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Jörg Demus (Piano)

Born: December 2, 1928 - St. Polten (Lower Austria), Austria

The Austrian pianist, Jörg (Wolfgang) Demus, was born to received his first piano lessons at the age of six. His mother was a concert violinist and his father, Prof. Otto Demus, a universally known art historian. At the age of 11, he was allowed to enter the Vienna Academy of Music, where he studied piano and conducting, graduating in 1945. When Jörg Demus was 14 years old, while still a student at the Conservatory, he made his debut as a pianist at the famous Brahms-Saal for the prestigious Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna. Besides the regular high school he studied piano with Walter Kerschbaumer, organ with Karl Walter, conducting with Hans Swarowsky and Joseph Krips and composition with Joseph Marx. After completing these studies in Vienna, he went abroad to study with Yves Nat in Paris from 1951 to 1953. In 1953, he attended master-classes with Walter Gieseking at the Saarbrücken Conservatory. He studied interpretation further with Wilhelm Kempff, Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, and Edwin Fischer.

In 1950 Jörg Demus gave first concerts in Zürich and London and 1951 he went on his first extended tour to South America. His debut in Paris in 1953 at the Salle Gaveau turned into a regular sensation. The star critic, Clarendon, wrote an enthusiastic review under the title “Jörg Demus joue et gagne.” The same year he made his debut in Vienna as a mature artist. In 1956 he won the important “Premio Busoni” at the International Piano Competition in Bolzano, Italy. Since that time he has performed in all the important music centers of the Old and the New World. His New York debut was followed by annual tours to the USA and since 1961 regularly tours to Asia, Australia and Japan. For many years he has been a regular guest performer at international festivals. He has often played under the baton of Herbert von Karajan, Joseph Krips, Carlo Zecchi, André Cluytens, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Seiji Ozawa and many others.

Jörg Demus maintained a notable solo career, noted for combining a basically Romantic sound and line with an interest in historic keyboard interpretation and early model pianos. He was especially noted for personal interpretations of Bach and flexible, colourful renditions of Debussy. He also was well regarded for the main line of German piano music from Mozart to Robert Schumann, and for his performances of the piano music of César Franck.

Jörg Demus was a sensitive accompanist, and worked with singers of the highest calibre, including Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Elly Ameling. His version of Schubert's Winterreise, with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, is perhaps the most critically acclaimed of all recordings of this great song cycle. He also accompanied violinists (Josef Suk, for instance) and cellists (Antonio Janigro). He sometimes appears in piano duet and two-piano concerts with Paul Badura-Skoda, who shares Demus' interest in older keyboard instruments. Demus acquired several notable examples of early instruments, including harpsichords and pianos by Broadwood, Clements, and Conrad Graf, and has recorded appropriate music on them. In honor of L.v. Beethoven's 200th birthday, Jörg Demus played on L.v. Beethoven's Broadwood and Graf pianos at the Beethoven Festival in Bonn. Near Salzburg the Jörg Demus Museo Cristofori, where visitors can appreciate the history of the piano, is growing and in master-classes in Europe (ILMA Vienna, etc.), USA and Japan he is an appreciated pedagogue.

Many of his recordings have won international awards. Up to now Jörg Demus has achieved a repertory of more than 350 LP's, compact discs and video-recordings. He has recorded the complete piano works of Robert Schumann and Claude Debussy, J.S. Bach's Well-Tempered-Clavier and Clavierübung, piano concerti of J.S. Bach, Haydn, Mozart, L.v. Beethoven and Robert Schumann, as well as important works of chamber music with the Wiener Philharmonisches Kammerensemble and Lieder, mainly with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Elly Ameling and Peter Schreier. Several of Jörg Demus' recordings were inspired by his passion of collecting old historic keyboard instruments.

Jörg Demus has also authored several essays, many of which were published a book of essays, Abenteur der Interpretation (Adventures in Interpretation) (Brockhaus Edition, 1967), and is co-author with Badura-Skoda of an analysis of the L.v. Beethoven piano sonatas (1970). He also composes - sonatas for violin and piano, violoncello and piano, trios, pieces for piano solo and several songs were created.

In 1977 Jörg Demus was awarded the Beethoven-Ring of the Vienna Beethoven Society, and in 1979 the Mozart Medal of the Vienna Mozart Society; in 1981 he received Honorary Doctor degree of Amherst, and in 1986 the Schumann Award of Zwickau

Source: Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of 20th Century Classical Musicians (1997); All Music Guide Website (Author: Joseph Stevenson); Renaissance Music Society Website (2004)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (November 2006)

Jörg Demus: Short Biography | Recordings of Instrumental Works

Links to other Sites

Jörg Demus - Biography (AMG)
Jörg Demus (Wikipedia)
Demus, Jörg (AEIOU) [German]

Jörg Denus - His Early Recordings for Remington Records
Last Surviving Great Master - Jörg Demus (RMS)

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