Walter Klien was an Austrian pianist who was known for his interpretations of the piano music of Schubert.
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Walter Klien Biography

by RJ Lambert

Walter Klien was an Austrian pianist who was known for his interpretations of the piano music of Schubert. His association with the VOX record label led to a massive recorded legacy, but also contributed to his obscurity. He was born in 1928, in Graz, Austria, to the artist Erika Giovanna Klien. She initially hid her son's birth from her family, and in 1929 she emigrated to the U.S. to pursue her career as an artist and educator. Klien began playing the piano when he was five years old. He received his first piano instruction in Frankfurt, and then studied piano, composition, and conducting in Graz. In 1953 he graduated from the Vienna Music Academy, where he studied piano with Josef Dichler and Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli. It was also around this time when he competed and won prizes at the Bolzano Busoni Competition in 1951 and 1952, the Marguerite Long-Jacques Thibaud Competition in Paris in 1954, and the Bosendorfer Prize in 1953. Following these successes, Klien began recording with the VOX record label. On his earliest recordings he was an accompanist to vocalists Julius Patzak, and Norman Foster, followed by collaborations with pianist Alfred Brendel on albums of four-hand piano music by Brahms, Mozart, and Dvorak. Throughout the 1960s he toured the world, with successful debut performances in London in 1968, and in the United States in 1969. That same year, he also won the Wiener Flötenuhr Prize for his recording of Mozart's complete Piano Sonatas. He continued touring and recording through the '70s, and became known as an interpreter of classical Austrian and German composers. Collaborations in the early '80s with Arthur Grumiaux and Wolfgang Schneiderhan led to many chamber music recordings. He recorded extensively with VOX, leaving a sizeable legacy of masterful interpretations, but this also led to his relative obscurity due to the label's "low-budget" reputation. However, he became the first pianist to record the complete solo piano music of Brahms, and his complete recording of Schubert's Piano Sonatas is especially revered. He also recorded piano concertos by more modern composers such as Stravinsky, Janáček, and Honegger.

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