Henri Bertini

(28 October 1798, London – September 30, 1876, Meylan)




Henri Jérôme Bertini was a French composer and pianist who lived in the Classical era. Born in a family of musicians, he received his first piano lessons from his brother, who was a pupil of Muzio Clementi. Soon after he became recognized as a virtuoso and, by the age of 12 he was considered a child prodigy. From an early age he got accustomed with playing in front of a public, his father took him on a tour of England, Holland, Flanders, and Germany where he was enthusiastically received.

He continued his studies in composition in England and Scotland after which he was appointed professor of music in Brussels, but instead he returned to Paris in 1821. On April 20'th 1828 he performed his own transcription of Beethoven's 7th symphony for eight hands with Franz Liszt, Sowinsky and Schunke. 

In terms of chamber music, he was well admired as a great performer, he often gave concerts with his friends Antoine Fontaine (violin) and Auguste Franchomme (cello). In one of his letters Hector Berlioz professed himself to be a great admirer of Henri Bertini and that his music “made his heart beat fast”. Bertini later returned the favour, dedicating his last sextet to the French composer. He was active for a short period of time, in 1848 he retired from the musical scene.

Although he concertized widely, he was not celebrated a virtuoso as either Friedrich Kalkbrenner or Henri Herz. One of his contemporaries described his playing as having Clementi's evenness and clarity in rapid passages as well as the quality of sound, the manner of phrasing, and the ability to make the instrument sing characteristic of the school of Hummel and Moschelès.

He was also a great teacher, Antoine Marmontel wrote: ”He was unsurpassed as a teacher, giving his lessons with scrupulous care and the keenest interest in his pupils' progress. After he had given up teaching, a number of his pupils continued with me, and I recognized the soundness of the principles drawn from his instruction.”

Bertini’s complete études are hard to come by these days. Given the quality of this music we can only hope that a new critical version may one day be published. There is no doubt that such an edition would be of great interest to all those who love the piano.

Robert Schumann, in a review of one of Bertini's piano trios in the Gesammelte Schriften, comments that Bertini writes easily flowing harmony but that the movements are too long. He continues: "With the best will in the world, we find it difficult to be angry with Bertini, yet he drives us to distraction with his perfumed Parisian phrases; all his music is as smooth as silk and satin."German sentimentality has never appreciated French elegance.

He is best remembered today for his piano method Le Rudiment du pianiste, and his 20 books of aproximately 500 studies.

Here  you can find a list of Henri Bertini's works.