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Adolf von Henselt

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Georg Martin Adolf von Henselt (9 or 12 May 1814 – 10 October 1889) was a German composer and virtuoso pianist.
Henselt was born at Schwabach, in Bavaria. At the age of three he began to learn the violin, and at five the piano under Josephe von Flad (1778-1843), who had trained in composition with Franz Danzi, Abbé (George Joseph) Vogler, Joseph Graetz and studied piano with Franz Lauska (who later coached Meyerbeer, Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn). His concert debut was at the Odeon in Munich, where he played the opening Allegro to one of Mozart's C major concertos, a free fantasy with variations on a theme from Weber's Der Freischütz, and a rondo by Kalkbrenner. It was through Flad's influence with King Ludwig I of Bavaria that Henselt was provided the financial means to undertake further study with Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778-1837) in Weimar in 1832 for some months. Later that year, he went to Vienna, where, besides studying composition under Simon Sechter (the later teacher of Anton Bruckner), he was successful as a concert pianist.
In 1836, to improve his health, he made a prolonged tour through the chief German towns. In 1837, he settled at Breslau, where he had married Rosalie Vogel—but the following year migrated to Saint Petersburg, where previous visits made him welcome. He became court pianist and inspector of musical studies in the Imperial Institute of Female Education, and was ennobled in 1876. Henselt usually spent summer holidays in Germany. In 1852, and again in 1867, he visited England, though in the latter year he made no public appearance. Saint Petersburg was his home nearly until his death from cardiac disease during a stay at Warmbrunn, Germany (now in Poland).
To some ears, Henselt's playing combined Franz Liszt's sonority with Hummel's smoothness. It was full of poetry, remarkable for his use of extended chords and technique. His cantabile playing was highly regarded. "Find out the secret of Henselt's hands," Liszt told his pupils. Once he commented on the lengths Henselt took to achieve his famous legato, saying, "I could have had velvet paws like that if I had wanted to." Henselt's influence on the next generation of Russian pianists was immense. Henselt's playing and teaching greatly influenced the Russian school of music, developing from seeds planted by John Field. Sergei Rachmaninoff held him in very great esteem, and considered him one of his most important influences.
He excelled in his own works and in those of Carl Maria von Weber and Frédéric Chopin. His Piano Concerto in F minor, Op. 16 was once frequently played in Europe, and of his many valuable studies, the Étude in F-sharp major Si oiseau j'étais, was very popular. At one time Henselt was second to Anton Rubinstein in the direction of the Saint Petersburg Conservatory.
However, despite his relatively long life, Henselt ceased nearly all composition by the age of thirty. The reasons are unclear. Chronic stage fright, bordering on paranoia, caused him to withdraw from concert appearances by age thirty-three.
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