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Five Random Things and One Weird One

I was tagged for the “historical figure” meme by Antonella Pavese. Choose an historical figure and list five random/weird things about said figure. I’m interpreting “historical” loosely as anyone who has died, but not necessarily someone who is well-known.

I can’t say I have a favorite historical figure, but I have long been interested in art, so I first thought of picking a nineteenth-century European painter. For a time, I settled on Turner whom I have always admired, but I don't know much about him, other than what I remember from reading Ruskin’s Modern Painters.

Then, inspiration struck (ow!!). I chose Josef Hofmann, the pianist (1876–1957), someone who is not only an artist of the first rank, but who I knew had other accomplishments outside of music (although I had to do some research to find out the details). Of the pianists who were the first to be recorded at the beginning of the 20th century (at first using the acoustic and then later, electrical, processes), Hofmann is my favorite since being introduced to his playing about twenty years ago. Here, then, are five random things (and one weird one) about Hofmann:

  1. Hofmann was a child prodigy, but was so overworked (5 concerts a week during ten weeks of touring in America) that the tour was cancelled at the request of the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.
  2. The great pianist Anton Rubinstein had only one private student—Hofmann.
  3. Hofmann was instrumental in founding the Curtis Institute of Music here in Philadelphia and taught there when it was formed in 1924 and later was the Institute’s director for ten years.
  4. Hofmann had a phenomenal memory and musical ear and was able to learn pieces just from hearing them played once.
  5. Hofmann was a mechanical genius and had over 70 patents for various inventions, only one of which had anything to do with music. His most successful invention was a pneumatic shock absorber for vehicles.
  6. Reportedly, Hofmann preferred Geno’s cheesesteaks to Pat’s. Not sure where I read that.

There is some video on YouTube from a Bell Telephone Hour performance in the Forties, but Hofmann was at the end of his career, and he is not at his best.


It's possible that Hofmann had a Pat's steak sandwich, but not Geno's-- compare dates of when each shop was founded:

Oops, gag failure. Interesting read; I didn't realize that Joe Vento was the founder of Geno's or that Pat's was that old. I didn't even know there were cheesesteaks in Hofmann's time.

Cool! Interesting and extraordinary talented artist, Joseph Hofmann. Although sometimes I feel that people like him should apologize to humanity for the excessive amount of natural skills they have accumulated in a single life. ;-)

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