A Citizen of the World, The Venezuelan Pianist, Teresa Carreño by Clara Rodriguez

518tBu2ogTL._SS135_SL160_Clara Rodriguez has recorded a CD containing fifteen of works by Teresa Carreño for Nimbus Records NI 6103 which has been internationally praised by reviewers and is often played on radio networks including the BBC stations. The critic Jeremy Nicholas from Gramophone Magazine wrote:

“This music needs an empathetic spirit to show it to its best advantage and Clara Rodriguez provides performances of alluring vivacity allied to that most essential of requisites-CHARM.”
Highly recommended” https://www.gramophone.co.uk/review/clara-rodriguez-plays-teresa-carre%C3%B1o
Clara Rodriguez is also working on an edition of Fifteen Piano Works by Teresa Carreño that will shortly be available from Spartan Press.

This year Clara Rodriguez will be playing a number of concerts in memory of the Venezuelan pianist Teresa Carreño (Caracas December 22, 1853 – New York June 12, 1917) who was also a Singer and a Composer and who was variously described throughout her life as “Liszt in petticoats”, “The Empress of the piano”, “The Valkyrie of the piano”

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Teresa Carreño was one of the most accomplished pianists of the nineteenth and twentieth century, giving performances and concerts all over the world. She composed, since the age of 6 a total of 70 works for the piano; many of them were published in Europe and in the USA during her lifetime.
She represented the third generation of child prodigies that had held the position of “meritorious musicians” from at least 6 years of age in the Cathedral of Caracas as singer-soloists, organists and string players and was the first musician of her family to gain recognition outside Venezuela from her  highly acclaimed debut at 8 years of age, at the “Irving Hall”, New York, on November 25, 1862. She was the third of five children of Manuel Antonio Carreño (born June 17, 1813), mainly known as lawyer and minister of finance in Venezuela, who wrote an influential and widespread Manual of urbanity and good manners in 1853, Manuel Antonio was a trained musician too and wrote 500 exercises for his daughter that she played regularly in all keys, achieving great technical ease from an early age. He also taught her harmony and composition.

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Teresa Carreño’s mother was Clorinda García de Sena y Toro a relative of Simon Bolívar’s wife and her great-grand uncle was Simón Rodríguez who exerted great influence on Simón Bolívar and his quest to liberate South America.
Seeing Teresa Carreño’s musical abilities and feeling that her future should transcend in bigger circles, Gertrudis, her enterprising grandmother, sold her properties in Venezuela and in 1862 the family moved to New York.
It was during this time that she was heard by Louis Moreau Gottschalk, who was very impressed by her playing style and volunteered to give her lessons, Teresita showed throughout her life great respect and admiration for the pianist.

5.Teresa Carreño. La Habana 1864Teresa Carreño. La Habana 1864

The following year, in 1863, she performed in Boston, and then travelled to Cuba with her family. Later in the same year an invitation came from the White House to play for President Abraham Lincoln and his family – she found that the piano was “out-of-tune” but that it had been a “fun” afternoon. She also felt really proud to have her first composition titled “Gottschalk Waltz” published which sold many copies in a short time.

6.Teresa Carreño-niña. Boston 1863Teresa Carreño. Boston. USA. 1863

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Teresa and her family left for Europe in March, 1866 in a terribly difficult voyage over rough seas and on an occasion having to change vessels. When they finally reached England they remained there for a brief time to then travel to Paris where they settled. In the French capital she was made to feel welcome by the greatest artists playing in all the most prestigious salons and concert halls. Madame Erard and Rossini made sure she had the best opportunities to meet the most admired musicians of the time such as Franz Liszt who came to the salon accompanied by the young Camille Saint-Saëns, and after hearing the child and putting his hands on her head, said: “You have a God’s sent gift: Genius. Work hard, develop your talent, be true to yourself and in time you will be one of us” He offered to teach her in Rome but this was not possible to organize by her father. During her time in Paris, she also played for Berlioz, won the admiration of Gounod and had a lasting friendship with Blandine Ollivier, one of Liszt’s daughters.

In 1866, Teresa lost her mother who became a victim of cholera. At this time she wrote six elegies and played concerts wearing black. The critics said that every note she played was like a tear of sadness for her loss. She then travelled to Spain with her father and played concerts in Madrid and Zaragoza.
A large body of her work was published in Paris during the 1860s and 1870s by Heugel who was another admirer of her talent. The great teacher Georges Mathias, pupil of Chopin’s, volunteered to teach the girl giving her very important secrets of the art of piano playing.

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Teresa Carreño went to England where Charles Hallé introduced her to the Princess of Wales playing also in the Queen’s Concert Rooms of Hanover Square where Anton Rubinstein came to hear her; from then on he became her mentor and teacher. He used to call her “My Sunshine” and “Bebé”.
In London she also played long seasons in the Covent Garden Theatre conducted by Arthur Sullivan.

At the age of twenty Teresa Carreño married the French violinist Émile Sauret (1852 –1920). In 1874 they had a daughter, Emilita, who with much sadness and regret was given in adoption in England; her husband had abandoned her and she could not offer any security to the baby. Her father, Manuel Antonio, died in Paris in August of the same year. The newspaper Le Ménestrel said that he had been one of the most sought after piano teachers of France.

She moved to the USA and went on indefatigably touring during the 70s and 80s but she wished for a change and started to pursue a career as an opera singer, debuting in New York, in 1876, as Zerlina, in Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Her switch over to opera was brief and successful. During this time she married her second husband, Giovanni Tagliapietra, an Italian-born baritone who drank too much and was jealous of his wife’s talent. They had two children—Teresita and Giovanni; Teresita became a famous pianist later in her life. During these years she became acquainted with Edward MacDowell. She championed his music in the USA and in Europe. MacDowell dedicated his Second Piano Concerto to her. She made a point of playing this concerto even if it was not favoured by many of the conductors or critics of the time!

In 1885 and in 1886, Teresa visited her birthplace, Venezuela. There she performed in concerts and also composed a hymn in tribute to Simón Bolívar.
She also managed an opera company and conducted the orchestra, in occasions singing as well. Les Huguenots, Carmen, Rigoletto and Norma were favourites.

Teresa returned to Europe and started to perform the piano again in 1889, giving a new boost to her music career. She spent a summer in Paris and with money lent by her USA friends she could moved to Berlin where she settled, she had been dreaming of finding a public and a country that understood and loved classical music. Teresa gave her first performance with the Berlin Philharmonic, playing Grieg’s Piano Concerto receiving much praise from the composer himself, “Madam I never knew that my music was so beautiful” He also conducted her in different occasions.
Between 1892 and 1895 she was married to pianist Eugen d’Albert, and together they had two daughters, Eugenia and Hertha.

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In Germany, women were not treated as equals and although Carreño gave ample support to her husband by playing his compositions wherever she went and being present in his most important concerts he did not return her kindness; two great pianists together under one roof did not make for a happy home.

There was room in the press for some humour though:
“Yesterday Frau Carreño played for the first time the second concerto by her third husband during the fourth Philharmonic concert”

Teresa’s explosive temperament next to d’Albert’s sarcasm resulted  in a third divorce for Carreño; He tried every trick possible to avoid his responsabilities towards the maintenance to their daughters, even trying to have her locked-up in a mental institution.

In a bitter moment she would tell a friend: “One can never marry too late or divorce too soon!”

She turned to composition for solace and during her summer holidays, wrote a string quartet and a serenade.

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Teresa Carreño started teaching the piano and was much loved by her Berlin students, her Berlin sons and daughters, writing also a book on pedalling technique.

She also continued to perform with many major European orchestras. Her repertoire was very impressive and included the Beethoven Concertos and Sonatas, Schumann Fantasy and Etudes Symphoniques, Chopin Concertos, Ballades and Scherzi, and also her own opera transcriptions and waltzes.

In 1902, she took the decision to marry Arturo Tagliapietra, her second husband’s brother; and travelled to South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
She ignored her optitian’s warnings that she should stop playing and take a rest. In a trip to Cuba she suffered an eye haemorrhage and died on the 12th of June 1917 in her New York home. Her ashes were later repatriated to Venezuela and are kept at the Panteón Nacional in Caracas.

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She performed several times at the Henry Wood’s promenade concerts. He wrote in his memoires: “It is difficult to express adequately what all musicians felt about this great woman who looked like a queen among pianists – and played like a goddess. The instant she walked onto the platform her steady dignity held her audience who watched with riveted attention while she arranged the long train she habitually wore. Her masculine vigour of tone and touch and her marvellous precision on executing octave passages carried everyone completely away.”

Pianist Claudio Arrau recalled the joy of once hearing her performance by exclaiming, “Oh! She was a goddess!”

Brahms on Carreño: “You are not a lady pianist you are a MAN pianist”

@Clara Rodriguez

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