Episode 168: Fryderyk's Finest Student

Carl Filtsch: Impromptu No. 1 in G-flat Major

rc-filtsch-200Chopin raved. "My God! What a child! Nobody has ever understood me as this child has...It is not imitation, it is the same sentiment, an instinct that makes him play without thinking.”

His name was Karl Filtsch. Slight, dark-eyed, intense, the eleven-year-old appeared on Chopin’s doorstep with a letter of introduction and a plea to be accepted as a student.

Chopin did just that. He trained Karl for two years before accompanying the boy at a grand musicale held at the Rothschild triple mansion in Paris. It was in this opulent setting the thirteen-year-old from Transylvania electrified the more than 500 in attendance by playing Chopin’s Piano Concerto in E minor.

Chopin’s “feelings for Filtsch [came] closer than any other in his life to those of an ideal father", writes Benita Eisler. “Far from…fearing that the disciple might eclipse the master, Chopin, through Filtsch, relived his own early triumphs and became, for Karl, the teacher who was both composer and performer of genius that he himself had never had….He rejoiced in what he could still pass on…; his art would be extended by the miracle of Filtsch’s talent, formed, it seemed, to compliment his own.”

Ideal…but for one tragic complication: The student had not only talent in common with his teacher, but tuberculosis.

On the brink of a dazzling career in Vienna, Karl Filtsch died. He was fifteen. The dozen or so compositions Filtsch left behind resonate with the spiritual, spirited connection he and Chopin were so fortunate to enjoy, albeit briefly. - Jennifer Foster

Radio Chopin Episode 168: Fryderyk's Finest Student



Carl Filtsch: Impromptu No. 1 in G-flat Major