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Helen Schnabel

Helen (Fogel) Schnabel (b. New York, July 22, 1911; d. Lake Como, Italy, Sept. 29, 1974)

The wife of Arthur Schnabel's son, Karl Ulrich Schnabel, Helen was already a famous pianist and teacher by the time she married. She grew up in the Bronx and, as a child prodigy, first performed in Carnegie Hall at the age of 9. The next year she made her first radio broadcast and for successive years she performed in New York City, as well as smaller towns. She studied with Manfred Malkin and then on a fellowship with Alexander Siloti at Julliard, where she graduated from at age 21. The next year, fulfilling her greatest wish, she went to Italy to study with Arthur Schnabel, from 1934 to 1938. In 1939 she married Karl Ulrich Schnabel, a concert pianist in his own right and they began a lifetime of concertizing together. In 1941 their only child, Ann, was born.

She was a beloved teacher for many years at the Dalcroze School, where she began teaching in 1940. After 1948 she spent summers teaching in yearly international master-classes at Lake Como, Italy -- home to Arthur Schnabel as well as other musicians, including Lili Kraus. She continued performing as soloist, in addition to duo performances with her husband, and in 1952 she began making recordings. She recorded for Epic and SPA in the U.S., and Philips in Europe.

Her obituary in the "Piano Quarterly", No. 88, Winter 1974-75 ends with this paragraph:

Helen Schnabel was an entirely natural pianist; she worked hard on the musical and technical perfection of her performance, but she had no hesitations and deviations in her approach. Because she loved music, her playing was sensitively lyrical and free of neurotic elements. She also loved people, and people loved her; as a teacher she was therefore, according to all available reports, an ideal blend of strictness and understanding, of knowledge and communication established.

The New York Times obituary of Oct. 10, 1974 mentions that she died of cancer and was survived by her husband, daughter and a grandson, Claude.

Hixon, Donald L. and Don A. Hennessee. Women in music: an encyclopedic biobibliography. 2nd Edition. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1993
Kehler, George. The Piano in Concert. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1982
[obit.] "Helen Schnabel". Piano Quarterly 88, Winter 74-75.
[obit.] "Helen Schnabel". New York Times 10 Oct. 1974.
and material from the International Piano Archives at Maryland (IPAM)

Information On-line
Pages of interest on the Internet include an interview of her husband, Karl Ulrich Schnabel, and a list of his recordings, including those she made with him.

Written by Rose Eide-Altman
Last updated August 30, 2001

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