Skip to Main Content

Friedrich Kalkbrenner, Le Rève. Grande Fantaisie pour le Pianoforte: Biographical Overview

by Tommy Mayes, Bennett Ramsdell, and Nathan Rengering

Frédéric Kalkbrenner

Portrait of Kalkbrenner          

Portrait of Kalkbrenner by Henri Grévedon, 1829. Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain.

Biographical Overview

Frédéric [Friedrich] Kalkbrenner (b. early November 1785 – 10 June 1849) was a composer, pianist, and pedagogue of German descent, who spent most of his life in Paris. Kalkbrenner’s education likely came from his father Christian Kalkbrenner, who was a conductor, composer, and organist. His musical training progressed rapidly, and he had enrolled in the Paris Conservatoire by his early teens. After his conservatory studies, Kalkbrenner stayed briefly in Vienna, where he met and learned from composers such as Haydn and Clementi.  

While brushing shoulders with famous composers and pianists his whole life, Kalkbrenner’s own career did not start to blossom until he moved to England in 1814. There, he gained much popularity, especially as a pianist but also as a composer. He returned to Paris in 1824, where his career grew even more, and eventually he began touring internationally as a performer and composer, playing many of his own works, as most musicians did at the time. Due to health complications, Kalkbrenner’s performing career was all but over in 1839.  

Performing was just one aspect of Kalkbrenner’s career. Even when he no longer played publicly, he was still highly regarded as a composer and pedagogue. His virtuosic writing is a notable aspect of his piano works, which comprise most of his catalogue. The list of his pupils includes Marie-Félicité-Denise née Moke, George Osborne, and Camille Stamaty. Kalkbrenner also tried to convince Chopin to study with him, although the young pianist declined in favor of starting his own career. Kalkbrenner’s piano techniques have been published and are still used to this day, mostly as pedagogical material.