Cortot, Alfred (Denis)
Cortot, Alfred (Denis)
Cortot, Alfred (Denis) , famous French pianist, conductor, and teacher; b. Nyon, Switzerland (of a French father and a Swiss mother), Sept. 26, 1877; d. Lausanne, June 15, 1962. He was a pupil at the Paris Cons., and studied with Decambes, Rouquou, and Diemer; he won the first prize for piano in 1896; the same year he made his debut in Paris, playing Beethoven’s C-minor Concerto at one of the Colonne concerts, and won signal success; he went to Bayreuth (1898) and studied Wagner’s works with J. Kniese, and acted as repetiteur at the festivals from 1898 to 1901. Returning to Paris, he began a most active propaganda for the works of Wagner; on May 17, 1902, he conducted the French premiere of Gotterdammerung at the Theatre du Chateau d’Eau, and in the same year established the Association des Concerts A. Cortot, which he directed for two years, educating the public to an appreciation of Wagner; in 1904 he became conductor of the orch. concerts of the Societe Nationale and of the Concerts Populaires at Lille (until 1908). In 1905, together with Jacques Thibaud (violin) and Pablo Casals (cello), he formed a trio, which soon gained a great European reputation, and which continued to perform until 1937. From 1907 to 1918 he was a prof. of piano at the Paris Cons. With A. Mangeot, he founded the Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris in 1919, and subsequently served as its director. Cortot toured widely as a soloist and recitalist in Europe and the U.S. until the outbreak of World War II. During the German occupation of France, he was a highly visible artist and was associated with the cultural policies of the Vichy regime. After the liberation, he was compelled to make an accounting of his activities, but was soon allowed to resume his concert career. He subsequently gave numerous concerts until his farewell appearance at the Prades Festival in 1958. He was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Phil. Soc. of London in 1923 and was made a Commandeur de la Legion d’Honneur of France in 1934. Among his outstanding pupils were Haskil, Solomon, Bachauer, and Lipatti. Although Cortot was technically a highly wayward pianist, he succeeded in infusing his readings of the Romantic repertory with a rare insight and poetic patina.
Principes rationnels de la technique pianistique (French and Eng., Paris, 1928; American ed., Boston, 1930); La Musique frangaise de piano (vol. I, 1930; Eng. tr., 1932; vol. II, 1932); Cours -interpretation (vol. I, Paris, 1934; Eng. tr., 1937); Aspects de Chopin (Paris, 1949; Eng. tr., 1951).
B. Gavoty, A. C (Paris, 1977); T. Manshardt, Aspects ofC. (Hexham, 1994).
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire