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Alfred Kitchin (1910-2003)

 

 

The release of Alfred Kitchin's Pathétique on Plymouth P-12-16 coupled with Alexander Jenner's Moonlight Sonata.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alfred Kitchin performing two Schubert Sonatas on Thorofon CD CTH2062.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alfred Kitchin with Miniatures by Schubert on Thorofon CD CTH2011.

 

 

 

 

 

Alfred Kitchin playing Little Pieces of Great Masters (Kleine Stücke grosser Meister) on a 7" Amadeo/Vanguard disc from the nineteen fifties.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

It 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 though Kitchin recorded short pieces by Bartók, Casella and Kodály, his preferred music remained that of Franz Schubert, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven.

Alfred Kitchin 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.
A 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.

Of 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.

When 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 in just one take!

 

Alfred Kitchin on Remington:

Remington R-199-6 - Beethoven ; Sonata Op. 13 in C minor "Pathétique" and Op. 57 in F minor "Appassionata" (released in Spring of 1951)

Remington R-149-4 - Mozart: Allegro from C Major Sonata - coupled with Felicitas Karrer (Schubert), Alexander Jenner (Chopin), and Jörg Demus (Bach)

Remington 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 released on the Plymouth label)

On Gabor's Plymouth label the same recordings were issued:

Plymouth P-12-16: Alfred Kitchin's Pathétique (Beethoven) but now coupled with Alexander Jenner's Moonlight Sonata (Beethoven)

Plymouth 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)

More 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 grosser Meister):
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.)

Alfred Kitchin died at age 93 on December 12, 2003.

Rudolf A. Bruil, July, 2007 - This page will be extended and updated.

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