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Author Topic: Empson, Ernest Charles 1880 - 1970  (Read 11376 times)
marke
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« on: September 22, 2003, 11:10:08 AM »

Pianist, piano teacher
 
Ernest Charles Empson was born on 9 March 1880 in Ashburton to Yorkshire-born parents John Edwin Empson, an engine-fitter, and his wife, Ann Johnson. He was brought up in the household of Charles and Sophia Thompson, parents of the painter Sydney Lough Thompson, where his precocious musical gifts were recognised early and encouraged by Sophia. He was educated at Christchurch East School.

Empson’s first major teacher was the Christchurch pianist and critic Hermann Lund, one of the influential German musicians who shaped musical developments in late nineteenth century New Zealand. Lund remained an abiding influence, and in old age Empson described his playing as being of rare loveliness. Empson quickly became an admired solo and chamber music pianist, and in 1899 also started to teach. On 30 June 1905, at Christchurch, he married Florence (Flora) Elizabeth, the Thompsons’ 19-year-old daughter. They were to have three sons.

After taking part in concerts at the New Zealand International Exhibition in Christchurch in 1906–7, Empson went to Frankfurt am Main to study at the Hoch Conservatory. He gave a series of successful concerto concerts and recitals before moving to Berlin. There he became friends with the great violinist Joseph Joachim, the composer–pianist Ferruccio Busoni, and the pianist Artur Schnabel. However, with a young family and Flora ill with tuberculosis, he could not afford to study with Busoni, who took his select group of pupils with him on his long concert tours. Instead, on Schnabel’s advice, he studied with Leopold Godowsky, whose influence on European pianists was already profound. Through Empson that influence was to be transmitted to generations of New Zealand pianists.

Empson’s career in Germany ended prematurely when Flora became so seriously ill that in 1908 they had to return to Christchurch, where she died in 1912. On 19 June 1913, at Christchurch, Empson married Grace Anne Prettejohns, a promising young singer and musician, with whom he had two sons and two daughters. Professionally, he marked his return with a series of acclaimed recitals and his reputation quickly spread abroad. In 1917 he toured the South East Asian concert circuit with the French-Canadian tenor Paul Dufault; a privately published memoir, My experiences in the east , describes this tour. He later toured Australia.

In 1922 Empson abruptly left Christchurch for Australia, taking with him a married pupil, Ivey Violet King (née Manchester). His abandonment of Grace and their children created some scandal and generated long-lasting family bitterness. His career, however, flourished in Australia where, for most of the next decade, he not only continued to give highly praised concerts, but became one of the busiest of pioneer radio recitalists and accompanied such distinguished visitors as the operatic tenor Joseph Hislop. He also examined piano and chamber music for the New South Wales State Conservatorium of Music and the Australian Music Examinations Board.

Ernest and Ivey married at Christchurch on 30 August 1932, the same day as his divorce from Grace. They lived in Australia from 1936 to 1941. Following their return, Ernest became not only the most influential piano teacher of his time in New Zealand, but a dominant and sometimes formidable personality in Christchurch’s musical life; as Frederick Page put it, he demanded – and won – ‘disciples’ rather than mere pupils. At some time almost every young New Zealand pianist of note studied with him. Douglas Lilburn, Margaret Nielsen and Maurice Till were to be among the best known. The regular recitals sponsored by his Eroica Club were features of Christchurch’s musical life for many years and proved valuable testing grounds for young pianists and a few young singers. He was an early member and president of the Music Teachers’ Association of New Zealand and was made an OBE in 1959 for services to music. He retired in 1968 at the age of 88 and died on 23 June 1970, survived by his third wife, and by four sons and two daughters.

Of commanding and leonine appearance, Ernest Empson was immensely courteous and possessed a refinement, artistic perception and musical knowledge that set him apart from most of his fellow teachers. He possessed, in every sense, the grand manner and could be formidable indeed with what he perceived to be artistic shallowness and with rival teachers. He remained a superb pianist into old age, although he performed infrequently in public during the last 30 years of his life. He was unique among contemporary New Zealand piano teachers in possessing an international reputation.
 
 

EDMUND BOHAN  
 
Jennings, J. M. The music teaching profession in New Zealand. Wellington, 1978

Obit. Press. 24 June 1970: 18

Page, F. A musician’s journal, 1905–1983. Ed. J. M. Thomson & J. Paul. Dunedin, 1986
 
 

Bohan, Edmund. 'Empson, Ernest Charles 1880 - 1970'.  Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, updated 31 July 2003

http://www.dnzb.govt.nz/dnzb/default.asp?Find_Quick.asp?PersonEssay=5E7
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chris
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« Reply #1 on: December 01, 2004, 09:56:23 AM »

hi my name is chris empson. My dad is david francis empson, my dads father is frank empson who i have been told is the son of ernest empson. can you confirm the latter.
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chris18
marke
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« Reply #2 on: December 02, 2004, 07:19:26 PM »

Hello Chris

I have had a look throught all the information that I have, and I can not find the link, but this does not mean that it is incorrect. You can search my database on line at http://www.empson.net
Best regards,
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Anonymous
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« Reply #3 on: March 24, 2005, 11:49:55 AM »

Hello Mark and Chris

I am David Empson (your Dad, Chris) and I am confirming that Ernest Charles is my Dad's father.  Therefore, Chris, he is your great grandfather.
Please inform your other brother and sisters if it is of interest to them.  My step son Raymond Robinson is following my granddad's footsteps.  He is becoming a very good pianist and wants to attend Juilliard School of Music in NYC.  The great American pianist Arthur Rubinstein was Ernest's good friend.  Regards.  Dave Empson Qld AU
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Anonymous
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« Reply #4 on: June 16, 2005, 09:32:41 PM »

Quote
Originally posted by chris
hi my name is chris empson. My dad is david francis empson, my dads father is frank empson who i have been told is the son of ernest empson. can you confirm the latter.
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Anonymous
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« Reply #5 on: January 27, 2006, 04:37:32 AM »

Ernest Charles Empson toured  with Paul Dufault in 1917. Paul Dufault was my mother's uncle and I am looking for any informations about his carreer. I am writing the history of my family for my brothers and sisters .Where can I find , My experiences in the east , this privately published memoir who describes this tour. I took those informations in the text concerning Empson's biography.
my email address is : webulysse@hotmail.com

Thank you
I live in Canada

Colette
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