Cortot was son of a Swiss mother and French father. After initially to be dropped for his admission to the Conservatory, at the got Cortot Paris Conservatoire yet a comprehensive training, with focus on the piano. His interest in Richard Wagner in 1897 led to an appointment as at the Bayreuther Festspielen correpetitor . His love was the romantic works, in particular at the music of Chopin, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Liszt and others.
He gave several of their works in study expenditure, full of annotations, additional exercises and clues. They were so-called ' Editions de travail ' (published by Salabert, Paris, and Milan Curzi,) with valuable comments on the piano, and interpretation.
From 1907 to 1923 Cortot taught at the Paris Conservatory, where gave his students were big names like Clara Haskil, Dinu Lipatti, Vlado Perlemuter, and even Marguerite Monnot, French songwriter of many of the best songs of Édith Piaf, and of the theatre musical Irma la Douce from 1956. The Dutch pianist Eduard Flipse was also student of Cortot. In 1919 he founded the École Normale de Musique de Paris. As a Chamber music player, he played with Jacques Thibaud and Pablo Casals repertoire for duo and trio.
After the Second World War got Cortot a one-year professional ban because he during the Vichy Government has exercised various functions, in addition with the German occupiers also collaborated and performed frequently in Germany during World War II.
Absolute fidelity to the score and great work ethic were not at the heart of Cortot, but inspiration and sound beauty. Cortot is counted among the greatest pianists of the 20th century, all are subject to much criticism of his views.
Cortot took various records and piano rolls on, including works by Chopin, Liszt and Saint-Saëns.
- Cortot, Alfred, La musique française de piano, 1930 – 48
- —, Cours d ' interprétation, 1934 (Studies in Musical Interpretation, 1937)
- —, Aspects de Chopin, 1949 (In Search of Chopin, 1951)
- Gavoty, Bernard, Alfred Cortot, 1977 (French)
- Manshardt, Thomas, Aspects of Cortot, 1994