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Allen Tanner (Piano, Arranger)

Born: September 29, 1898 - Mount Vernon, Illinois, USA
Died: October 15, 1987 - Freeburg, Illinois, USA3 or October 3, 1987 - Belleville, Illinois, USA2

The American pianist, Allen C. Tanner, was born to a large musical family of Mount Vernon in Southern Illinois. Endowed at earliest age with absolute pitch, he was taught the rudiments of music by an aunt, an accomplished pianist, acquired also a general knowledge of music from a cousin, Mable Pavey, active for years throughout the state as a skilled and cultural musician. When 16, he was taken to Chicago, again by a relative residing there, whose interests were also musical. Soon he was awarded a scholarship to the classes of Victor Heinze, one of the noted Leschevitzky pupils, and it was not long before he played publicly and made his first appearance with an orchestra, followed by several concert tours in the West. He was heard by Margaret Anderson, editor of the renowned Little Review, who was lavish in praise of his gifts, and art, drawing him enthisiastically into the famous group surrounding that now legendary avant-garde magazine.

Departing soon afterwards for New York City, Allen Tanner appeared in many recitals, including concerts of modern Spansh and French music. His talent in demand, he performed often in the distinguished musical salons of that city and throughout the East. He also worked as a concert accompanist for various many musical greats of the era, including Marguerite Namara and Marguerite d'Alvarez. His gifts attracted the attention of several eminent musicians and under the sponsorship of such as Myra Hess, Arthur Rubinstein, Paul Kochansky and Karol Szymanowski he soon left for Europe with an enthusiastic letter of commendation from Alexander Siloti, the pupil of Franz Liszt andf teacher of Sergei Rachmaninov.

In December 1922, Allen Tanner went to Berlin to pursue his musical career in Europe and became scholar of Leonid Kreutzer. Almost immediately he met the artist Pavel Tchelitchew, who was working as a set designer for the Russian Romantic Theatre. The two became friends (lovers), and this friendship soon grew into a relationship that would last over a decade. In early summer of 1923, they left Berlin for Paris to pursue their artistic careers. They lived there with Tchelitchew's sister, Alexandra Zaoussaïloff, for several years. In Paris, Tchelitchew worked on his painting while Tanner took work as a piano instructor. Céliny Chailley-Richez, an assisatant to Alfred Cortot, prepared Tanner for lessons with the master. There they became friends with literary greats Gertrude Stein and Edith Sitwell. Tchelitchew's work soon caught the interest of Stein, and for a time the two men were a part of Stein's circle of literary and artistic friends, a group which also included René Crevel and Virgil Thomson.

After years of successful activity in the European music world, Allen Tanner returned in the autumn of 1934 to New York with. Tchelitchew. However, by this time, Tchelitchew was involved with the poet Charles Henri Ford, and when Tanner and Tchelitchew visited Tanner's home town of Chicago for an exhibition of Tchelitchew's work, Tanner stayed when Tchelitchew returned to New York. It was the end of their relationship. In the following decades, Tanner continued his musical career, playing and teaching, and when he took up residence again permanently, coaching piano students in concert repertoire. He lived in New York during the 1950's and 1960's, and later in Belleville, Illinois. In 1967 he released the album "Allen Tanner Plays Bach, Debussy, Scriabin, Granados, Rachmaninoff, Liszt, and Steinert". The album was praised in a New York Times review and featured by Schirmers in their New York music store window.

1. Dickinson College Website
2. Yale University Library
3. Death Records
Bits & pieces from other sources
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (April 2015)

Allen Tanner: Short Biography | Recordings of Instrumental Works
Piano Transcriptions:
Works | Recordings

Links to other Sites

Allen C. Tanner Papers (Dickinson College)
Guide to the Allen Tanner Papers (Yale University Library)

Liz Hamill Howard, MM (Masters of Music) Allen Tanner
Allen C. Tanner Collection on Flicker

Biographies of Performers: Main Page | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
Explanation | Acronyms | Missing Biographies | The Sad Corner


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