Pianist Walter Hautzig passed away peacefully at his home of more than 40 years in Manhattan on January 30, 2017.
As many of you know, he was a great friend to Americus, having made 8 recordings for our label. More importantly, he was a first rate human being—truly a mensch.
He was preceded in death by his loving wife, acclaimed author, Esther Rudomin Hautzig. He is survived by son David (who took the photo that appears here), daughter and author Deborah, and grandchildren, Molly, Jerry and Sam. Molly made a wonderful video about her granfather in 2012, while she was still in high school.
Walter was born in Vienna, Austria on September 28, 29121, where he began his piano studies. He was getting ready for his debut when the Nazis annexed Austria on March 12, 1938. The piece he was preparing was Chopin’s Ballade in G Minor. Of course his debut never took place.
At the same time violinist Emil Hauser, a founding member of the Budapest String Quartet, had a number of exit visas for students he would bring to Jerusalem in what was then known as Palestine. Walter managed to play for Mr. Hauser and was granted one of the visas. So at age 16 he left his family and immigrated to Palestine, where he continued his studies at the Jerusalem Conservatory (later the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance).
In 1940 he left Palestine for America. He was accepted into the piano program at the Curtis Institute of Music, where his primary teacher was Miezcyslaw Munz. He also studied privately with legendary pianist Artur Schnabel. He became an American citizen in 1945.
Walter taught at the Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland from 1960 to1988. He also taught many, many students privately, giving his last lesson just weeks before he died.
His concert tours took him to over 50 countries around the world, where he played with famous orchestras such as the Berlin Philharmonic, and ones not so famous such as the Baylor School in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
For many years he held an annual masterclass at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina organized by first by Eugene Barban, professor emeritus, and subsequently by Professor Matthew Manwarren. His last was just a few years before his death.
In 1979, he was the first American pianist to play in the People’s Republic of China after relations were normalized with that country. Hundreds of millions of Chinese heard his performance over the radio.
Walter leaves a legacy of recordings not only for Americus but also other labels. He also leaves a legacy of people who studied with. Here is but a partial listing: Martin Berkofsky, Dr. Lynn Rice-See, Dr. Andrew Cooperstock, Ruth Rose, Linda Montesa, Thomas Schow, Judith Barban and Allen Kindt.
He also wrote an autobiography entitled “Playing Around... the World: A Pianist Remembers,” which contains his life story and many wonderful anecdotes. And Dr. Lynn Rice-See memorialized his piano teachings in: “Piano Teaching of Walter Hautzig, with 613 Examples from Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, and Chopin.”
Perhaps most important, he leaves a legacy of all the lives this wonderful, warm, giving man touched.
He will be sorely missed but ever so fondly remembered.