It is with great sadness that The Leeds International Piano Competition announces the death of its founder and President Emeritus Dame Fanny Waterman at the age of 100. Read the full announcement here.
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It is with great sadness that I heard the news of Dame Fanny Waterman’s passing. She had a strong, indomitable spirit that enabled her to both create the Leeds Piano Competition and to determine its direction and artistic ideals. This had a profound impact on young pianist’s lives and careers, mine included. It gave opportunities that would otherwise be very hard to come by. And personally, I am very grateful for her friendship and counsel, and I will always remember her extraordinary vitality and positive spirit. ~ Murray Perahia – Patron of The Leeds
A giant of a woman has gone from us; diminutive in height, maybe, but not in any other way. Her personality, her gifts as a musician, teacher and friend have been an enormous influence on her profession, in her home city of Leeds and in the world of performance, a legacy which will long be remembered. She remained utterly faithful to her ideals for the whole of her long life and never wavered from her pursuit of excellence and hard work, values which were of paramount importance to her and of which she never ceased to remind us. She was enormously successful in the difficult art of fundraising; it was usually impossible to refuse her anything because the cause of music and musicians was her passion and she convinced almost everyone she met to share it. As a true and lifelong friend to so many, the grief for her passing from our lives is indescribable. ~ Dame Janet Baker
I’ve known Fanny Waterman, Dame Fanny, since I was a boy. She and my mother were close friends, they wrote highly successful piano tutor books together and Fanny was always very generous in acknowledging her central role in the early days of the Leeds International Piano Competition, ‘The Leeds’. I was, briefly, Fanny’s pupil, one of the worst she ever had she confided later, which I suppose is some sort of a backhanded compliment.
Fanny was 100 when she died – of course she was, her determination and extraordinary fighting spirit could have no other outcome. She was an extraordinary woman, a true embodiment of that over-used expression ‘a force of nature’. It has been a privilege to know her and Diane and I and the rest of my family join together to send our condolences and warmest wishes to her sons Robert and Paul and the rest of her family. ~ Lord Harewood
I don’t think there has been a concert hall around the globe that has not felt the impact of the Leeds International Piano Competition in the great names it has helped on their way. I can only say that her vision will live on as a positive force for many years to come. She has been an inspiration to all of us. ~ Lang Lang, The Leeds Global Ambassador
“The Leeds” has been for decades such an important platform for gifted young pianists , and this entirely through the passion and devotion to the cause of Dame Fanny. A remarkable woman whose undying enthusiasm will, even in her absence, carry us forward. ~ Imogen Cooper
The gift that Dame Fanny has bequeathed to Leeds is of course very significant. Together with Marion Thorpe she established a competition of the highest level. In doing so she brought immense reclame to the City and its cultural life. During the years that I knew her and collaborated with her we struck up a great friendship. She was very demanding on everyone around her and I often marvelled that her diminutive stature was no barrier to her authority and energy! She often said to me “If I don’t do it myself it won’t be done properly!” Her insistence on the highest standards reached into every corner of the Competition and no-one was immune….! But she had a lovely sense of humour too. She sometimes asked me to do a ‘Conversazione’ with her for all her supporters and patrons. I couldn’t resist teasing her in front of the audience and I think everyone loved seeing her laugh uproariously! She remained very loyal to me and the Hallé and we certainly had some great nights there at the Competition. It became clear that it was time for change – a new lease of life – but her legacy will always be there and I know The Leeds will flourish way into the future! ~ Sir Mark Elder
It was with great sadness that I learned yesterday of the passing of this great lady, Dame Fanny Waterman. Today, my heart goes out to Robert and Paul De Keyser and their families. Dame Fanny held unimpeachable beliefs, beliefs that were difficult for some, a blessing for others. What is true is that her musical and pianistic standards were of the highest order, her professionalism unparalleled. Her faith in the goodness, the healing powers of music gave her the strength and fortitude that made her, to quote many, ‘a power of nature’. With her remarkable husband, Geoffrey, at her side until 2001, she continued over the years to build on the initial success of the Leeds, making it one of the most recognized names in the business. Through it, she transformed the lives of countless young pianists, including virtually all the prize winners of the Leeds, myself included, and we will be forever in her debt. I last saw Dame Fanny in London in June of 2018 at the 60th anniversary celebrations of our dear friends, Sir Sydney and Lady Lipworth. This past March, I would have been in Israel during the centenary celebrations that were meant to be held in her honour in Leeds. Sadly, both events were cancelled at the last minute due to Covid. I firmly believed at the time that she was so indomitable that she would achieve 110 and I would manage to see her one last time. No longer… Dear Dame Fanny, may you rest in heavenly peace amongst the angels of Music and the Arts. With much love and deep appreciation, Craig ~ Craig Sheppard
It is with great sadness that we learned of Dame Fanny’s passing. She was a person of incredible value, working tirelessly for music and young musicians. She was an example for all of us who are leading international music competitions: her tireless dedication and energy, her everlasting passion was like a spur for each and every one of us. She will remain in our hearts and memories forever. ~ Didier Schnorhk, President of the World Federation of International Music Competitions
Dame Fanny Waterman is a remarkable example of dedication to youth and music. Her vision and hard work changed the lives of hundreds, if not thousands of people, bringing the name of the city of Leeds to the pantheon of musical life. I regret not having had the opportunity to celebrate her 100th birthday last March, where I would finally have the opportunity to tell her in person how much I am grateful for everything she has done for music and especially for my life after my two participations at the LIPC. My sincere condolences to her family and friends and my commitment to praise her life and values. ~ Ricardo Castro
I learned with great sadness that Fanny Waterman has died. She was an extraordinary person and she lived an extraordinary life. I knew Fanny since the legendary 1975 Leeds Competition and my memories about so many meetings with her are truly unforgettable. She really was a symbol of an era. My sincere condolences to her family and friends. ~ Dmitri Alexeev
I was terribly sad to hear that Dame Fanny passed away. It was very very special to live with her for a few years of my life, and I learnt a lot from her. Her piano teaching method was really unique. I will never forget her, and ‘thank you so much for everything! ~ Mariko Ono
The Royal College of Music would like to express our sincere and deepest condolences to the family and friends of Dame Fanny Waterman. Dame Fanny’s exceptional musical career is tribute to what a tremendous woman she was and the RCM is proud to count Dame Fanny amongst our most distinguished alumnae. The guidance and opportunities she provided have enabled countless talented artists to flourish and their international successes are a testament to her dedication to her work. Dame Fanny was always such a strong supporter and ambassador of the RCM, and I am so pleased we were able to award her an FRCM in 1971. ~ Colin Lawson
You put Leeds on the map and you were an inspiration to piano players the world over. Long may the memories you created live on. I feel lucky to have met you in person. ~ Sheila Winn
Through her life’s work Dame Fanny has left an indelible stamp on musical life. The first steps of countless novice pianists have been guided with wisdom and assurance by the books she wrote with Marion Harewood, and the careers of many of today’s leading virtuosi were launched by the competition she founded, and which has carried the name of her native city of Leeds into every corner of the globe where classical music is loved. Through everything that she has contributed to the world of music her beneficent influence will continue to be felt for a long time to come. RIP Dame Fanny. ~ Robert Markham
I was very sorry to hear of Dame Fanny’s death. It was especially sad that her 100th birthday wasn’t able to be celebrated earlier this year as it should have been, due to Covid. She was a remarkable woman and has left behind a wonderful legacy in the form of the Leeds International Piano Competition, which has brought so much joy to performers and audience alike. ~ Linda Lattimer
My life changed forever at the 1984 Leeds International Piano Competition. My fondest memory was being invited to visit with Fanny and Geoffrey at their home the day after the competition; their warmth, grace, enthusiasm and best wishes reverberate to this day. (In fact I’ve thought of her every time I’ve opened mail with the Leeds letter opener she gave me that day.) Dame Fanny was an extraordinary woman and I had been so looking forward to seeing her in person at her 100th birthday, having survived my nerves in playing privately for her 90th in Washington, DC. Although this is a sad occasion, I feel that Dame Fanny’s long and influential life is one to continue celebrating through the power of music, as she did herself for so many decades. I send my warmest wishes to all at the Leeds International Piano Competition, and to everyone who felt Dame Fanny’s presence, personally and through music. ~ Jon Kimura Parker
It is with great sadness, that I have just read this news, nine months on… I still use so many of Dame Fanny Waterman’s wonderful teaching philosophies in my own teaching… and have one of her very famous quotes in the front of an old music diary, always to mind… She will be greatly missed by all those in the world of music.. especially those in the world of the piano, and those who teach this instrument… but what a legacy she has left us…. ~ Suzanne Munro
So sorry to hear of the passing of my old teacher, Fanny Waterman! She taught me for 7 years and has been a major influence throughout my life ever since. Her attention to detail was second to none, and we could easily spend most of a lesson perfecting just one bar of music. Her loss will be felt by many. It is some comfort to me that she spent her final days in my own beautiful home town of Ilkley. ~ Kathryn Coulls (nee Elliott)
LOSS OF YORKSHIRES FIRST LADY OF MUSIC, A STAR IN OUR MIDST HAS PASSED. It was with great sadness that I heard last night that Dame Fanny Waterman had passed at the great age of 100. It was easy to take Dame Fanny for granted, as she was a no fuss no nonsense person. The truth of the matter, she was a friend of Princes, Arch Bishops, Composers, performers, the everyman man in the street, especially children with Musical talent. Dame Fanny encompassed all artistic genre’s. As a Trustee of the Friends of Arts and Music at the University of Leeds, we were proud to have her as an Hon Vice President. In 2011 Dame Fanny opened the Carlos Nadal Exhibition at the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery at the University of Leeds, with great style and panache. We have enjoyed many years of her great work with The LEEDS Piano contest. I personally will miss her happy greetings whenever we met. Sincerely, ~ John Duncalfe
From New Zealand, with family living in Leeds, I have had the joy of attending LIPC events in 2012 and 2018. These have been life highlights for me, and it was always such a pleasure to see this remarkable woman in action even chairing the jury in 2012. Thank you Dame Fanny so much for your years of work continuing to make The Leeds International Piano Competition such a major success. You are simply a ‘Legend’. ~ Shona Thompson
Sad to hear of Dame Fanny Waterman’s passing. I knew her as the founder of the The Leeds International Piano Competition, an indefatigable “dynamo” of astounding enthusiasm and vision. I remember her constant quest for truth, vitality and integrity in music and her wise words about life, music and everything in between, will resound in my mind for the rest of my life. ~ Alessio Bax
My mother was an amateur pianist and often talked about Fanny Waterman with great admiration. What an amazing contribution she made to Leeds by developing the International Piano Competition. RIP. ~ Ann Whitehead
Many thanks Fanny for your inspiration in teaching my daughter for 7 years and for the enlightenment in technique which I also benefitted from whilst attending all the lessons. I was not allowed to drift into other thoughts whilst there and consequently benefitted tremendously. It was akin to having a Masterclass on a weekly basis. I think about you so often as, with rheumatic fingers I still try to play the best that I can and many times think that ‘that would not be good enough for Fanny’ and I strive to do better.You will always live on in my thoughts. ~ Pauline Elliott, Ilkley
Although I’m not a musician myself, I’m full of pride for Dame Fanny’s achievements, she will be remembered forever through her wonderful piano competition. Leeds and the world of music has lost an icon. ~ Michael Hodgson
The Administration of the International Competition for Young Pianists in Memory of Vladimir Horowitz would like to express our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Dame Fanny Waterman. This is a heavy loss for the whole music world. Dame Waterman’s prestige is respected by thousands of young musicians, teachers, public figures, and music professionals all over the world. It was a great honour for us to have Dame Fanny Waterman as a member of the jury of the VI and VII Horowitz piano competitions (2005, 2007). This page of collaboration and friendship with her will forever remain in the history of the Horowitz competition and in our hearts. Rest in Peace Dame Fanny Waterman. ~ Iryna Polstiankina, President and CEO of the International Charitable Fund of Vladimir Horowitz Competition, Honoured Figure of Arts of Ukraine
An amazing lady, incredible energy and a passion for music and her beloved piano competition. She gave many fine pianists their start on the international stage. Music was her life which she shared with many. ~ Trevor Green
In all my 19 years at the Hallé Dame Fanny was a partner of such sympathy and life, it was an inspiration. Helping to organize the resident orchestra’s role in the Competition, and to do what we could to help the finalists give of their best, and to further relationships with many of them was a pleasure. She was always anxious to hear of any forthcoming engagements and made a point of coming across to Manchester to hear them. I count myself very privileged not only to have known her since my early days as a young musician, but to have worked with her as a colleague and friend. I had known Fanny since my schooldays in the 70s, and enjoying being coached by her on at least one occasion. I was a very slight 16-year-old and, concerned about my weight, she gave me the run of her copious fridge of left-overs, which was much appreciated. Thank you for everything, Fanny, we will miss you. ~ Geoffrey Owen (Former Head of Artistic Planning, Hallé Concerts Society)
I was saddened greatly to hear of the passing of Dame Fanny Waterman. What a simply wonderful and inspiring lady she was! It was her Leeds Piano Competition that has truly put so many pianists’ names on the musical map, including my own. Succeeding in the 1993 competition gave me such encouragement and core belief in my musical ability that has become a foundation of my being; one can say that all my musical growth has stemmed from there and for that I will always be deeply grateful to her. I was honoured to have performed a recital in celebration of her life and work at the University of Leeds in 2018 and was delighted to see her attending my 2019 performance at the BBC Proms despite her frailty. She will always be treasured and never forgotten. RIP Dame Fanny. ~ Leon McCawley
What an amazing career ! But so much was the luck of meeting my mother Roslyn Lyons and then she introduced her to Marion Harewood.I am not mentioned at all when I was with Michael Roll Kathleen Jones Allan Schiller, Wendy Waterman her pupil at the beginning plus I played in concerts at the Town Hall. Well an era has ended. It will continue with hopefully someone able. ~ Duchess of Fragnito Patricia Lyons
I learnt with much sadness about the passing of Dame Fanny Waterman. What an astonishing life, full of passion and energy! She had such a positive impact on the lives of so many pianistic careers. She was an amazing motivator in getting everybody onboard with her mission in Leeds. I remember her masterclass at the RNCM with much fondness. It was full of no-nonsense, down to earth practical advice placing great demands on the participants. Those in attendance were enthralled. She will be greatly missed. Rest in peace Dame Fanny. ~ Graham Scott, Royal Northern College of Music
We were saddened to read your email about the death of Dame Fanny Waterman who was greatly admired and loved by so many.I first watched the competition as a teenager in 1966 and when we moved to Nottingham in 1986 we have been regular attenders at the competition since 1990.It was clear from our first visit in 1990 that the competitors really enjoyed the competition and were inspired by Dame Fanny and her team.Inspiring young people to commit to a professional career in music is a wonderful achievement which was sustained over so many years with such enthusiasm.She will be greatly missed by us all . ~ Dr Eric and Mrs Deborah Bessell
It is with great sadness that I learned of the death of Dame Fanny. Few have done more to put a city on the musical map than she. For lovers of classical music and particularly those interested in the piano repertoire, Fanny Waterman and Leeds go hand in hand. I was always struck by her warmth of generosity and her love of all genres of music. A frequent guest at Leeds Lieder events, she would delight in chatting informally to the artists, to the audiences (many of whom she knew), and was always passionate in discussing with me her firm held belief in the power of music education for all. What a legacy she leaves. Music lovers the world over owe a huge debt of gratitude. Thank you Dame Fanny. ~ Joseph Middleton – Director, Leeds Lieder
Dear Dame Fanny, you gave so much of yourself during your whole life, radiating and transmitting with such generosity your passion for music. I am happy to express my gratitude and admiration today as thinking of you is a joy, because it means thinking of a magnificent example of human and artistic achievement, which will remain wonderfully encouraging for everybody, in our troubled times. Thanks from all my heart. Merci vibrant de France. ~ Anne Queffélec
The World Federation of International Music Competitions mourns for one of our most unique and fascinating personalities: Dame Fanny Waterman. Through her great charisma, passion, and artistic integrity she helped countless young pianists on the way to an international career and made the Leeds International Piano Competition an institution like no other.Farewell, Fanny Waterman, and thank you for your inspiration, friendship and love. You will be greatly missed by all of us.~ Florian Riem, Secretary General, World Federation of International Music Competition
Fanny Waterman, through her Me and My Piano book series together with Marion Stein (Countess of Harewood), was my introduction to formal piano lessons at age 9. 40 years on I still have all those books, and my sons now use them, now we live in Finland. Dame Fanny had style and determination, by all accounts. My piano teachers certainly followed Fanny’s lead, so I had to work hard. Thank you Fanny, a Field Marshall of piano teaching. You will be missed. RIP. ~ Garry Parker, Founder and Director, The Royal Commonwealth Society Nordic-Baltic Hub, Helsinki
Both Hilary and I were so saddened to hear that Dame Fanny has died = but thankfully we hear this was peaceful.It really is the end of an era: they “don’t make people” like Fanny any longer. Her vision for the Competition, her indomitable resolve and her passion are abiding memories, and the successful future of the Competition will be her legacy. We salute an extraordinary lady.~ Christopher and Hilary Elton
I am so sorry to learn of the passing of a true legend of the piano world. She was a tireless advocate for music and the piano, and I doubt we’ll ever see her like again. My condolences to her family and friends. I know their loss will be mixed with pride, as they remember her impact on the music world.~ John Stafford
With the death of Dame Fanny we, prizewinners of the Leeds Competition, lose the person who most indelibly has marked our artistic growth.. She was undoubtedly among the people most dear to my heart: thank you, Dame Fanny, for what you did for Leeds, for music and for us. You will be greatly missed: I feel so lucky for having shared a stretch of my music path with such an extraordinary and unique teacher, pianist and woman, and I consider the years in which I was able to attend you as a real gift that I will keep for my entire life.~ Alessandro Taverna
Dame Fanny was my piano teacher from age 4 to age 13. I am currently 16 years old and I would not be where I am now without her. I am sure she has inspired many others in the same way as she did for me; she was truly an inspiration. Although she has sadly passed, she has no doubt made a mark in this world, and her passion for music will burn on in the hearts of many. May she rest in peace. ~ Serene Liu
Dame Fanny Waterman has been one of my greatest idol and inspiration. Her teachings has shaped the person I am now and has given me opportunities in life that I would never think would happen . Her passion in her teachings made me realize the true value of the art of piano playing as it has allowed me to approach music with a delicate attitude paying attention to every detail possible. Getting taught by her was one of the best things that happened to me. She would tell us stories , (fiction and non fiction) to help us realize how we should approach pieces and what mistakes we should learn from them. Dame Fanny always spoke about moods and feelings to deeply improve our mindset and to help us provide emotions that can be portrayed/ reflected onto piano our own playing. I am Honoured to be her student for 7 years and I will always treasure the memories I had with her for eternity. May she rest in peace. ~ Nathan Li
To have devoted 8 whole years of passionate teaching has given me the greatest gift I have and will ever receive. She has given me everything a student would have dreamed of and I will cherish those moments throughout my life. She will be remembered as the one who enlightened music across the globe. ~ Issac Li
Dame Fanny was my first piano teacher and it was with great sadness that I learnt of her passing. The knowledge she passed onto me was invaluable and I will always treasure the lessons I had with her. Her competition has launched the international careers of many young pianists and her personality was second to none. ~ Han Zhao
What an amazing woman. So sad Dame Fanny is no longer with us. She achieved so much in her lifetime, was very approachable and easy to talk to, always interested in what one had to say – so it really is the end of an era. ~ Tish Hopkins
‘A legend in her own lifetime’ is a much-overused appellation but in Dame Fanny’s case more than justified and with her death, we have indeed lost a legendary figure. Whatever she may have lacked in physical stature she made up for in her dynamism, dedication and determination, bringing Leeds to the very centre of the world of piano competition. In ‘The Leeds’ she leaves a legacy that will outlast us all. ~ Jillian Johnson
I have never heard of Dame Waterman until tonight, reading her obituary in the New York Times. Such a tribute to a remarkable ( remarkable!) woman. She lived with dignity and class…..RIP Dame Fanny. ~ Robin Solomon
I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Dame Fanny Waterman. At the same time, there is so much to celebrate in regard to her invaluable contribution to music, the piano world, and people’s lives in general! I studied with Fanny Waterman during the mid-eighties, thanks to the generous assistance from the Canada Council and the gracious hospitality of the Baskind family.
Dame Fanny was a supreme musician and one of the greatest musical mentors of my life. Along with exploring the message and emotion of the music, she paid attention to details more than most. Tone production was often at the forefront for her. She presented methodical guidance both in tonal balance between voices, as well as in making the actual timbre of the sound “vibrate”. Regarding rhythm, Dame Fanny once said to me that “it’s what we pin the notes to”. She was a stickler, for example, on insisting that a sixteenth note not come in too soon following a dotted eighth note. The timing, after all, also affects the gradation of volume. Sometimes people did not understand why she harped on aspects which seemed minute to them, but it is that type of finesse which ultimately gives music the character and meaning that moves the listener.
It is well known that Dame Fanny was like a compact ball of vigorous energy. Often, after many hours of teaching, she’d prepare dinner for Geoffrey. Among her favourite foods were roast beef and potatoes, as well as soup, in which she knew how to make over twenty varieties! Her shortbread cookies were legendary – I brought the recipe with me to Canada. It was the corn flour which gave them their extra crunch. I was sitting at her kitchen table when she introduced me to those irresistible concoctions. Dame Fanny knew that I was on one of those fad, 80’s diets and after savouring the glory of my first cookie, she said to me, “have another one”. So right as I bit into another one, she then said, “I’m testing your willpower, dear!” I shouldn’t have fallen for it, but I guess that’s the power of corn flour.
Dame Fanny’s dinner parties were like walking into Downton Abbey, with a service station, luscious sterling silver and chinaware in a handsome cobalt with gold trim. Sometimes dessert options were given, like the time we were asked if we’d like fruit soup or chocolate mousse – a tough decision, but not for me when I took both. At this point, my prospects for exuding willpower had already been shot. Actually, Dame Fanny, herself, steered away from sugar (which probably contributed to her tremendous longevity). She once told me that even as a kid, she would give her candies away to other children. On a few less formal occasions, I also had the pleasure of meeting Robert and Paul.
When it came to fashion, Dame Fanny’s main criterion was to keep warm, especially during those cold, damp Yorkshire winters. And yet at special events, you could find her decked out in Louis Féraud from head to toe – sometimes even with the print on her shoes matching the embroidery on her jacket! I was so excited when I found out that Fanny became DAME Fanny, because I always wanted to know a genuine Dame personally! So now a century-long era has passed, but looking into the future, I believe that along with founding one of the world’s most eminent piano competitions, our beloved Dame will be remembered by people to which she was pivotal in their lives, and perhaps most importantly, the threads of her profound musical wisdom will be sewn from one generation to the next!! ~ Yuval Fichman