After a brief period of study, he went to Italy. He remained in Italy for two years. Then he returned to Elizavetgrad upon his parent’s request. This greatly depressed him, after a period of productivity and happiness in Italy.

Neuhaus went to the Hochschule der Musik in Berlin. He studied piano under Heinrich Bart. He also studied music theory and composition. Heinrich Bart was excessively conservative and rejected modern musicians such as Busoni, Liszt, Wagner, Mahler, and Scriabin. Neuhaus could not endure Bart’s approach, and returned to Ukraine. His parents wanted him to finish his education, so they sent him to the Vienna Academy of Music in 1909.

In 1912, Neuhaus went to Florence, Italy and attempted suicide by cutting his wrist. He was hospitalized and recovered.

Neuhaus finally went to St. Petersburg, took examinations, and graduated in 1915. He taught in Tbilisi, then returned to Elizavetgrad in 1917. He taught at the Kiev Conservatory from 1919 to 1922. He became very popular as a pianist. His uncle Blumenfeld was also a professor at the Kiev Conservatory. Neuhaus and Blumenfeld were both transferred to the Moscow Conservatory in 1922. Neuhaus remained there for the rest of his life.

In Moscow, Neuhaus’s fame as both a teacher and a pianist grew. He loved to have many people attend his lessons. His pupils include some of the most highly regarded pianists of the 20th century: Sviatoslav Richter, Emil Gilels, Nina Svetlanova, Alexei Lubimov, Igor Zhukov, Yakov Zak, and others.

From 1935 to 1937, he was the director of the Moscow Conservatory. During World War 2, he was imprisoned due to suspicions that he was a German spy. He was released after eight months thanks to the intervention of friends and students.

In 1958, he published The Art of Piano Playing, which remains very widely used and respected among piano teachers and students.

Neuhaus died in 1964. His son Stanislav Neuhaus is a successful pianist, as well as his grandson Stanislav Bunin.

Musical Style and Legacy

Neuhaus strove to understand the whole and the essence of every piece he played, and he tried to instill this in his students. He tried to approach each composer, each piece, and each student according to their own unique qualities. He is remembered as one of the greatest pianist and piano teachers of the 20th century.

Article written by me for Lunyr