Wanda Landowska  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Wanda Landowska (July 5, 1879August 16, 1959), was a Polish (later a naturalized French citizen) harpsichordist whose performances, teaching, recordings and writings played a large role in reviving the popularity of that instrument in the early 20th century. She was the first person to record Bach's Goldberg Variations on the harpsichord (1931). Landowska is easily recognized for her beautiful profile, with aquiline nose, as she was often photographed while playing.

Landowska was born in Warsaw, where her father was a lawyer, and her mother a linguist who translated Mark Twain into Polish. She began playing piano at the age of four, and studied at the Warsaw Conservatory with Jan Kleczynski and Alexander Michalowski. She also studied composition with Heinrich Urban in Berlin. After marrying the Polish folklorist Henry Lew in 1900 in Paris, she taught piano at the Schola Cantorum there (1900-1912).

She later taught harpsichord at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik (1912-1919). Deeply interested in musicology, and particularly in the works of Bach, Couperin and Rameau, she toured the museums of Europe looking at original keyboard instruments; she acquired old instruments and had new ones made at her request by Pleyel and Company. These were large, heavily-built harpsichords with a 16-foot stop (a set of strings an octave below normal pitch) and owed much to piano construction. They have largely fallen out of fashion in the past four decades, and have done much to harm the modern appreciation of Landowska's recordings.

Responding to criticism by another performer, she once said "You play Bach your way, and I'll play him his way"

A number of important new works were written for her: Manuel de Falla's El retablo de maese Pedro marked the return of the harpsichord to the modern orchestra. Falla later wrote a harpsichord concerto for her, and Francis Poulenc composed his Concert champêtre for her.

She established the École de Musique Ancienne at Paris in 1925: from 1927, her home in Saint-Leu-la-Forêt became a center for the performance and study of old music. When Germany invaded France, the Jewish Landowska escaped with her assistant and companion Denise Restout, leaving Saint-Leu in 1940, sojourning in southern France, and finally sailing from Lisbon to the United States. She arrived in New York on December 7, 1941. The house in Saint-Leu was looted, and her instruments and manuscripts stolen, so she arrived in the United States essentially without assets. She settled in Lakeville, Connecticut in 1949 and re-established herself as a performer and teacher in the United States, touring extensively. Her life companion Denise Restout was editor and translator of her writings on music, including Musique ancienne, and Landowska on Music.





Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Wanda Landowska" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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