San Francisco County







HUGO MANSFELDT, a native of Germany, is yet in the prime of life, and in appearance a very young man, but his time has been so profitably used and his talent is so extremely pronounced, that, in spite of his commencing the study of music comparatively late in life (at an age when most of the great artists were already concert pianists), he is recognized throughout the world as the most brilliant pianist and most successful teacher of music on the Pacific coast.

      Upon reaching early manhood young Mansfeldt came to the United States, and in 1863 to California, the Italy of America in music as in climate. His first nine years were spent in teaching music in Sacramento, when he was induced to come to San Francisco, and for seventeen years he has been closely identified with the musical progress on this coast, and has indelibly marked his personality on musical matters in San Francisco. For several years he has been director of the Mansfeldt Conservatory of Music, and in that position has divided his time between teaching and composition, and has also held the position of organist in Trinity Church and other prominent and leading churches in this city and Oakland. His Sundays for more than twenty-five years have been thus usefully spent.

      Among his compositions, his published work, “Technic: a system of the most necessary daily exercises to produce a perfect piano technic in the shortest possible time, is a most valuable compendium for pupils, and has taken deservedly high rank, not alone on the coast, but in every part of the United States. The publishers of the work state that the demand constantly exceeds the supply. Since its publication Mr. Mansfeldt has produced a great many concert pianists in an incredibly short space of time, and teachers from all parts of the United States come to him to study his new method under his personal instruction. The universal opinion is, that it is the greatest work on the subject ever published, and that it marks a new era in piano teaching. As a consequence Mr. Mansfeldt commands a higher price for lessons than any teacher in America, and it is safe to prophesy that in the near future piano students will flock to San Francisco instead of to Germany, to study music.

      In 1884 Mr. Mansfeldt went to Europe, and made a brilliantly successful concert tour in all the musical centers and leading cities, and one entire year was spent in the land that gave him birth. He has a volume of criticisms translated from the German language, which are very flattering, and are signed by such names as Oscar Schwalm, Bernhardt Vogel, Paul DeWitt, Otto Lessman, Bernhard Seuberlich, Fritz Wallerstein, Ferdinand Gleich, Ignaz Kugel, P. J. Tonger, C. F. Kahnt and A. W. Gottschlag, Liszt’s secretary. It is well to make a few extracts from the voluminous critique of the latter distinguished musician:

      After mentioning the generous manner in which foreign artists are treated in America, he continues: “On the other hand, it is a very rare exception for American artists to come to Europe to gather fame, and, if possible, money. To these exceptions must be counted the above mentioned double artist (pianist and organist), and he is indeed a glorious exception. It is usually believed that organists as a rule, are bad pianist,s (sic) and that is likely often true, but it is not a fixed rule. Mr. Mansfeldt has not acquired his education, as is customary, at one of the musical training schools, but relying upon himself, far from the musical bustle, and under the burden of his daily labor of teaching, he has quietly developed his pre-eminent talent, and after he reached so far in his virtuosity as to know by heart nearly 200 pieces, he came across the ocean to take up boldly the battle of musical existence.

      “The inaccessible piano Titan, Franz Liszt, invited his younger colleague in a friendly matter to Weimar, made celebrated as the home of Goethe, Schiller and Liszt. Accepting this invitation, Mr. Mansfeldt arrived here some time ago, moved for a long time in the Liszt circle, and gave us at least a proof of his ability in the Grand-Ducal Music School. Dr. Franz Liszt had promised his attendance, and the disciples of the Liszt school, as well as other invited art lovers, soon filled the concert room of this institute.

      Among the distinguished pianists present, were: Moritz Rosenthal, of Vienna; Mr. Alfred Reissenauer, Konigsberg, Prussia; Mr. Arthur Friedheim, St. Petersburg, and Alexander von Siloti, Moscow, Russia; the latter two gentlemen playing Mr. Mansfeldt’s accompaniments as a second piano, arranged as duets. The two movement of the Kaff Concerto, the adagio and finale, with which the concert opened, succeeded very well. Our guest had ample opportunity to show his brilliant technique, soul and expression. Not on the program, but as a pleasant surprise, the concert giver now rendered Liszt’s latest unpublished piano composition, the Fourth Mephisto Waltz, a highly capricious tone picture, which whirls through all the keys, and ends abruptly with a chord of the diminished seventh. Mr. Mansfeldt had secretly, during one of the lessons, copied the manuscript, and learned it by heart in a few hours.”

      To the end of the long criticism, Mr. Gottschlag is highly complimentary. In fact the whole tour through Germany was a series of eminent successes for the “Noted American Organist and Pianist from California.”  Prof. Mansfeldt has had over 3,000 pupils under his charge, and has rendered them all fine musicians, and many have become noted concert pianists. He has during the last four years given nearly 200 concerts, in which about 1,500 of the greatest piano compositions have been performed. It can readily be perceived that the effect of such a musical culture upon the rising generation of pianists in San Francisco must be highly beneficial, and can not be excelled anywhere in Europe.

      It has been while pursuing this busy life that he became fitted to entertain and interest the immortal Liszt, and receive commendation from him and the distinguished musicians of Europe. It is needless to say that the people of San Francisco are proud of Professor Hugo Mansfeldt.


Transcribed by Donna L. Becker.

Source: "The Bay of San Francisco," Vol. 2, Pages 445-447, Lewis Publishing Co, 1892.

© 2006 Donna L. Becker.




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