Alfred Kitchin was a man of principle. He not only
showed this by his demonstrative leaving Nazi Germany when the statue
of Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy had been torn down. But also in his
very personal style of piano playing from which he would not deviate.
is reported that pianist Robert Teichmüller studied with
Johannes Brahms. Teichmüller lived from 1863 till 1939.
He was an authority and somewhat authoritarian too. It is this pedagogue
with whom Alfred Kitchin studied in Leipzig. One of Teichmüller's
publications was "International Modern Piano Music" (1927)
and undoubtedly he may have introduced young Alfred to the music of
Béla Bartók and many more contemporary composers of
the era. And although Kitchin recorded short pieces by Bartók,
Casella and Kodály, his preferred music remained that of Franz
Schubert, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven.
was born on January 23, 1910, in England, in the years which forebode
the turbulence of the First World War. After the disaster, the Kitchin
family moved to Switzerland, that was in 1923 to be precise. After
studying in Switzerland for several years, it became apparent that
his talent asked for a higher level of instruction. That is when he
went to study in Leipzig with Teichmüller.
few years later Kitchin went to live in Vienna. When
asked by Marcel Prawy to make recordings for the Remington label,
in early 1950, Alfred Kitchin had already made a name for himself
and had reached maturity as a performer, despite the fact that World
War Two had been an idle period as far as studying and concertizing
were concerned. In 1939 he had left Germany, Austria and Switzerland
far behind him and joined the British Army. After World War II he
had returned to Austria, to Vienna, to the musical culture he loved
so much. There he lived until 1961 when he was offered the post of
professor at Trinity College of Music, London.
He died on December 12, 2003 at the age of 93.
course Alfred Kitchin had several other teachers like Carl Steiner
and Paul Weingarten (a pupil of Emil von Sauer and of Robert
Fuchs) in Vienna, but Teichmüller must have had a significant
impact on Kitchin, laying down the fundament for his convictions.
Teichmüller advocated that especially the works of Brahms should
be played at a much slower pace than most pianists do, as Brahms himself
had told him. This rule may have been transposed somewhat to works
of other composers too.
listening to Alfred Kitchin's recording of Mozart's Fantasy
(Fantasie KV 457), one hears the slow tempo, the high level of concentration,
one hears pure, precise playing, well phrased and without extrovert
drama. Very much unlike what is the custom of today. And Mozart's
Sonata K 545 has a remarkable lightness and ease. Kitchin's music
making is exempt of emotion, yet has intimacy and one can imagine
that a live performance would give the audience plenty of time to
absorb the music in detail and be absorbed by it completely. However
when his Beethoven's Appassionata becomes teutonic, the execution
is lacking in technical precision, which is most certainly caused
by the pressure that, while recording the movements, they had to be
executed - if possible - in just one take!
Kitchin on Remington:
R-199-6 - Beethoven: Sonata Op. 13 in C minor "Pathétique"
and Op. 57 in F minor "Appassionata" (released in the Spring
R-149-4 - Mozart: Allegro from C Major Sonata - coupled with Felicitas
Karrer (Schubert), Alexander Jenner (Chopin), and Jörg Demus
R-149-22 - Mozart:
Fantasy K 457 & Sonata No. 15, K 545 (released in the Spring of
1951; but no longer listed in Remington's 1953 catalog and then released
on the Plymouth label)
Gabor's Plymouth label the same recordings were issued:
P-12-16: Alfred Kitchin's Pathétique (Beethoven) but now
coupled with Alexander Jenner's Moonlight Sonata (Beethoven)
P-12-48 - Beethoven: Sonata No. 23 Op. 57 in F minor "Appasionata",
Mozart: Fantasy K 475 and Sonata No. 15 in C major K 545 (dubbings
of the Remington recordings)
recordings were made later in his career. A rarity among these is
a 7 inch 45 rpm Amadeo/Vanguard disc on which Alfred Kitchin
plays "Little Pieces of Great Masters" (Kleine Stücke
César Franck (Les plaintes d'une poupée), Alfredo Casella
(Preludio, Carillon), Béla Bartók (Left Hand Study,
Old Hungarian Tune, Jeering Song, Andante tranquillo), and Zoltan
Kodaly (Children Dances No.1 and No. 4) - AVRS EP 15079. And there
are the Thorofon CDs. On CTH-2062 he plays Schubert's Sonatas D 568
and D960, and on CTH-2011 we find Miniatures by Schubert (Waltzes,
Ecossaises, Ländler, Deutsche Tänze/German Dances, etc.)
Kitchin died at age 93 on December 12, 2003.
A. Bruil, July, 2007 - This page will be extended and updated.