Kalkbrenner, Frédéric (Friedrich Wilhelm Michael)

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Kalkbrenner, Frédéric (Friedrich Wilhelm Michael)

Kalkbrenner, Frédéric (Friedrich Wilhelm Michael), celebrated French pianist, pedagogue, and composer of German descent, son of Christian Kalkbrenner; b. near Kassel, between Nov. 2 and 8, 1785; d. Enghien-les-Bains, June 10, 1849. He most likely began his musical training with his father, then in 1799 entered the Paris Cons., where he studied with Louis Adam and Nicodami (piano) and Catel (harmony), taking 1st prizes in 1801. From 1803 to 1804 he was in Vienna, where he profited from the advice of Haydn. He then played in Munich, Stuttgart, and Frankfurt am Main on his return to Paris in 1805; was in great demand as a teacher in Paris. He went to Bath (1814–15), and then enjoyed considerable success as a pianist in London (1815–23). In 1818 he took up Logier’s newly invented Chiroplast, simplified it, and applied it practically. He returned to Paris in 1824, becoming a partner in the Pleyel piano factory (the future Mme. Camilla Pleyel was one of his pupils). He continued to tour as a virtuoso, acquiring great renown until ill health compelled him to curtail his travels in 1835. During the last years of his life, he made only sporadic appearances as a pianist. Kalkbrenner was inordinately vain of the success of his method of teaching, which aimed at the independent development of the fingers and wrist; his practical method of octave playing became a standard of piano teaching. He also developed left-hand technique, and a proper management of the pedals. As for his playing, his technique was smooth and well-rounded, his fingers supple and of equal strength, and his tone full and rich; his style, while fluent and graceful, lacked emotional power. His numerous etudes (among them several for left hand alone) are interesting and valuable. Chopin took some advice from him in Paris, but did not become his pupil, despite Kalkbrennens urging. His most distinguished students were Halle and Thalberg. He publ. the didactic works Méthode pour apprendre le pianoforte à l’aide du guide-mains ((1830) and Traité d’harmonie du pianiste ((1849).


4 piano concertos (1823, 1826, 1829, 1835); Concerto for 2 Pianos (1835); 13 piano sonatas (1807–45); many virtuoso pieces for Piano and Orch.; chamber music; numerous light pieces for Solo Piano.


L. Boivin, K ((Paris, 1840).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire