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Dohnányi, Ernst von (27 July 1877–09 February 1960), composer, concert pianist, teacher, and conductor, also known as Ernó and baptized Dohnányi Erno Jeno Frigyes, was born in Pozsony, Hungary-later known as Pressberg, then Bratislava, Slovakia. (The population of Pozsony was approximately half Hungarian and half German, so Dohnányi was comfortable with the language and heritage of both.) He was the son of Frederick von Dohnányi (Dohnányi Frigyes), professor of mathematics and physics at the Royal Catholic Chief Gymnasium (Királyi Katolikus Fögimnásium) and an accomplished cellist and composer. Dohnányi's mother, Ottilia Szlabey, was tiny; she was sometimes referred to as fiercely determined and willing to sacrifice her comfort for others. Dohnányi embodied these characteristics as an adult helping family and friends survive the vicissitudes of wartime Europe. His sister, Mitzi, was a year younger. A brother died in infancy. When traveling outside of Hungary, he called himself Ernst von Dohnányi....

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Humiston, William Henry (27 April 1869–05 December 1923), organist, conductor, and composer, was born in Marietta, Ohio, the son of Henry Humiston and Margaret Voris. As a child, Humiston moved to Chicago with his family, where he completed high school in 1886. He continued his education at Lake Forest College, graduating in 1891 with a B.A. During these years and even later, he studied piano and harmony with ...

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Ethel Leginska Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-97196).

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Leginska, Ethel (13 April 1886–26 February 1970), concert pianist, conductor, and composer, was born Ethel Liggins in Hull, Yorkshire, England, the daughter of Thomas Liggins and Annie Peck. A child prodigy, Leginska gave her first public piano recital at the age of seven. In 1900 she won a scholarship to study the piano at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt under James Kwast and theory under Bernhard Sekles and Ivan Knorr. In 1904 she began a three-year period of study with Theodor Leschetizky in Vienna and in Berlin. In 1907, the year of her London debut, she married Roy Emerson Whittern, an American who was studying composition; he later changed his name to Emerson Whithorne....

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Mitropoulos, Dimitri (01 March 1896–02 November 1960), conductor, pianist, and composer, was born in Athens, Greece, the son of Jean Mitropoulos, a leather merchant, and Angeliki Anagnostopoulos. He was musically precocious and began to play the piano at the age of seven. He studied at the Athens Conservatory of Music, where Ludwig Wassenhoven taught him piano and Armand Marsick taught him composition. After fighting on the Bulgarian front during World War I, Mitropoulos returned to the conservatory and graduated in piano in 1918 and in composition in 1920. During these early years Mitropoulos composed several songs to Greek and French texts, a symphonic poem entitled ...

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Sergei Rachmaninoff Photograph by Arnold Genthe, 1918. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-G432-2683).

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Rachmaninoff, Sergei (02 April 1873–28 March 1943), composer, pianist, and conductor, was born Sergei Vasilyevich Rachmaninoff on his parents’ estate at Oneg, near Novgorod, Russia, the son of Vasily Arkadyevich Rachmaninoff, a wealthy but dissolute army officer, and Lubov Petrovna Butokova. As a result of Vasily Rachmaninoff’s extravagant ways, the family was forced to liquidate its assets, which included a number of country estates, and in 1882 they moved to a small flat in Saint Petersburg....

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Rapee, Erno (04 June 1891–26 June 1945), composer, conductor, and pianist, was born in Budapest, Hungary. A piano virtuoso, he studied composition and piano at the Budapest Royal Conservatory, graduating at the age of eighteen. A conducting student of Ernst Schuch, the general musical director of the Dresden Royal Opera House, Rapee held conductor and assistant conductor posts with various European theaters. Following a concert tour of South America and Mexico, he came to New York City in 1912. Arriving literally without funds, Rapee found employment as a musician at New York’s Cafe Monopole for $25 a week. He also worked briefly as an accompanist for Harry Lauder, the popular Scottish singer and comedian. In 1913 he was engaged as musical director for New York City’s Hungarian Opera Company. The following year he made his American vaudeville debut, playing classical numbers and patriotic medleys on the piano....

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Schelling, Ernest Henry (26 July 1876–08 December 1939), pianist, composer, and conductor, was born in Belvidere, New Jersey, the son of Felix Emmanuel Schelling, a physician and musician from St. Gall, Switzerland, and the English-born Rose White Wilkes of Philadelphia. Schelling’s early musical studies were under the strict training of his gifted father. Ernest’s public debut at age four at the Philadelphia Academy of Music was hailed by a review in the ...

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Walter, Bruno (15 September 1876–17 February 1962), conductor, pianist, and composer, was born Bruno Walter Schlesinger in Berlin, Germany, the son of Joseph Schlesinger, a bookkeeper, and Johanna Fernbach. His childhood was spent in modest, lower-middle-class surroundings in the northeastern part of Berlin, where he was influenced by the literary and musical interests of his parents. He began musical studies with his mother, a student at the Stern Conservatory, and when he was only eight years old he was admitted as a student at Stern. At age nine he performed a piano solo in a public recital, after which he received free tuition at the conservatory. His progress as a pianist was rapid, as evidenced by his appearance as soloist in the Moscheles E-flat major concerto with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in 1889....

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Weston, Paul (12 March 1912–20 September 1996), musician, was born Paul Wetstein in Springfield, Massachusetts, the son of Paul Richard Wetstein, a teacher at Miss Hill's School for Girls, and Anna Grady Wetstein. Educated through high school in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, he was Phi Beta Kappa at Dartmouth College, majoring in economics and leading a jazz band, and graduating cum laude in 1933....

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Paul Weston. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.