Henry Charles Litolff
born on 7/8/1818 in London, England, United Kingdom
died on 5/8/1891 in Bois-Colombes, Hauts-de-Seine, France
Henry Charles Litolff
Henry Charles Litolff (5 February 1818–5-6 August 1891) was a piano virtuoso, composer of Romantic music and music publisher.
Litolff was born in London, the son of a Scottish mother and an Alsatian father. His father was a violinist who had been taken to London as a prisoner after being captured while fighting for Napoléon in the Peninsular War.
Litolff began his musical education under his father, but when he was twelve he played for the pianist Ignaz Moscheles, who was so impressed that he gave him free lessons from 1830. Litolff's promise was indeed realised, and he began to give concerts when he was only fourteen. His lessons with Moscheles continued until Litolff eloped in 1835, at the age of 17, to Gretna Green, to marry the 16-year-old Elisabeth Etherington. The couple moved to Melun and then to Paris.
In 1839 he separated from Elisabeth, and moved to Brussels, and around 1841 moved to Warsaw where he is believed to have been the conductor of the orchestra of the Teatr Narodowy (National Theatre). In 1844 he travelled to Germany, gave concerts, and taught Hans von Bülow. The following year he returned to England with the idea of finally divorcing Elisabeth, but the plan backfired and he ended up in prison, and having to pay a large fine. He managed to escape (it is said, with the assistance of the gaoler's daughter) and fled to the Netherlands. He became friends with the music publisher Gottfried Meyer and, after Meyer's death, married his widow Julie (having been able to divorce Elisabeth after he had become a citizen of Brunswick). Litolff and Julie married in 1851 and the marriage lasted until 1858, when he divorced her and moved once again to Paris.
He became a prolific composer, although he is now known mainly as the founder of the Litolff Edition of classical and modern music. He died at Bois-Colombes near Paris.
His most notable works were the four Concertos Symphoniques, essentially symphonies with piano obbligato. The first one, in D minor, is lost; the others (which, though not regularly heard in the concert repertoire, are all available in modern recordings) are:
- Concerto Symphonique No. 2 in B minor, Op. 22 (1844)
- Concerto Symphonique No. 3 in E flat, Op. 45 (c.1846)
- Concerto Symphonique No. 4 in D minor, Op. 102 (c.1852)
- Concerto Symphonique No. 5 in C minor, Op. 123 (c.1867)
The only one of Litolff's own compositions still performed at all regularly is the somewhat Mendelssohnian scherzo from the fourth Concerto Symphonique, though his music was admired by Franz Liszt, and he was the dedicatee of Liszt's own first piano concerto.
- Blair, Ted M., Cooper, Thomas: 'Litolff, Henry (Charles)' in Grove Music Online ed. L. Macy
- Free scores by Henry Charles Litolff in the International Music Score Library Project
- Henry Litolff Piano Trio No.1 in d minor, Op.47 Soundbites and discussion of work
- "Happy Birthday, Litolff (Who?)" — by Jeffrey Engel for The Voice News
-  — Hyperion's composer page
- Philippe Entremont plays the Scherzo from Concerto Symphonique No 4. Op. 102 (with 2-piano score cued to the music)