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Hans von Bülow

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Hans Guido Freiherr von Bülow (January 8, 1830 – February 12, 1894) was a German conductor, virtuoso pianist, and composer of the Romantic era. He was one of the most famous conductors of the 19th century, and his activity was critical for establishing the successes of several major composers of the time, including Richard Wagner.

Bülow was born in Dresden, and from the age of nine he was a student of Friedrich Wieck (the father of Clara Schumann). However, his parents insisted that he study law instead of music, and sent him to Leipzig. There he met Franz Liszt, and on hearing some music of Richard Wagner—specifically, the premiere of Lohengrin in 1850—he decided to ignore the dictates of his parents and make himself a career in music instead. He studied the piano in Leipzig with the famous pedagogue Louis Plaidy. He obtained his first conducting job in Zurich, on Wagner’s recommendation, in 1850.


Notoriously tactless, Bülow alienated many musicians with whom he worked. He was dismissed from his Zurich job for this reason, but at the same time he was beginning to win renown for his ability to conduct new and complex works without a score. In 1851 he became a student of Liszt, marrying Liszt’s daughter Cosima in 1857. They had two daughters: Daniela, born in 1860 and Blandine, born in 1863. During the 1850s and early 1860s he was active as a pianist, conductor, and writer, and became well-known throughout Germany as well as Russia. In 1857 he premiered Liszt’s great Piano Sonata in B minor in Berlin.

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