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Douze études caractéristiques de concert op. 2; Douze études de salon op. 5; Piano Concerto in F minor op. 16; Variations de Concert op. 11 on "Quand je quittai la Normandie" from Meyerbeer’s Robert le Diable.
Adolf von Henselt was born in 1814 in Schwabach, a small village close to Nuremberg,as one of six children, and at the age of 3 moved to Munich where hehad his first piano lessons beeing five years old. At the age of fifteen he gave his first public recital, and in 1831 was granted a stipend to study piano with Hummel and composition in Vienna with Simon Sechter. Aristrocatic in looks and bearing, he would in later years resemble the Emperor Franz Josef. His early success touring in Germany and Russia was undelined by the reception of his sets of studies (op. 2 & 5). They were dedicated to his royal patron and included the best (only?) known work of Henselt today - "Si oiseau j’étai, à toi volerai", a tricky feather-light study in sixths once given the distinction of a recording by Rachmaninov. These Studies attracted a lot of attention for the young virtuoso, many of them presenting technical problems different from those in Chopin’s two sets (published previously) but still maintaining the new concept of exercises wraped in poetry.To the present day they remain beyond the capabilities of many pianists. Even the legendary Anton Rubinstein had to admit defeat. After working on the Etudes and the F minor Piano Concerto for a few days, he realised "it was a waste of time, for they were based on an abnormal formation of the hand. In this respect, Henselt, like Paganini was a freak". There is a liberal use of chords of the tenth (sometimes twelth) and arpeggios with a larger strecht than an octave. It wasn’t that Henselt had large hands - au contraire, he is known to have small hands with short fleshy fingers. But by means of diligent self-consuming practice he managed to achieve an amazing degree of elasticity with an extension that could reach C-E-G-C-F in his left hand and B-E-A-C-E in the right!! All this augured well for an important career as a pianist and composer. Neither came about. Towards the end of his life Henselt himself recognised that he had not fullfilled his early promise. As a composer, he simply has nothing else to say after the age of thirty, recognised the fact and lived with it. From the completion of the F minor Concerto (1844) to his death, there is no advance in style or content in the few works. Given the paucity of creativity, the extent of his influence on piano playing is remarkable, for two reasons. First by way of the prodigious technical invention of the Études (and for that matter, the Concerto), resulted in fuller tone in bass and greatly increased coverage in the upper registers of the keyboard. This his to be seen in the later music of Balakirev, Lyapunov, Scriabin and Rachmaninov (who must have greatly benefied from his study of Henselt). The second influence Henselt had on the piano playing was a result of his position in the cultural life of Russia. His triumph as a visiting concert pianist in St. Petersburg in 1838 led immediately to him being named Court Pianist. From then until his death, Henselt spent all but the summer months each year in the Russian city where he enjoyed a princely lifestyle and was on intimate terms with three successive Tsars. And this does not take into acount tje influence of Henselt’s own private pupils. Among them were Rachmaninov’s grandfather and Nicolai Zverev. Zverev taught Rachmaninov himself, Lhevinne, Siloti ans Scriabin. Here we have the foundations of the present Russian school of piano-playing with its emphasis on singing melody and freedom of hand movement. Henselt’s contribution to the piano was at least as significant as that of Liszt and Leschetizky.