Backhaus, Wilhelm, eminent German-born Swiss pianist and pedagogue; b. Leipzig, March 26, 1884; d. Villach, Austria, July 5, 1969. He studied with Reckendorf in Leipzig (1891–99), making his debut there at the age of eight. After studying briefly with d’Albert in Frankfurt am Main (1899), he began his career with a major tour in 1900, aquiring a fine reputation in Europe as both a pianist and a teacher. He made his U.S. debut on Jan. 5, 1912, as soloist in Beethoven’s Fifth Piano Concerto with Walter Damrosch and the N.Y. Sym. Orch. In 1930 he settled in Lugano, where he continued to teach, and became a naturalized Swiss citizen. Following World War II, he resumed his concert tours; made his last appearance in the U.S. at a recital in N.Y. in 1962, at the age of 78, displaying undiminished vigor as a virtuoso. He died while visiting Austria for a concert engagement. He was particularly distinguished in his interpretations of Beethoven and Brahms.
F. Herzog, W. B. (Berlin, 1935); A. Eichmann, W. B. (Ghent, 1957; Eng. tr., 1958).
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire