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George Martin Adolf von Henselt was reportedly one of the most gifted virtuoso players of the early Romantic era. Held by Robert Schumann to be the equal of Hummel and Liszt, he composed of a few pieces, including two piano concertos and some chamber music that has become popular in recordings.
His teachers were Hummel in Weimar for piano and Sechter in Vienna for music theory. He apparently was a perfectionist, practicing ten hours a day and playing on a silent keyboard when he traveled. In 1836, at the age of 22, he undertook a concert tour. It is said that in an early performance he forgot his place in one of his own compositions and never forgot the humiliation he felt. Whether or not this was the reason, he was practically paralyzed by stage fright when in concert situations. However, he was able to play in smaller groups or before friends, although even that made him nervous. He was said to have a technique that reconciled elements from the schools of Hummel and Liszt. From Hummel, he got a seamless legato and from Liszt the power to make rich sonorities. When he visited London in 1867, he played a private performance at the Broadwood piano establishment.
After his first concert tour, he visited Russia. After a concert there, he was made court pianist, teacher to the imperial children, and later, musical inspector of the imperial girls' schools. He remained in those positions for the rest of his life, rarely appearing in public. His compositions show some lyrical gift, considerable craftsmanship, and not much originality. Along with the two concertos, he is known for a piano trio, a duo for piano and horn, and some salon pieces. He also produced a number of effective transcriptions.
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