Text Box: PIANIST autographs
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NEAR MINT CONDITION

           ELIE ROBERT SCHMITZ - PIANIST

Autographed and inscribed chocolate toned photograph of the important piano virtuoso and music impresario, September 23, 1923.

Schmitz (1889-1949) was one of the most important advocates for contemporary classical music in France and later America, from the early 1910’s until his death.  He trained with Louis Diemer at the Paris Conservatoire.  He was given an opportunity to leave the Conservatoire in 1908 and accompany Leo Slezak, Emma Eames and Maggie Teyte as their recital accompanist in 1908 for two years. While accompanying Maggie Teyte, Schmitz coached her with the composer for the role of Melisande in Debussy’s opera, “Pelleas et Melisande”.  He finished his final year at the Conservatoire in 1910 earning a first in pianoforte.  He spent time with his friend Claude Debussy between 1908 and 1915 studying his solo piano works, which were always under his fingers and he performed them frequently and recorded many of the works as well.  Later after Debussy’s early death, Schmitz would publish the complete solo works in one volume imparting the advice the composer gave to him.  He met his future wife Germaine in 1911 and they formed the Association Musicale Moderne et Artistique, a produced concert series made of solo performances, chamber and choral music.  Eventually, they included a full orchestra with a 150 member chorus and renamed the series, Association de Concerts Schmitz.  Numerous world premieres and mostly modern works were presented along with baroque music which was de rigeuer at the time.  The series ended in 1914 due to the entrance of France into World War I.  Meanwhile, Schmitz career as a touring virtuoso was in full swing as well, in addition to his recitals in France, he toured Belgium and The Netherlands for three months in 1912.

The pianist was drafted in 1914 and sent to the front where he was a captain of an anti-aircraft battalion and a hero taking both bullets and munition shrapnel during the War, including his hand.  In the foxholes, he found that he was billeted with writers, scientists, engineers and other intellects and he waxed philosophically with them. Eventually, those conversations evolved into a piano method which he published in 1935 and entitled the book, The Capture of Inspiration.  In 1936 it was declared by the New York Times Book Review to be one of the 50 best books of the year.

At the conclusion to the War, Schmitz and his wife Germaine moved to the United States, setting up a piano school in New York City. With their vast “rolodex” in 1920, the pair began The Franco American Music Society, their next generation of Concerts Schmitz, which eventually was renamed The Pro Musica Society and also published a quarterly journal on new music.  Through the auspices of the organization, they presented a large number of concerts or modern classical music and brought many of Europe’s important musicians to America  for the first time including; Bela Bartok, Maurice Ravel, and Ottorino Respighi.  They also sponsored concerts and lectures by some of the most important composers and musicians of the day including; Simon Barrers, Sir Arthur Bliss, Nadia Boulanger,  Alfredo Casella, Paul Hindemith, Arthur Honegger, Charles Ives, Zoltan Kodaly, Darius Milhaud, The Pro Arte Quartet, Serge Prokofiev, Albert Roussel, Carlos Salzedo, Arnold Schoenberg, Igor Stravinsky, Germaine Tailleferre, Alexandre Tansman, Ernst Toch and Alexandre Tchnerepnin among others.  Various chapters were set up around the country and the musicians would go on national tours under the auspices of The Pro Musica Society. Robert Schmitz would also take solo recital tours under the auspices of his society as well.  The next logical step was to send American composers to Europe, so they opened a Paris Branch of the Society and sent, Marion Bauer, Charles Tomlinson Griffes, and Louis Gruenberg to Europe for performance and also tenor Roland Hayes to Moscow and Leningrad. 

In 1923, the pianist met Charles Ives and became a great supporter of his work and in return, Ives used Schmitz as a sounding board for new works.  They also had an interest in quarter tone pianos and Schmitz arranged for the first performances of his Chorale under the Pro Musica banner (which Schmitz did the pre-concert lecture.), the Celestial Railroad and Schmitz performed the premiere of his Largo and Allegro music for Two Quarter Tone Pianos.  

In all, Schmitz with his Pro Musica chapters ended up also setting up music schools to go with them and he created 30 different music schools.  Eventually, he and his family moved to San Francisco and started his own school.  Shmitz continued to tour around the US and composers and several composers wrote works for him including, Marion Bauer, Lazare Saminsky, Leo Sowerby and Edgard Varese.   

He advised pianist Grant Johannesen, a pupil of Schmitz Paris pupil, Mabel Borg-Jenkins.  Johannesen was interviewed for the book, French Pianism, A Historical Perspective, where he told author Charles Timbrell, Schmitz’s approach was very intellectual, and he was very preoccupied with the physiology of piano playing…..he developed a system of abbreviations that clearly identified which muscles should be used for which passages, how the arm and wrist should move, and so on…..Schmitz was more modern in his thinking.  In fact his method has nothing to do with the so-called French School.  His basic concept was that the long fingers should always be on the black notes.  He devised new fingerings for all the scales….Schmitz was a very interesting man, though a rather quirky performer.  Schmitz himself stated, I suppose (my method) can be called a “French Method” because I am French and have born with me every Frenchman’s natural admiration for clarity of design, precision and logical exactness…….I may sayt that the French love for exactness differs from the German, in that it is less massively concrete, and more logical, clearer and easier to understand.

He gave annual concerts at Carnegie Hall, the final recital was on March 1, 1949 six months before his death.  The recital was all French composers and quite long, including works by Debussy, Fauré, Messaien, Milhaud, Poulenc, Ravel, Roussel and Satie, all composers he had known in life, most were close friends.  The New York Times critic wrote,  The pianist has a facile technique and a tone of individual quality. That tone is sometimes cold and clear, but it can be used to a fine musical effect….yet because of the fluidity of his technique it’s unusual rhythms made their mark…. Schmitz’s statement about his technique held true in concert.

Schmitz also was a prolific recording artist, his Edison discs are prized by collectors.

A rare pianist autograph and a man who made his mark both in France and the United States in the promotion of modern classical music of his time.