Landowska Wanda 1879 - 1959 (80)

I never practice; I always play.


Wanda Landowska (1879 - 1959) was a Polish musician, harpsichordist and music teacher, who played a major role in the revival of the harpsichord in the early 20th century.

She was born in Warsaw on July 5, 1879, her father was a lawyer and her mother a linguist and translator. She started playing the piano at the age of four, studied at the Warsaw Conservatory and then composition in Berlin. After her marriage to the Polish folklorist Henry Lew in 1900 in Paris, she taught piano at the Schola Cantorum (1900-1912) and later harpsichord in Berlin (1912-1919). Her strong interest in musicology led her to tour museums in Europe, examining original keyboard instruments, and after a persistent search she managed to acquire some old keyboard instruments that had fallen into disuse.

After the first world war she was the first to revive harpsichord music. She founded the School of Early Music (École de Musique Ancienne) in Paris in 1925 and her home became a center for the study and performance of early music. During the invasion of France by the German army, Landowska, who was Jewish, managed to escape before being captured. In 1940 she toured the south of France, and in December 1941 she went to New York. Her house in Saint-Leis was ransacked, musical instruments, manuscripts and thousands of books were stolen or destroyed. In 1949 she settled in Connecticut with her partner, Denise Restou, who was both a publisher and translator of her writings. She lived there for the rest of her life, until August 16, 1959, playing the harpsichord and teaching music.