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Music: Durable Pianist

2 minute read

In the 1870s, when pianists had long hair and belabored the keyboard thunderously in the “grand manner,” many of the world’s promising pianists were still taking lessons from long-haired Composer-Pianist Franz Liszt. Of Liszt’s pupils today, only a few white-haired oldsters survive. Of these survivors only one can still draw a crowd to a concert hall; a stocky, orange-whiskered veteran named Moriz Rosenthal.

On Nov. 13, 1888 Pianist Rosenthal, 25 and mopheaded, sat down to a piano in Manhattan’s old Steinway Hall, crashed and rippled through Liszt’s finger-punishing Don Juan Fantasia. Manhattan concertgoers, most of whom had never heard of him, gaped in awe at his flying fingertips. Next day the sedate critic of Manhattan’s New York Tribune wrote: “It was a question whether an audience composed of discriminating music lovers in this city has ever been stirred to such a pitch of excitement.”

Last week old Pianist Rosenthal, 75, celebrated the soth anniversary of this first U. S. appearance. On the exact date of the former concert, November 13, Oldster Rosenthal prowled up to a special gold-lacquered piano in Carnegie Hall, bowed curtly before a tornado of applause, then pounced upon the opening measures of Weber’s Sonata op. 39. Concertgoers who had long marveled at Pianist Rosenthal’s strength, speed and musical under-standing now marveled at his endurance. Many a great virtuoso of the keyboard has bitten the dust since 1888. But lion-jawed Moriz Rosenthal could still teach tricks to pianists half his age, still held his place among the world’s top pianists.

At 75 Moriz Rosenthal boasts that he can tear a pack of cards in half, break an iron horseshoe with his bare hands, snap a taut piano string with one blow of his index finger, lift a 200-lb. weight over his head. Long a student of jujitsu, he took up boxing in his 60s, has trained for several months under the guidance of Welsh Heavyweight Tommy Farr.

Twitted about his age, lusty, muscular Moriz Rosenthal replies: “A man is young if a lady can make him happy or unhappy. He enters middle age when a lady can make him happy, but no longer unhappy. He is old and gone if a lady can make him neither happy nor unhappy. Well, I am still a young man.”

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