Sunday, October 7, 2012

Hubert Leonard

Hubert Leonard was a Belgian violinist, teacher, and composer born (in Bellaire) on April 7, 1819.  He is mostly remembered for having taught – for almost 20 years - at the Brussels Conservatory where Charles De Beriot, between 1843 and 1852, had also taught.  Leonard later settled in Paris where he continued to teach privately.  Among his most celebrated students were Henry Schradieck and Martin Marsick.  As a child, he began his studies with his father and even gave a public concert before entering  the Brussels Conservatory in 1832, at age 12.  From age 9, he had also been studying privately with an obscure teacher surnamed Rouma - this is probably one and the same as Francois Prume, another Belgian violinist who at age 17 (1832) was already professor of violin at the Liege Conservatory and who was only 3 years older than Leonard.  Leonard enrolled in the Paris Conservatory in 1836 where his principal teacher was Francois Habeneck.  He was 17 years old.  Funding for his studies came from a wealthy merchant.  He left the conservatory in 1839 but stayed in Paris where he was employed by the orchestras of the Variety Theatre and the Opera Comique.  He toured through various European cities from 1844 to 1848.  A single source gives a different date for this event in Leonard’s life (1845.)  In Leipzig, he met Mendelssohn who briefly tutored him in composition.  Leonard also learned Mendelssohn’s concerto and played it on tour.  The concerto had just then recently been premiered in 1845 by Ferdinand David but Leonard was the first to play it in Berlin with Mendelssohn on the podium.  Leonard began teaching at the Brussels Conservatory in 1848 (Grove’s Dictionary says 1847), at age 29, but continued to tour sporadically, extending his tours as far as Norway and Russia.  After quitting the conservatory in Brussels in 1866, he again settled in Paris, where he spent the next 24 years.  Leonard’s compositions include five (or six) violin concertos, duos for violin and piano, a cadenza for the Beethoven concerto, fantasias, salon pieces, and etude books for violin, including a book entitled 24 classic etudes.  I am not certain but I’m pretty sure the concertos have never been recorded.  Supposedly, Leonard once said “The bow is the master, the fingers of the left hand are but his servants.”  Leonard died in Paris on May 6, 1890, at age 71.  He had owned a G.B. Guadagnini (1751), an Andrea Guarneri (1665), and two Magginis, one of which went to his widow, who sold it in 1891.  

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