Arthur Loesser

Biography

Born: August 26, 1894 Died: July 28, 1969
The brothers -- or more properly, half-brothers -- Arthur and Frank Loesser were like night and day, really, except in the quantity of artistic gift that each received. Frank, 16 years younger and in later years somewhat more famous than Arthur, received no formal musical training at all, although his parents were both musicians and his father was a well-known professional pianist in New York City. He started out as a lyricist and only later began to write music as well, ultimately becoming one of Broadway's most famous men and penning such perennial favorites as Guys and Dolls and 1961's Pulitzer Prize-winning How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Arthur, on the other hand, was the consummate serious academic musician, a brilliant, formally trained concert pianist, a valuable author and music critic, and a renowned piano teacher whose students still roam the world's concert venues.

Arthur Loesser was born in New York City on a hot August day in 1894. After early training under the watchful eye of his pianist father, Loesser's piano education was given over to Sigismund Stojowski (or Zygsmunt) at the Institute of Musical Art (New York, NY). By 1913, he was ready to make his professional debut in Berlin and seven years later, he was engaged for a concert tour of the Pacific (Australia and the major Eastern Asiatic countries), part of the time playing with Russian violinist Mischa Elman. In 1926, he slowed the hectic pace of his concertizing by accepting the professorship of piano at the then-young Cleveland Institute of Music. Though he spent a great deal of time performing and lecturing away from home, he remained a resident of Cleveland for the remaining 43 years of his life. During World War II, he served as a major in the U.S. Army Intelligence Department, toward the end of which appointment he gave a performance in Japan while in uniform -- an almost astounding event for the time considering sentiments of both directions. Loesser was known as much for his finesse as a collaborative musician as for his power as a virtuoso. Violinists Maud Powell and Mischa Elman, and the famous contralto Ernestine Schumann-Heink were among the many who benefited from that finesse. He was a born intellectual in the best sense -- witty, humorous, wry, by no means a dry bookworm -- and he applied that intellect to each and every performance. He encouraged audiences to tap their feet to Bach and Mozart if it suited them and authored the 1943 book Humor in American Song (NY, 1943). But he could make the piano ooze hardy Romanticism as well, in Schumann, in Busoni, in Brahms.

Loesser wrote a comedo-serious volume, Men, Women and Pianos: a Social History (NY, 1954), and during the 1960s, could be seen and heard on a series of Cleveland-based television broadcasts. His students were many and talented, including the prominent virtuoso Anton Kuerti.

There are 2 Arthur Loesser recordings available.

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