Monday, October 18, 2010
The name of the pianist and composer Richard Buhlig (1880-1952) is now probably best known as having been a teacher of John Cage (and for having given Cage a strict lecture on the value of time.) I had never before seen a picture of Buhlig, so was pleased to find an image from 1930, photographed by Johan Hagemeyer, courtesy of the Online Archive of California. (Another archive has a home movie with Arnold Schoenberg and Buhlig together, the latter in "pith helmut"; that I would like to see.) American-born of German parents, Buhlig studied in Vienna with Teodor Leszetycki, concertized widely in Europe and the US with a repertoire balanced between classical and modern works (among them, Buhlig gave the US premiere of Schoenberg's Opus 11, and Busoni's Fantasia Contrappuntistica was dedicated to Buhlig), taught for a time at The Institute for Musical Art (now Juilliard), and eventually settled in Los Angeles, where he primarily taught. His students, in addition to Cage, included Grete Sultan, Henry Cowell, Wesley Kuhnle, Leonard Stein and Peter Hewitt. Buhlig apparently sponsored Sultan's immigration to the US. As far as I can tell, Buhlig and Kuhnle's performance of Buhlig's two piano transcription of The Art of the Fugue and a solo recording of the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue are the only available recordings of his playing. (Buhlig, Kuhnle, and Cowell gave a concert tour of the Soviet Union together in 1928.) I have been unable to locate any examples of Buhlig's own compositions.