Fanny Waterman, Doyenne of the Leeds Piano Competition, Dies at 100

Ms. Waterman was born on March 22, 1920, in Leeds, the second child of Mary (Behrman) Waterman and Meyer Waterman (the family name was or...


Ms. Waterman was born on March 22, 1920, in Leeds, the second child of Mary (Behrman) Waterman and Meyer Waterman (the family name was originally Wasserman). Her mother was an English-born daughter of Russian immigrant Jews. Her father, born in Ukraine, was a skilled jeweler.

Though the family struggled financially, her parents came up with enough money to provide young Fanny with piano lessons once her talent became clear. She practiced on an old upright piano and studied with a local teacher, while her brother, Harry, took violin lessons.

At 18, she became a scholarship student at the Royal College of Music in London, studying with Cyril Smith. She performed Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 in 1941 with the Leeds Symphony Orchestra, the same year she met Dr. de Keyser, then a young medical student, whom she would marry in 1944. With the birth of her first child, Robert, in 1950, Ms. Waterman decided to devote herself to teaching.

Robert de Keyser survives her, as do another son, Paul, a violin teacher, and six granddaughters. Her husband died in 2001.

Once the Leeds Competition got going, Dr. de Keyser became intimately involved, both in recommending lists of repertory and in writing up rules. “He was a doctor, but his knowledge of music was second to nobody,” Ms. Waterman said in 2010.

In 1966 Ms. Waterman and her husband bought Woodgarth, a magnificent eight-bedroom Victorian house in Oakwood, a suburb of Leeds. She kept two fine pianos in its spacious drawing room, where she taught, made plans for the competition and presided over lively musical soirees that included guests like the composer Benjamin Britten and the tenor Peter Pears, as well as Prime Minister Edward Heath. Ms. Waterman sold the house this year.

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Newsrust: Fanny Waterman, Doyenne of the Leeds Piano Competition, Dies at 100
Fanny Waterman, Doyenne of the Leeds Piano Competition, Dies at 100
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