Fanny Waterman, Doyenne of the Leeds Piano Competition, Dies at 100
Mrs. 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, who was born in Ukraine, was an experienced jeweler.
Although the family struggled financially, her parents had enough money to give young Fanny piano lessons as soon as her talent became apparent. She practiced on an old piano and studied with a local teacher while her brother Harry took violin lessons.
At the age of 18 she received a scholarship at the Royal College of Music in London and studied with Cyril Smith. She played Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 in 1941 with the Leeds Symphony Orchestra. In the same year she met Dr. de Keyser, a young medical student whom she would marry in 1944. With the birth of their first child, Robert, in 1950, Ms. Waterman decided to devote herself to teaching.
Robert de Keyser survived, as did another son, Paul, a violin teacher, and six granddaughters. Her husband died in 2001.
After the start of the Leeds competition, Dr. de Keyser was closely involved in recommending repertoire lists and creating rules. “He was a doctor, but his knowledge of music was second to none,” Ms. Waterman said in 2010.
In 1966, Mrs. Waterman and her husband bought Woodgarth, a sumptuous eight-bedroom Victorian house in Oakwood, a suburb of Leeds. She had two beautiful pianos in her spacious drawing room, where she taught, made competition plans, and led lively musical soirees that included guests such as composer Benjamin Britten and tenor Peter Pears, and Prime Minister Edward Heath. Mrs. Waterman sold the house this year.