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Leo Kestenberg

KESTENBERG, LEO (1882–1962), pianist and music educator. Born in Rózsahegy (Rosenberg), Hungary, the son of a ḥazzan, Kestenberg studied the piano in Berlin with G. Albrecht, F. Kullak, and Ferruccio Busoni whose personality exercised a lasting influence on his career. Attaining early fame as a concert pianist, he at the same time joined the young Social-Democratic movement, and began to work toward his major ideal, the social integration of musical life. From 1905, Kestenberg organized the performances of the Freie Volksbuehne (Popular Theater) – folk choirs, concerts, and meetings. Especially after his appointment in 1918 as the music adviser, and in 1927, as the music counselor, at the Prussian Ministry of Culture, he turned to the thorough reform of musical education known today as the "Kestenberg-Reform." His yearly educational decrees extended to music teachers in academies, seminaries, conservatories, schools, and kindergartens. In 1933, Kestenberg fled to Prague where he founded, under the sponsorship of the Czech Ministry of Education, the International Society for Music Education, which held three major international congresses. Arriving in Ereẓ Israel in 1938, he became the general manager of the Palestine Orchestra (later the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra). In 1945 Kestenberg founded the Music Teachers' Training College in Tel Aviv, which he headed for over 15 years and regarded it as the fulfillment of his musical mission. At the college he realized for a third time his ideas on the role of music in the life of a nation. As professor at the Tel Aviv Academy of Music, he educated a number of well-known Israeli pianists. Among his publications are: Musikerziehung und Musikpflege (1921); Jahrbuch der deutschen Musikorganisation (1929); Kunst und Technik (1930); Bewegte Zeiten (autobiography, 1961); and he was the editor of Musikpaedagogische Bibliothek.


G. Braun, Die Schulmusikerziehung in Preussen. Von den Falkschen Bestimmungen bis zur Kestenberg-Reform (1957); E. Gerson-Kiwi, in: Acta Musicologica, 30 (1958), 17–26 (Eng.); idem, in: Gesher, 5:3 (1959), 110–1; idem, in: Haaretz, 25 (Nov. 30, 1942), 2; MGG, incl. bibl.; Grove, Dict; Baker, Biog Dict, incl. bibl.; Riemann-Gurlitt, incl. bibl.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.