Alfred Cortot

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Alfred Cortot

Alfred Denis Cortot (Nyon, September 26, 1877 – Lausanne, June 15, 1962) was a Franco-Swiss pianist and conductor. He is considered one of the most popular musicians of the first half of the 20th century and one of the best pedagogues, renowned for his poetic understanding of the piano works of Romanticism, particularly those of Chopin and Schumann. His contributions to the dissemination of knowledge of authors such as Claude Debussy and Isaac Albéniz.

Alfred Cortot’s Biography

Alfred Cortot was born in Nyon in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, of a French father and a Swiss mother. At the age of five, he began to learn piano in Geneva. His progress is so bright that his family decides to settle down in Paris so that the young Alfred can continue his musical education. He enrolled in the prestigious Paris Conservatory at the age of nine years where he was a student for ten years. He studied with Emile Descombes (a famous student of Chopin). In 1896, he won a first prize in piano, in the class of Louis Diémer. Edouard Risler, repeater of Diémer, takes him to Bayreuth where Alfred Cortot was assistant and where he plays for Cosima, the daughter of Franz Liszt and wife of Richard Wagner. Since then he was passionate about Wagner.

He made his debut in the Colonne Concerts of 1897, playing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3. Between 1898 and 1901 he was a choir repeater, and then an assistant director at the Bayreuth Festival, and in 1902 he directed the first premiere in France (Paris) of The Twilight of the Wagner Gods. He formed a concert society to present Parsifal de Wagner, the Missa solemnis de Beethoven, A German Requiem by Brahms, the Légende de Sainte Elizabeth de Liszt, and other premieres by French composers.

In 1905, Cortot formed a trio with Jacques Thibaud and Pablo Casals, a trio of chamber music that quickly became one of the most important piano trios of their time, staying together until the start of World War II. . In addition to his career as an interpreter, Cortot embarks on a career as a teacher. In 1907 he was appointed professor of the Paris Conservatory (he taught until 1923), being an excellent pedagogue, as shown by the excellent students he had, such as Hélène Boschi, Samson François, Clara Haskil, Yvonne Lefebure, Dinu Lipatti, Vlado Perlemuter, Magda Tagliaferro, and even Marguerite Monnot (French composer of many of the best songs by Édith Piaf and the musical Irma la douce).

After a tour of the United States in 1918, he founded in 1919, with Auguste Mangeot (director of the musical Le Monde magazine), the École Normale de Musique de Paris which has since its name. His music interpretation courses were legendary. He did many tours as a pianist, he also appeared as guest conductor of many orchestras.


During the Second World War, it was “& nbsp; Haut-Commissaire aux Beaux-Arts” of the Vichy government, member of the “Conseil National”, declared supporter of the collaboration. In 1942, he was one of the few French pianists to play in Berlin, in full occupation. These facts will bring him enough problems after the Liberation but since 1946, he resumes his concert activity.

Alfred Cortot gives his last public concert at the Prades Festival in the company of Pablo Casals in 1958.

In Japan, a coastal island is named after Cortot, testimony to the deep admiration that the French pianist arouses throughout the world.

The almost 10,000 works and scores recorded from his hand including his music library were bought back and preserved in the “Médiathèque Musicale Mahler” in Paris. But a part of the manuscripts by Alfred Cortot s’était porté acquéreur have been dispersed in some of the largest public libraries in the world.

More Facts about Alfred Cortot

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