Fleischmann, Maria Theresa Mathilda ('Tilly') (1882–1967), pianist and teacher, was born 2 April 1882 at 14 Dyke Parade, Cork, the second of nine children of German immigrants, Hans Conrad Swertz and his wife Walburga (née Rössler). Her early musical education was largely overseen by her father, who held the post of organist and choirmaster in the Roman catholic cathedral of St Mary and St Anne. She evidently displayed considerable promise, because in 1901 he sent her to the Royal Academy of Music in Munich to train as an organist and concert pianist. She remained there until 1905, studying the piano successively under two eminent former students of Franz Liszt, Bernhard Stavenhagen and Berthold Kellermann, both of whom had had a close and long-lasting relationship with the great virtuoso. In her final year, she gave a performance of the Schumann piano concerto under the baton of Felix Mottl and of the Weber Konzertstück under the direction of Stavenhagen. This led to an invitation to play for the Bavarian royal family at Nymphenburg Palace.
In 1905 she graduated from the academy with first-class honours. In the same year, she married Aloys Georg Fleischmann (qv) (1880–1964), a young composer who had studied under Joseph von Rheinberger and was beginning to forge a reputation in his native Bavaria. The following year, the couple moved to Ireland: Tilly's father had resigned from his post in Cork and emigrated to the United States, leaving his large family without any means of support. Her husband successfully applied for the vacant position. The young couple regarded their move to Cork as temporary and ultimately intended to return to Germany, but this plan was fated to remain unrealised.
Neither found it easy to adapt to living in Cork, a small provincial city with little professional musical activity and which allowed their talents limited scope. Nonetheless, both became intensely involved in its cultural life: Tilly was much sought after as a teacher and continued to perform as frequently as circumstances at the period allowed, giving occasional solo recitals and participating in chamber music. The couple's son, Aloys Fleischmann (qv) junior, who would become one of the most distinguished figures in twentieth-century Irish musical life, was born in 1910. The first world war brought new difficulties: in January 1916 her husband was interned as an enemy alien, at first in Oldcastle, Co. Meath, and from May 1918 on the Isle of Man. In 1919 he was deported to Germany and was not permitted to return to Ireland until the autumn of 1920. Throughout this period, his wife took over his duties as cathedral organist and continued to teach, although anti-German sentiment caused her to lose pupils.
Her teaching career revived after the war: she was appointed head of the piano department in the Cork Municipal School of Music in November 1919 and taught there for eighteen years until she resigned after an acrimonious dispute over the introduction of a new curriculum in 1937. She continued to teach privately thereafter, numbering distinguished Irish musicians such as Seán Ó Riada (qv), Pat Ahern and Gerard Shanahan amongst her students. In the 1920s and 1930s she gave recitals in Cork and Dublin, notable appearances including a concert with the renowned German singer Elisabeth Schumann in 1934. After the establishment of the national radio station 2RN in 1926, Tilly Fleischmann broadcast concerts from its Cork and Dublin studios, and in 1929 became the first Irish pianist to broadcast on the BBC. Her solo concerts featured enterprising choices of repertoire: apart from giving recitals entirely devoted to the music of Liszt, whose music was comparatively neglected at the period, she introduced the music of Arnold Bax (qv) to Irish audiences, giving an all-Bax programme in Cork in 1929. Bax was one of several distinguished foreign musicians with whom the Fleischmanns developed a warm friendship: the composer stayed with them on his annual visits to Ireland for twenty-five years. The Northern Irish composer Herbert Hughes (qv) also became a family friend, as did the English composer Ernest John Moeran (qv).
At Hughes's encouragement, in the early 1940s Tilly began to write an account of her pianistic training in Munich. The project was completed in the early 1950s, by which time it had grown into a substantial treatise entitled 'Tradition and craft in piano-playing' – essentially, an account of Liszt's pedagogical approach as transmitted by Stavenhagen and Kellermann. It is a document of considerable historical importance and contains valuable information of a kind unavailable elsewhere: none of the reminiscences of Liszt published by his students discuss technical matters or Liszt's treatment of the finer points of interpretation in comparable detail. Fleischmann did not succeed in seeing her work into print during her lifetime, which caused her great sadness. The timing was unpropitious: Liszt's critical stock in the 1950s was low, and although readers at various publishing houses to which she submitted her manuscript recognised its quality, it was deemed a commercially unviable proposition. In 1986, almost twenty years after her death, an abridged edition was printed privately by her former pupil Michael O'Neill and subsequently published in 1991 under the title Aspects of the Liszt tradition. The treatise was finally published in full, under its original title, in 2014, edited by Ruth Fleischmann and John Buckley, and introduced by Patrick Zuk, with an accompanying DVD of musical examples played by Gabriela Mayer; a digital edition was published on the ViFaMusik site of the Bavarian State Library (2015).
Tilly Fleischmann published several articles on Liszt in the Liszt Society Newsletter (September 1966 and September 1967), on topics including Liszt's ancestry, his Cork concerts of 1840, his and Stavenhagen's London activities in 1886, and the Liszt piano cycles Album d'un voyageur and Années de pèlerinage. Her reminiscences of Bax were published in the British Music Society Newsletter (June 2000), and thereafter placed on the Bax website, and in 2010 on Cork City Libraries' Fleischmann website.
Fleischmann's last recital was given at her home in 1962 for a private gathering of pupils and friends. She gave up playing altogether after her husband's death in 1964. Fleischmann devoted the last three years of her life to sorting her own and her husband's papers, which record the contribution of three generations of her family to Irish musical life. Having taught up to the day of her death, she died suddenly at the age of 85 of cardiac arrest on 17 October 1967 at 2 Wellesley Terrace, Wellington Road, Cork. She was buried in St Finbarr's cemetery, Cork.
On her tenth anniversary, past pupils set up a Tilly Fleischmann memorial recital prize at the Feis Maitiú Corcaigh 'to honour over fifty years of outstanding service to music', as the award description states. Fleischmann was commemorated with an exhibition at the Cork Public Museum during the 2010 celebrations marking the centenary of her son's birth.