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Antoni Kątski, (Antoine de Kontski, Anton de Kontski)

pianist and composer; born on the 25th September 1816 in Cracow; died 7th December 1899 in Ivanchytsi (Ukraine). He came from a musical family: his father Grzegorz Kątski, an auditor at the Warsaw Lyceum, was a violinist and amateur composer.

During five months of 1824, the young Antoni studied piano privately with Ludwig van Beethoven in Vienna. The young pianist began appearing in concerts already at the age of five, and gained wide recognition in Europe primarily as a piano virtuoso.

He began composing very early in his life. His first compositions – Taniec polski i anglez, Taniec polski i mazur – were published in Poland already in 1825. In 1827, tsar Nicholas I awarded the young musician with a three-year scholarship, in the amount of 3000 rubles, along with a special permission to travel internationally. This financial assistance played a crucial role in his future career in both Eastern and Western Europe. In 1829, after successful concerts in Petersburg, the scholarship was renewed for another three years. Already as a „Wunderkind” Antoni Kątski was a member of musical societies in Cracow and Vienna. During his studies in Russia he was a piano student of John Field. Beginning in 1832, he continued his education at the Vienna Conservatory, where he studied composition with Simon Sechter and piano with Sigismund Thalberg. He was awarded a doctoral degree from the Vienna Conservatory, after a successful performance of his final composition project, the oratorio Das Lied von der Glocke.

During Kątski’s residence in Paris (1836–1848), he served as adjudicator at the Paris Conservatory’s final examinations. He gained pedagogical experience there, which resulted in pedagogical projects. Antoni Kątski’s piano method titled L’indispensable du pianist op. 100 was first published in 1846 in Paris, then in 1851 in Berlin. An expanded version of it appeared in 1854 in St. Petersburg as Nieobchodimyj rukowoditiel dla pianista. Jeżedniewnyje uprażnienija na fortiepiano. Soczinienije Antona Kontskowo (An Indispensable Guide for Pianists. Daily Exercises for the Piano. A Work by Antoni Kątski). Kątski’s piano method, along with his etudes op. 25 (12 Etudes difficiles) and op. 77 (Fleurs mélodiques) became part of required technical curriculum at conservatories in Berlin and Paris. Kątski was also active in the Polish immigrant circles in Paris, where, among others, he met both Adam Mickiewicz and Fryderyk Chopin. During that time, he toured Europe often with his violinist-brother, Apolinary.

The years 1849–1851 the pianist spent in Spain and in Portugal, where he was active as pedagogue and virtuoso pianist. Thanks to his previous experience at Paris Conservatory Kątski developed administrative skills. In Portugal, he spearheaded the reorganization of the administrative and curricular structure of the Conservatory in Lisbon. King Fernand II awarded the pianist with the Order of Immaculate Conception in recognition for his services to Portugal.

Perhaps the greatest pedagogical success of Antoni Kątski happened in Berlin, where he was honored with the title of the Court Pianist to the King of Prussia Friedrich Wilhelm IV, and where he served as piano tutor to the Prussian princess Louise (1851–1853). During that time he concertized in Poland, Greece, Turkey, Egypt and Italy.

He spent 13 years (1854–1867), in the capital city of the Russian Empire. During that period, while continuously teaching and concertizing, he wrote his second pedagogical work: Sistiematiczeskoje izłożenije igry na fortiepianoosnowannoje na tieorii muzyki s priłożenijem rukowodstwa k izuczeniju gienierałbasa i primierow, wziatych iz proizwiedienij kłassiczeskich kompozitorow, sostawlennoje Antonom Kontskim, pianistom Jego K.W. Korola Prusskogo op. 180 (Systematic Introduction to Piano Playing, Based on Music Theory, with Addition of Examples to Study of Figured Bass and from Classical Composers, arranged by Antoni Kątski, the Pianist to His Royal Highness King of Prussia), published in 1858 in Petersburg by M. Bernard. Kątski’s method enjoyed great popularity in Petersburg. The pianist did not open his own music school in Petersburg, but taught at his own home. He often presented his most talented students during public concerts. In Petersburg, one of his most known students was the composer Wiktor Czeczott, later known primarily as music critic. In Kazan, Kątski taught the composer Mili Balakiriev, the founder of the New Russian School („The Mighty Handful”). Kątski also collaborated with the journal „Muzykalnyj i tieatralnyj wiestnik” („Musical and Theatrical Courier"), created and published by Maurice Rappoport.

During his stay in the United Kingdom (1867–1883) he continued his work as a pedagogue, composer and piano virtuoso, with frequent concert tours through Europe.

In the years 1883–1897 he was active in the United States, where he maintained contacts with Polish immigrant organizations. He served as piano professor at the Conservatory in Grand Rapids (Michigan). In addition to concerts in North America he undertook a tour to Japan (1890). He organized several lecture / recitals devoted to the dissemination of Polish music, including music of Fryderyk Chopin.

His last concert tour was a voyage around the world: he performed in Australia, New Zealand, India, China, Japan, Thailand and the Russian Empire.

According to the musicologist Włodzimierz Poźniak, compositions by Antoni Kątski are extremely demanding technically while somewhat missing in artistic depth. Some of them are primarily of historical value today. His output – over 400 opus numbers – consists of variations, fantasies, etudes, mazurkas, polonaises, krakowiaks, nocturnes, waltzes, gavottes, polkas, cadrilles, caprices, ballades, romances, 2 piano sonatas, programmatic piano music, string quartet, piano trio, programmatic symphonic music, 3 symphonies, 2 piano concertos, 5 orchestral overtures, choral works, two operas and two operettas. The majority of his works are virtuoso and salon piano pieces, among which the greatest popularity enjoyed the piano caprice Le Reveil du Lion op. 115.

Rulers of Portugal, Prussia and Greece awarded him with medals of merit and honorary titles.

Wiktoria Antonczyk

Translation: Sławomir Dobrzański



12 Etudes difficiles, op.25

Caprice fantastique, op.28

Variations sur deux thêmes favoris du “Le perruquier de la régence”, op.29

Les violettes, op.30 for piano 4-hands

3 Méditations, op.33

Fantaisie sur “Le planteur”, op.34

Fantaisie sur l’opera “La Mantille”, op.35

Valse infernale, op.36

 Grande fantaisie sur “La Vendetta”, op.43

Une polonaise et six mazurkas, op.44 for piano

Grande fantaisie sur “Lucia di Lammermoor”, op.46

Fantaisie sur “La reine d’un jour”, op.48

Grande Fantaisie sur l’Opéra de Donizetti “Lucrezia Borgia”, op.50

12 Etudes, op.53

Fantaisie sur “Les premières fleurs”, op.54

Grande Fantaisie sur “Guido et Ginevra”, op.60

Grand duo sur “I Puritani”, op.61 for 2 pianos

Grande Fantaisie sur l’opéra “Robert Devereux” de Donizetti, op.68 for piano 4-hands

Grande Fantaisie sur l’opéra “Montano et Stéphanie” de Berton, op.80

Polka nationale variée, op.81

Impressions de voyage, 6 Méditations, op.83

La Cerrito. Mazurka favorite, op.84

Les Reflets de mon pays, op.85

Grande Fantaisie sur “Don Pasquale” de Donizetti, op.97

La folatre, Polka, op.98

L’Indispensable du Pianiste, op.100 for piano

Grande fantaisie sur “La Sonnambula”, op.101

Souvenir de Bordeaux, Valse brillante, op.102

 Fantaisie de concert sur “I due Foscari” de G.Verdi, op.103

Airs de Ballet de l’opéra “Jérusalem” de Verdi, op.113

Le Réveil du Lion, Caprice héroïque, op.115

Grande Fantaisie sur des Motifs de l’Opéra “Attila” de Verdi, op.133

Fantaisie de concert sur des Motifs de l’Opéra “Ernani” de Verdi, op.134

Souvenir de Glienicke, Valse brillante, op.141

Souvenir de Dantzic, Romance sans paroles, op.142

La sensitive, Romance sans paroles, op.147

Le Carneval de Berlin. Galopp brilliant, op.149

Souvenir de Cracovie, Improvisation sur les Krakowiaks nationaux, op.150

Le Carneval de Varsovie, Mazourka, op.153

Piano Sonata No.1 (Grande Sonate [No.1]), op.156

La violette, Mazurka, op.172

Grande Fantaisie sur des Airs russes, op.173

Les ruines de Hapsal, Méditation, op.174

Fantaisie sur des Motifs fav. de l’Opéra “Simon Boccanegra” de Verdi, op.176

Fleurs lithuaniennes, 3 morceaux charactéristiques, op.178

Transcription sur des Motifs de l’Opéra “Rigoletto”, op.185

Grande polonaise, op.194 for piano 4-hands

Souvenir d’Odessa. 2me Sérénade, op.196

Wilhelmus. Krönungs-Marsch, op.200

Le Tombeau de Lianata. Fleur d’amour, élégie, op.205

La Bavarde. Caprice-Etude, op.210

Berceuse, in E major, op.218 for piano

Sinfonie héroïque in A minor, op.220 for orchestra

Plaintes d’une Fileuse, romance sans paroles, op.233

Les Adieux à Athènes. Elégie, op.236

Sultane Fatima, Grande valse, op.245

Chilpérie. Impromptu sur des motifs de l’Opera de Hervé, op.247

Ballade, op.253 for piano

Souvenir de Naples. Tarantelle, op.257

Souvenir de l’Opéra “Aida”, op.261

The Persian national anthem, op.265

La Revue de Windsor. Morceau caratéristique, op.269

Souvenir de Milan. Valse mélancolique, op.277

Souvenir de Wiesbade, Valse, op.290

Souvenir de Roscoff, Romance sans paroles, op.293

La Contemplation, Nocturne, op.305

Piano Sonata No.2, op.310

Gavotte No.1, in A minor, op.311

Menuet de la Comtesse, op.313

Six easy Studies, op.314

La sultana, Valse brillante, op.318

Grant Funeral March, op.326

Gavotte No.2, in A minor, op.327

Grande tarantelle, op.329

Danse des sorcières, op.331

Toccata, op.359 for piano

Persian march, op.369

Minuet Louis XV, op.370

Ladies Gossip, étude charactéristique, op.373

Polish National Alliance March, op.374

Polish Patrol, op.401 for piano

literatura wybrana

Antonczyk Wiktoria, Muzyczne dary polskich kompozytorów (nuty z bibliotek nadwornych Petersburga, 1799–1912), „Muzyka”, 2015, nr 2, s. 25–55.
Grzegorz Kątski, Listy Imć pana Grzegorza Kątskiego do Filharmoniey Krakowskiey, Nakładem miesięcznika „Muzyka i Śpiew”, druk „Głosu Narodu”, Kraków 1930.
Hugh Reginald Haweis, Anton Grigorʹevič Kontskij, pianist ego veličestva imperatora germanskogo, I. I. Rodziewicz, Moskwa 1898.
Irena Poniatowska, Antoni Kątski jako pianista i kompozytor muzyki fortepianowej, in: Chopin w kręguprzyjaciół, ed. Irena Poniatowska, Danièle Pistone, vol. 5, Warszawa 1999, p. 104-125.
Włodzimierz Poźniak, Kątski Antoni, in: Polski słownik biograficzny, vol. 12, ed. E. Rostworowski, Wrocław – Warszawa – Kraków, Zakład Narodowy im. Ossolińskich, 1966–1967, p. 309-311.
Zofia Chechlińska, Kątski Antoni, in: Encyklopedia Muzyczna PWM, vol. 5, ed. E. Dziębowska, Kraków, PWM, 1997, s. 56-57.
Zofia Lissa, Jakow Milʹštejn, Kontskij Anton, in: Muzykalʹnaâ ènciklopediâ, ed. Û. Keldyš, vol. 2, Moscow 1974, p. 921.