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The Lost Art of Jacob Lateiner

Jacob Lateiner (piano)

Jacob Lateiner was one of the great pianists of the 20th century. This set of two of his live recitals is intended to justify that statement to music lovers not familiar with his playing.

Jacob Lateiner was born in Havana, Cuba in 1928 of Polish parents. He made his debut at age 10 playing Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto with the Havana Philharmonic under the direction of Ernesto Lecuona. Two years later his parents moved to the United States so that Jacob and his violinist brother Isidor could study at the Curtis Institute of Music.

As teenagers, both Jacob and Isidor made their debuts with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy, Jacob playing the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 when he was 16. Two years later he performed Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto at Tanglewood with Koussevitzky conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra, to great acclaim.

Jacob Lateiner made his recording debut at 21, a performance of Beethoven’s Sonata, Op. 111, for Columbia. In the 1950s, after taking a year off from his career for general music studies with Arnold Schoenberg, he performed and toured widely throughout the United States, Europe, and Australia, including two performances with the New York Philharmonic. During this decade he also began his teaching career, at the Mannes College of Music.

In the 1960s, Lateiner became part of the Heifetz-Piatigorsky Chamber Music Concerts series, including making five recordings with the ensemble (one of which, Beethoven’s Trio No. 1, won a Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music Recording). He also began his long association with the Juilliard School of Music, where he was one of the leading piano teachers almost until the end of his life.

During the 1950s, Lateiner made four LPs for the Westminster label: discs of Beethoven Piano Sonatas and Brahms Variations, and the Beethoven “Emperor” and Tchaikovsky First Piano Concertos. In the 1960s, as a result of the association with Heifetz, he made two solo discs of Beethoven piano works for RCA Victor. Long a champion of contemporary music, Lateiner commissioned and premiered the Piano Concerto of Elliot Carter, which won the Pulitzer Prize in Music. The premiere performance, with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Erich Leinsdorf, was also recorded and issued by RCA Victor.

Although Lateiner’s performing career continued well into the 1990s, he made no commercial recordings after the 1967 Carter Concerto. At his death on December 12, 2010, he was all but forgotten as a pianist. As a teacher, however, he remained prominent, giving master classes throughout Europe and in Israel, Japan, and China in addition to his activities at Juilliard.

“The Lost Art of Jacob Lateiner” is an attempt to restore his reputation as a pianist. Known as a profound interpreter of Beethoven –an aspect well illustrated in the set–he was also an amazing virtuoso. His playing of the Prokofiev “Toccata” in the 1964 recital on Disc 1 is a superlative example of his power and facility. (At his teacher’s suggestion, he had used this work in his early career as an audition piece for conductors, with great success.) The Brahms “Variations on a Theme of Paganini” in the 1977 recital on Disc 2 demonstrates both Lateiner’s virtuosity and his musicianship. Throughout both discs we are able to hear one of the century’s great pianists at the top of his form.

“The Lost Art of Jacob Lateiner” is offered for the price of a single disc, thanks to support from some of his friends and students.


His performance of Berg’s Op.1 is an ear opener. It’s full of control and clarity but whilst not untrue to the idiom suggests a slightly warmer, late Romantic expression that other pianists tend to elide, or gloss...This recital is of consistently elevated merit. - MusicWeb International

Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 1 in F minor, Op. 2 No. 1
Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 18 in E flat major, Op. 31 No. 3 'The Hunt'
Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111
Berg: Piano Sonata, Op. 1
Brahms: Variations on a theme by Paganini in A minor, Op. 35
Chopin: Impromptu No. 4 in C sharp minor, Op. 66 'Fantaisie-Impromptu'
Chopin: Mazurkas (4), Op. 33
Chopin: Polonaise No. 6 in A flat major, Op. 53 'Héroïque'
Chopin: Prelude Op. 28 No. 21 in B flat major
Chopin: Prelude Op. 28 No. 22 in G minor
Chopin: Prelude Op. 28 No. 23 in F major
Chopin: Prelude Op. 28 No. 24 in D minor
Mendelssohn: Scherzo in E minor, Op. 16 No. 2
Prokofiev: Toccata in D minor, Op. 11

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