Stephen Heller

Stephen Heller was a Hungarian pianist, teacher and composer whose career spanned the period from Schumann to Bizet. Heller was an influence for later Romantic composers. He outlived his reputation, and was a near-forgotten figure at his death in 1888.


Heller was born in Pest, Hungary in 1815. He had been destined for a legal career, but instead decided to devote his life to music. At the age of nine he performed Jan Ladislav Dussek's Concerto for Two Pianos with his teacher, F. Brauer, at the Budapest Theater. He played so well that he was sent to study in Vienna, Austria, under Carl Czerny. Unable to afford Czerny's expensive fees, he became a student of Anton Halm. After a success in the first public concert in Vienna at the age of 15, his father undertook a concert tour through Hungary, Poland and Germany.
Heller returned to Budapest by way of Kassel, Frankfurt, Nuremberg, Hamburg, and Augsburg. After passing the winter of 1829 at Hamburg, he was taken ill at Augsburg in the summer of 1830. He abandoned the tour there and was soon afterwards adopted by a wealthy patron of music.
At the age of 25, he travelled to Paris, where he became closely acquainted with Hector Berlioz, Frédéric Chopin, Franz Liszt and other renowned composers of his era. Here Heller achieved distinction both as a concert performer and as a teacher. He taught piano to Isidor Philipp, who later became head of the piano department of the Conservatoire de Paris.
In 1849 Heller performed in England, where in 1850 he was the subject of a long serial article devoted to his music in the British Musical World. In 1862 he performed Mozart's E-flat concerto for two pianos with Charles Hallé at The Crystal Palace.
He spent the last twenty-five years of his life in Paris.


Heller was a prolific composer for the piano and his studies remain popular with music teachers and students.

Complete worklist