French Pianism

A Historical PerspectiveCharles Timbrell

Foreword by Gaby Casadesus

This book should be in the libraries of all graduate and undergraduate institutions where the piano is taught.

This study surveys the historical development, performances practices, and pedagogical philosophies of the Paris Conservatoire: a pre-eminent centre of piano playing dating from the early 19th century.







The undisputed pre-eminence of Paris as a centre of the piano world dates from the early 19th century, and the professors of the Paris Conservatoire transmitted the characteristic French style to each new generation for some 150 years. This study surveys the historical development, performance practices, and pedagogical philosophies of this school of piano playing. The author studied with several proponents of the jeu perlé, a French style of playing categorized by rapid, clean even passage-work, note after note. Over a 15-year period Charles Timbrell conducted more than 70 interviews with notable French pianists, many of them new to this edition and all of them frank and lively conversationalists, ranging from a 96-year old Paul Loyonnet – a link to the traditions of the 19th century – to emerging young talents at the turn of the millennium. Also included in this edition are the author’s detailed recollections of his own lessons with such luminaries as Gaby Casadesus, Jeanne-Marie Darre, Monique Haas, Eric Heidsieck and Magda Tagliaferro.



Rights Available


About the Author

Charles Timbrell, professor and coordinator of keyboard studies at Howard University, is an active pianist, writer and music critic. He received degrees in piano performance from Oberlin Conservatory, the University of Michigan and the University of Maryland. He has performed throughout the United States and Europe and is a frequent adjudicator of national and international piano competitions. He contributed more than 50 articles on French pianists to The New Grove.


Foreword by Gaby Casadesus
1. The Nineteenth Century
Early French Pianos
The Paris Conservatoire and French Musical Education
Composers, Performers, Teachers, and Methods
Historic Recordings
2. Leading Artist-Teachers 1900-1940
Isidor Philipp
Marguerite Long
Alfred Cortot
3. Major Figures Since World War II
Armand Ferté
Yves Nat
Marcel Ciampi
Jules Gentil
Yvonne Lefébure
Robert Casadesus
Jacques Février
Vlado Perlemuter
Lucette Descaves
Lélia Gousseau
Yvonne Loriod
Dominique Merlet
Addendum: The Author’s Recollections
4. Interviews
Paul Loyonnet
Gaby Casadesus
Pierre Sancan
Jean-Joël Barbier
Germaine Mounier
Grant Johannesen
Pierre Barbizet
Jean-Philippe Collard
Brigitte Engerer
Jean-Marc Luisada
Hélène Grimaud
5. Coda: The French School, Past and Present
Appendix 1. Bibliographies of Interviewees
Appendix 2. Piani Professors at the Paris Conservatoire 1795-1998
Appendix 3. SelectedDiscography
Appendix 4. Selected Methods, Exercises and Études
Notes, Selected Bibliography


This book should be in the libraries of all graduate and undergraduate institutions where the piano is taught.

This is a book that delights and is also an invaluable document, one that is obviously the fruit of much imaginative planning … Many historic artists come colourfully to life at the prompting of Charles Timbrell.

French Pianism … is full of advice worth hundreds of private lessons [and it] offers illuminating interviews. A notable book.

A lucid and precise volume about the history and aesthetics of the French ways of playing the piano, [with] substantial bibliography and instructive lists of exercises, methods, etudes, and editions.
Piano & Keyboard

An invaluable contribution … The discussion of pedagogical principles, and the insights about the complex elements that led to an important national school of playing, are both interesting and of great value.
American Music Teacher

You may also like…