Music with Minnesotans: LaWayne Leno

by Alison Young, Minnesota Public Radio
September 17, 2013

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Her story reads like a fairy tale.

She was a prodigy who caught the attention of Franz Liszt, came to America and blew everyone away — opening the seasons of Carnegie Hall, the Schubert Club and the Minnesota Orchestra.

She wore the most beautiful clothes, was invited to the fanciest parties, was feted by aristocracy and anyone who was anyone at the turn-of-the-century, including Tchaikovsky.

It would be safe to say she was a star along the lines of Angelina Jolie.

But the end was not happily-ever-after for this princess of the piano, Adele aus der Ohe, who today has been all but been forgotten.

That is until now, when a part-time pianist stumbled upon her glittering life and preserved it in a book. LaWayne Leno tells Adele aus der Ohe's story vividly, in colorful detail and with such tenderness. While all of musical importance is intact and academic, this is a book for anyone interested in a the story of a woman finding international success as a performing artist in the man's world of the 19th century.

You have seen something great done at last, and by a woman!
- 19th-century American music critic, Howard Malcom Ticknor

German-born Adele aus der Ohe was one of the richest women in America.

But she worked hard for the money. For weeks on end she toured, learning dozens of concertos and solo works for entire seasons of recitals. She performed with a dignity and self-assured bravado, despite exhaustion due to trans-Atlantic voyages and week-long train travels lugging massive trunks.

Her story does not end happily. She found herself stranded in Germany during the war, unable to return to the life that she had created in America. Eventually, as a result of hyper-inflation, her wealth dwindled to nothing.

Nevertheless she inspires, and LaWayne Leno has done us a real service sharing her life as well as the music that was so dear to this most special woman.

LaWayne Leno's playlist:

Franz Liszt, Liebestraum - Eugen d'Albert

Franz Liszt, Piano Concerto - Oxana Yablonskaya/Moscow Philharmonic

Arthur Foote, Five Poems after Omar Khayyam - Virginia Eskin

Piano Concerto No. 1: 2nd Movement - Martha Argerich/Berlin Philharmonic

Franz Liszt, Orage - Reid Smith

Next week, our guest is Christopher Hopkins, The Makeover Guy. He's a singer, stylist and you guessed it, he gives this friendly Face-for-Radio a makeover.

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