Teresa Carreño (1853-1917) was a celebrated Venezuelan pianist who was a player of great power and spirit, known to her public as a “Valkyrie of the piano.”
Born into a musical family, Carreño's talent was recognized at an early age. She was first taught piano by her father, Manuel Antonio Carreño. In 1862, her family emigrated to New York City. The young girl took a handful of lessons from Louis Moreau Gottschalk. That year, she made her debut at Irving Hall at the age of 8. In 1863, Carreño performed for Abraham Lincoln at the White House.
In 1866, Carreño moved to Europe. She took lessons from Georges Mathias (a pupil of Frédéric Chopin) and from Anton Rubinstein. Carreño made her debut while touring as an opera singer in 1876. While on tour, Franz Liszt offered her lessons, but she declined. Carreño did not return to Venezuela until 1885, and only for a short period. In 1889, she returned to Europe for more touring, eventually settling in Berlin. She mounted two world tours in the early years of the twentieth century, until her health gradually deteriorated.
She performed several times at Henry Wood's promenade concerts. He wrote: "It is difficult to express adequately what all musicians felt about this great woman who looked like a queen among pianists - and played like a goddess. The instant she walked onto the platform her steady dignity held her audience who watched with riveted attention while she arranged the long train she habitually wore. Her masculine vigour of tone and touch and her marvellous precision on executing octave passages carried everyone completely away." Teresa Carreño was one of Edward MacDowell's first piano teachers, and became the dedicatee of his Second Concerto.
Carreño died on June 12, 1917 in her apartment in New York City. The Teresa Carreño Cultural Complex in Caracas is named after her, as is a crater on Venus. The Teresa Carreño Cultural Complex would go on to become the Venezuela Symphony Orchestra’s main performance hall. On one of its floors there is the Teresa Carreño piano, recovered by Rosario Marciano, an outstanding Venezuelan pianist who greatly admired Carreño’s works, while she was assigned to the Venezuelan Embassy in Austria as Secretary of Culture.