- 25 January
, London), was a distinguished English pianist
. He was one of the first pianists of the 20th century to focus purely on the works of J.S. Bach
, and was known for his academic and cerebral approach.
Harold Samuel studied at the Royal College of Music
- piano with the eminent scholar and pianist Edward Dannreuther
and composition with Sir Charles Villiers Stanford
. Later he was on its faculty as professor of pianoforte.
Harold Samuel was particularly distinguished as an interpreter of Bach, whose entire keyboard oeuvre he learned by heart. At his London debut in 1898 he played Bach's Goldberg Variations (BWV 988), unknown at that time in London. He and Walter Gieseking were among the first pianists of the 20th century to play pure-Bach, distinguished for having programmed large scale works by Bach in their recitals.
To make a living Harold Samuel taught, did vocal coaching and became a sought-after accompanist (performing especially with violinist Isolde Menges). His solo career, however, was at a standstill until 1919 when he played an all Bach programme in London. He soon found a ready audience for large amounts of Bach's keyboard works in their original form. In 1921 he gave six successive Bach recitals in London and a similar cycle in New York. He toured the USA regularly from 1924. He wrote a musical comedy, Hon'ble Phil, songs and piano pieces.
Compared with Gieseking's instrumental and musical mastery, Samuel sounds correct, academic and less interesting. While his Bach is always careful, reined-in and overly cautious, we have too few documents of how he played other composers to gain a full understanding of his art. He helped prepare listeners for then unfamiliar compositions by Bach through an honest and earnest approach. His interpretations of Brahms
were also admired and in 1925 he gave the first performance of Herbert Howells
’s piano concerto.
The edition of Bach's 48 Preludes and Fugues (Well-Tempered Klavier
) in two volumes, published in 1924 for the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music
, still in print (in revised form) and in use today, was prepared by Professor Donald Tovey
, but was fingered throughout by Harold Samuel.
- A. Eaglefield-Hull, A Dictionary of Modern Music and Musicians (Dent, London 1924).