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Composers and repertoire

Fania Chapiro

Fania Chapiro

Fania Chapiro was born on 10 June 1926 in Soerabaya of a Russian Jewish father and a Dutch mother. She started piano lessons when she was only five, with Johann Madlener. In the 1930s many famous musicians came on tour in Indonesia. Thus the young Fania was able to attend a concert by Jascha Heifetz in 1932. In 1933 Fania heard the pianist Benno Moìseìwitsch; he persuaded her to go back with him to Europe.

In 1934 the Chapiro family moved to Paris, where Fania studied under Lazare Lévy. She studied music theory at the National Conservatory and won a prize when she was only 12 years old. She no longer went to ordinary school but was taught at home by her mother. Five years later the Chapiros settled in The Hague; while they were there on a family visit war broke out and it was no longer possible to return to Paris. In the first year of the war Fania was taking lessons in harmony and counterpoint from the composer Sem Dresden, at that time Director of The Hague Conservatory. Because of the anti-Jewish laws he and other Jewish teachers were removed from their posts in November 1940. This was followed in May 1941 by the dimissal of all Jewish orchestra players.
A number of them formed the Jewish Symphony Orchestra conducted by Albert van Raalte. In the next eight months they gave 25 concerts. On 10 June 1942, the day of her sixteenth birthday, Fania was soloiste with this orchestra, playing Anton Rubinstein's Fourth Piano Concerto. The concert was held in ‘De Joodschen Schouwburg' (the Jewish Theatre) on Plantage Middellaan. Concerts there were invariably sold out. When the deportations began in July 1942 the orchestra was forced to cease its activities. Fewer than half the musicians survived the war.
Fania's father Nahoum went underground and Fania gave secret house concerts. She found a new outlet in composition. Her first pieces are still rather childish but her style rapidly matured. The French influence is evident; she writes in neo-classical style, full of imagination.

After the war her father returned and Chapiro was once more able to perform. Letters to her friends reveal that she wanted to leave the Netherlands. In 1948 she left for America. She studied composition and instrumentation under Jerzy Fitelberg and made her debut in New York in 1949 – according to the press reviews "the best debut of the season". Her compositions also reveal new inspiration. In 1951 she wrote a 'Scherzo for string quartet'.
In 1953 she returned to the Netherlands, where she married and had children. A 1958 review suggests that her career has taken a downturn. Yet from this year onwards Chapiro appeared ever more frequently in Dutch concert halls and on the radio. She even had time to compose: there are several fine compositions dating from this time.

In the 1960s Chapiro became interested in old instruments. This made her one of the forerunners of the movement that promoted "authentic" performances. From 1970 to 1980 she gave numerous concerts, playing both old and modern instruments and commenting on them. She also introduced thematic concerts, including around female composers. She became senior piano tutor at the Conservatory in her hometown of Hilversum. Amongst her students were the composer Joost Kleppe and the flautist Eleonore Pameijer. Fania Chapiro died in 1994 in Hilversum.

Diet Scholten

Source: Margaret Krill, Nederlandse piano-meesters uit de 19de en 20ste eeuw (Leading Dutch pianists of the 19th and 20th centuries), ed. Bekking & Blitz

Selected works

Sonatine pour le piano 1957-9 piano
Vier miniaturen 1955 four-handed piano
Sonatine voor fluit en piano 1962 flute and piano

Find out more about Fania Chapiro, find sheet music and listen to sound samples on www.forbiddenmusicregained.org