Wanda Landowska

Wanda Landowska

Wanda Landowska

Wanda Landowska was born in Poland in 1879. She started playing the piano when she was four. One of her early teachers was Michalowski who had been a student of Karl Mikuli, one of Chopin’s main students. She studied at the Warsaw Conservatory for a few years.

At an early age, she heard someone playing the music of Rameau, a French baroque composer, and she fell in love with baroque music. She already was a keen admirer of Bach, and this early interest was to continue for the rest of her life.

At 16, she went to Berlin to study piano and composition at the Hochschule fur Musik. She found the training there to be boring and soon left to marry Henry Lew, a Polish musicologist who encouraged her to delve deeper into her interest in early music.

They settled in Paris where she became involved with the Schola Cantorum, a school devoted to the study of Bach and other early composers, mostly choral. She taught piano there from 1900-1912. While there she met Albert Schweitzer, Erik Satie, and many other musicians.

She began to go to museums to look at harpsichords, and after a lot of study, had one made for her by the piano maker Pleyel. While she continued to play the piano, her focus centered more and more on the harpsichord. She began touring as a harpsichordist, and by 1912 she had returned to Berlin to teach harpsichord at the Hochschule she had left twelve years earlier. She remained there until 1919, when she returned to Paris. Her husband died in a car accident right before they were to return to Paris.

She founded a school for early music near Paris in 1925 and taught there until 1940 when she fled the country.

In 1926 Stokowski invited her to come to the US to tour.

She arrived in New York on Pearl Harbor day and lived in the US for the rest of her life. She died in 1959.

Her concerts, teaching, many recordings and books played a huge role in the revival of the harpsichord from a museum instrument to the...