Josef Hofmann

Biography

Born: January 20, 1876; Podgórze, Poland   Died: February 16, 1957; Los Angeles, CA  
Joszef Kazimierz (or Josef Casimir) Hofmann was one of the great pianists of all time. Both parents worked for the Krakow Theater, where his father, Kazimierz Hofmann (1842-1911) was conductor and his mother sang in light operas. His father was also a notable teacher of harmony and counterpoint and began teaching his son the basics of music, while Josef's sister and aunt both taught him piano. This resulted in Josef becoming one of the all-time Read more great child prodigies. In fact, it is said that his facility in mathematics and science were the equal of his musical talent. By the age of seven he was touring as a pianist and composing music. At 11 he made his U.S. debut at the Metropolitan Opera House, playing Beethoven's First Piano Concerto. This event has been counted as one of the most sensational concerts in history.

He became a well-known figure, appearing in 42 concerts throughout the U.S. He became a cause célèbre when the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children publicly protested the obviously exhausting exploitation, his father having resigned all his teaching posts in order to direct young Josef's career. The American glass-making magnate Alfred Corning Clark put up a fund of $50,000 to promote the boy's education. Fortunately, the family accepted, and Josef returned to Berlin in 1892 to study piano with Moritz Moszkowski.

However, he did not get along with Moszkowski. Instead, he auditioned for Anton Rubinstein in 1892, and the great pianist and teacher accepted Hofmann as his only private pupil. Hofmann traveled by train twice a week to Rubinstein's home in Dresden and worked strenuously with him, learning not only maturity in playing, but his musical ideals.

Hofmann debuted as a mature artist in 1894, the year of Rubinstein's death. He achieved unprecedented international success in Europe, Russia, and North and South America. He was regarded as the ideal pianist in a literal as well as a metaphoric sense; his style and technique were put before students as the goal to which they should aspire. He had a fabulous control over tonal qualities, and could erupt out of a restrained, dignified sound into a passionate emotional outburst. His repertoire was almost entirely limited to the first half of the nineteenth century (roughly, from Beethoven through Schumann and Liszt). However, he did play Rachmaninov's Third Concerto (which was dedicated to him).

He was the first professional musician in history to make a recording, which he did when he visited Thomas Edison's laboratories and made several cylinder recordings in 1887. He was not a prolific maker of commercial recordings, but a large number of live performance recordings was made, confirming the remarkable accounts of his playing.

In 1926 he accepted the invitation of Mary Louise Curtis Bok to become the director of the Curtis Institute of Music, which she had recently formed. He remained in that position for 12 years (1926-1948), and was instrumental in forming it into one of the world's great conservatories. In 1937 he celebrated the 50th anniversary of his U.S. debut with a concert at the old Metropolitan, playing an Anton Rubinstein concerto and some of his own music. He composed over 100 works under the pen name Michel Dvorsky. He moved to California in 1938 and closed his concert career in 1945; alcoholism was a factor. However, he continued to work on improvements to piano actions and recording techniques, accounting for some of the 70 patents he held. Read less
Browse 1-12 of 12 Available Recordings
  • 1.
    Pianists As Composers / Donald Manildi
    Label: Elan Recordings   Catalog: 82416 Release Date: 07/16/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Abram Chasins,  Alfred Cortot,  Moritz Rosenthal,  José Iturbi  ... 
    Performer:  Donald Manildi
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  • 2.
    Solo Piano Works / Shura Cherkassky
    Label: Nimbus   Catalog: 17330 Release Date: 08/14/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Frédéric Chopin,  Robert Schumann,  Johannes Brahms,  Josef Hofmann  ... 
    Performer:  Shura Cherkassky
    On sale! $33.98
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  • 3.
    If I Were A Bird - A Piano Aviary / Michael Lewin
    Label: Sono Luminus   Catalog: 92103 Release Date: 03/30/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Igor Stravinsky,  Walter Niemann,  Adolf Henselt,  David Guion  ... 
    Performer:  Michael Lewin
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  • 4.
    Music Of The Romantic Pianist/Composer / Dubal, Waldoff
    Label: Arkiv   Catalog: 688 Release Date: 08/18/2009   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Raphael Joseffy,  Alexander Scriabin,  Isidore Philipp,  Mischa Levitzki  ... 
    Performer:  Stanley Waldoff,  David Dubal
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  • 5.
    Kaleidoscope - Piano Encores / Shura Cherkassky
    Label: Eloquence   Catalog: 4768537 Release Date: 05/23/2006   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Frédéric Chopin,  Sergei Rachmaninov,  Alexander Scriabin,  Moritz Moszkowski  ... 
    Performer:  Shura Cherkassky
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  • 6.
    Josef Hofmann: Romantic Piano Works / Fabiana Biasini
    Label: Edition Hera   Catalog: 2120 Release Date: 04/25/2006   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Josef Hofmann
    Performer:  Fabiana Biasini
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  • 7.
    Kaleidoscope / Marc-andre Hamelin
    Label: Hyperion   Catalog: 67275 Release Date: 11/13/2001   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Alexander Glazunov,  Felix Blumenfeld,  John Vallier,  Alfredo Casella  ... 
    Performer:  Marc-André Hamelin
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  • 8.
    Shura Cherkassky - 1982 San Francisco Recital -chopin, Et Al
    Label: Ivory Classics   Catalog: 70904 Release Date: 03/23/1999   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Josef Hofmann,  Frédéric Chopin,  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky,  Felix Mendelssohn
    Performer:  Shura Cherkassky
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  • 9.
    The Complete Josef Hofmann Vol 6 - Casimir Hall Recital
    Label: Marston   Catalog: 52014 Release Date: 11/24/1998   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Josef Hofmann,  Franz Schubert,  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Sigismund Stojowski  ... 
    Performer:  Josef Hofmann
    Conductor:  Sir John Barbirolli
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestra
    CD: $36.99
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  • 10.
    The Complete Josef Hofmann Vol 5 - Solo Recordings 1935-1948
    Label: Marston   Catalog: 52004 Release Date: 10/14/1997   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Carl Maria von Weber,  Christoph W. Gluck,  Felix Mendelssohn,  Frédéric Chopin  ... 
    Performer:  Josef Hofmann,  Efrem Zimbalist
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  • 11.
    The Complete Josef Hofmann Vol 2
    Label: Vai Audio   Catalog: 1020 Release Date: 09/01/1994   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Frédéric Chopin,  Moritz Moszkowski,  Sergei Rachmaninov  ... 
    Performer:  Josef Hofmann
    Conductor:  Ignace Hilsberg,  Fritz Reiner
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Curtis Symphony Orchestra
    On sale! $34.98
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  • 12.
    The Complete Josef Hofmann Vol 3 - Chopin, Liszt
    Label: Vai Audio   Catalog: 1036 Release Date: 09/01/1994   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Constantin Sternberg,  Robert Schumann,  Franz Liszt,  Carl Tausig  ... 
    Performer:  Josef Hofmann
    On sale! $34.98
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