Artur Schnabel was born on April 17, 1882 in Lipnik, then part of Austrian Poland. Annette Essipova was his first teacher of note, who urged the young Schnabel to continue his studies with Leschetizky. He spent six years with Leschetizky (from 1891 to 1897), who made the enigmatic comment to Schnabel, "You will never be a pianist; you are a musician!" Quite early in his career Schnabel began dedicating his energies to significant repertoire that was not widely played at the time, including most of the Schubert sonatas and Mozart concertos. He also mastered all 32 Beethoven sonatas, featuring them as a cycle on several occasions and becoming the first pianist to record them (for HMV during the 1930s). He prepared his own edition of the sonatas, which is still often consulted (and debated). Schnabel frequently collaborated with major string players of his day in the duo-sonatas, trios, quartets and quintets of Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann and Brahms. In addition, he and his son Karl Ulrich Schnabel joined forces in two-piano and four-hand repertoire, and Schnabel accompanied his wife, contralto Therese Behr Schnabel, in Lieder recitals.
Schnabel composed music throughout his career, including piano pieces, string quartets and symphonies, but chose not to promote his own works. He was, however, extremely active as a teacher, preferring class settings, at the Berlin Hochschule (1925-33), in Tremezzo, Italy, and later in New York where he settled in 1939. Schnabel died in Switzerland on August 15, 1951.