Georges Mathias (1826-1910)
Georges Mathias (1826-1910)

In 1878 Hanon’s complete works were awarded the silver medal at the Universal Exposition in Paris. By the same year, The Virtuoso Pianist had been formally adopted for use at the Paris Conservatoire and Royal Conservatoire of Brussels. In letters reprinted in the front matter of the 1878 edition, three of the most famous professors at the Paris Conservatoire in the late 19th century endorsed Hanon’s exercises: Antonin Marmontel, Félix Le Couppey and Georges Mathias, a student of Chopin.

Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)
Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)

In 1917 Sergei Rachmaninoff wrote of the fundamental place that Hanon’s studies occupied in Russia by at least 1891, the year in which he graduated from the Moscow Conservatory:

 
It may be interesting to hear something of the general plan followed in the Imperial music schools of Russia. The course is nine years in duration. During the first five years the student gets most of his technical instruction from a book of studies by Hanon, which is used very extensively in the conservatories. In fact this is practically the only book of strictly technical studies employed…
At the end of the fifth year an examination takes place…if the pupil fails to pass the technical examination he is not permitted to go ahead. He knows the exercises in the book of studies by Hanon so well that he knows each study by number, and the examiner may ask him, for instance, to play study 17, or 28, or 32, etc. The student at once sits at the keyboard and plays.(8)

Paris Conservatoire, 19th-century
Paris Conservatoire, 19th-century

Thus, only a few years after its first printing, The Virtuoso Pianist was in use at major conservatoires in Paris and Moscow, as well as in music schools in many other European cities. And in 1900, the famous Schirmer edition was published in New York, making the work available to pianists in the United States. Since then, literally thousands of reprints and transcriptions of the exercises have been published in dozens of languages.

 

 

(8) James Francis Cooke, Great Pianists on Piano Playing

(Theodore Presser: Philadelphia, 1917), 210–211.

 

 

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This article is reproduced with permission from the authors.


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