ClassicsOnline Home » GRIEG: Piano Concerto / CHOPIN: Sonata in B-Flat Minor (Friedman) (1927-1928)
Great Pianists Ignaz Friedman
Complete Recordings, Vol. 2
Ignaz Friedman was born, as was Josef Hofmann, in Podgorze, a suburb of Krakow, in Poland in 1882. His father was a musician who played in a local theatre orchestra and after piano lessons with a local teacher, Flora Grzywinska, Friedman left Krakow in 1900 to study composition at the Leipzig Conservatory with Hugo Riemann. It was not until 1901, when he was already nineteen, that he decided to go to Vienna for lessons with Theodore Leschetizky. As with Moiseiwitsch, Leschetizky was not enthusiastic when the young Friedman presented himself, but after three years of study, during which he also became Leschetizkys teaching assistant, Friedman was ready to make his Vienna dèbut in November 1904, playing the D minor Concerto of Brahms, Tchaikovskys First Concerto and Liszts Concerto in E flat. This début launched a touring career that began in 1905, and for the next forty years Friedman seemed to be perpetually on tour; he visited the United States twelve times, South America seven times, and Europe every year, as well as Iceland, Turkey, Egypt, South Africa, Palestine, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. Although he did not often perform chamber music in public, he collaborated with the greatest instrumentalists of the day, Casals, Huberman, Feuermann, Morini, Elman, Auer and Ysaÿe, and performed under the batons of Dorati, Gabrilowitsch, Mengelberg and Nikisch.
Until 1914 Friedman lived in Berlin but after the First World War he settled in Copenhagen. Friedmans first visit to America was in 1920 and in April 1923 he made his first records for the American Columbia Company. After extensive and exhaustive touring, the onset of the Second World War meant Friedman had to move again, as Scandinavia was not a safe home for him. The Australian Broadcasting Commission invited him for a tour and during the early 1940s he played and broadcast regularly in Australia and New Zealand. Partial paralysis of his left hand made him retire in 1943, when he was only just over sixty, and he died in Sydney in January 1948.
The first volume of this series of Ignaz Friedmans complete recordings (8.110684) ended with his delightful encore Elle danse, No.5 of Cinq Causeries, Op.10, and this second volume opens with the same disc of this work (D1558), which was originally coupled with the Scherzo in E minor by Mendelssohn. These two opening tracks, however, are different performances of the same works heard in the earlier volume. This is because in the days of recording on 78rpm discs before editing existed, the artist was often requested to play the piece more than once, not only for their own satisfaction, but for that of the engineer as well. Because of this, a work may be recorded many times: Friedmans Elle danse was first recorded twice on 16th November 1925; he rejected both these recordings and played it for the microphone another four times on 6th September 1926, approving the fourth attempt. Perhaps he was not satisfied, however, as on 1st March 1927 he recorded the work twice more, approving the eighth attempt. As takes four and eight were approved by the artist the record company could issue them both. Hence a recording of a work could appear in two different performances under the same catalogue number. It may be thought that there would be little or no difference between recordings of the same work, but these particular takes of Elle danse were made six months apart and Friedman was not an artist to play a work the same way every time. Of course, the performances are similar, but most noticeable is the way in which he plays the last two chords of his own composition differently, fortissimo in take four, as marked in the score, and piano for take eight. In fact, it is interesting to see how inadequate the score is in presenting Friedmans intentions of style and performance, intentions that can only be heard in his recording. Alternate takes were also published of the Mendelssohn Scherzo and the third and fourth movements of Beethovens Moonlight Sonata, hence their inclusion here.
The performance of the famous Polonaise in A flat of Chopin recorded in March 1927 is typical Friedman, with grand gestures, style, panache and personality, yet the recording of the last two movements of Chopins Sonata in B flat minor made at the same session was apparently rejected by the pianist. One wonders why, as they contain some of Friedmans most unbridled playing with the famous Funeral March taken at a faster tempo than usual and the last movement performed with high drama, more a hurricane than a gentle wind rustling over a grave. These recordings, however, made in London, were issued by Columbia only in Australia and as a result are rare. It is possible that Friedman changed his mind and allowed the recordings to be issued in Australia, as he was there in June 1927 where he made two sides for Australian Columbia, one being his own composition Marquis et Marquise. Friedman had already made twelve Concert Transcriptions of music from the eighteenth century by composers such as Gluck, Rameau, Scarlatti, Dandrieu, and Grazioli and this work follows a similar style. Again, this recording was issued only in Australia.
Friedmans only published concerto recording is that of the Piano Concerto by Grieg made in Paris toward the end of 1927 with an unidentified orchestra conducted by Philippe Gaubert. It was not, however, the only concerto Friedman recorded. Earlier in the year, over two days in March 1927 he had recorded the Emperor Concerto of Beethoven with the New Queens Hall Orchestra and Henry Wood. Although this recording was rejected and probably no longer exists, it would be fascinating to hear these two musicians in this particular work.
Three recording sessions of 8th-10th February 1928 in London produced the remaining Chopin tracks heard here. These sessions were not recorded in a recording studio but at Fyvie Hall in Regent Street, as is apparent from the more reverberant acoustic. It is also interesting to hear Friedman on a different sounding piano, probably a Blüthner.
Also from these sessions comes another of Friedmans composed encores. At one time the music box had quite a vogue as an encore for piano recitals, that of Liadov being the most well-known. Friedmans own Tabatière à musique is a marvel of filigree and delicacy and the one by Franz Mittler follows a similar pattern with the addition of a representation of the winding-up of the box.
© Jonathan Summers
In 1997 Ward Marston was nominated for the Best Historical Album Grammy Award for his production work on BMGs Fritz Kreisler collection. According to the Chicago Tribune, Marstons name is synonymous with tender loving care to collectors of historical CDs. Opera News calls his work revelatory, and Fanfare deems him miraculous. In 1996 Ward Marston received the Gramophone award for Historical Vocal Recording of the Year, honouring his production and engineering work on Romophones complete recordings of Lucrezia Bori. He also served as re-recording engineer for the Franklin Mints Arturo Toscanini issue and BMGs Sergey Rachmaninov recordings, both winners of the Best Historical Album Grammy. Born blind in 1952, Ward Marston has amassed tens of thousands of opera classical records over the past four decades. Following a stint in radio while a student at Williams College, he became well-known as a reissue producer in 1979, when he restored the earliest known stereo recording made by the Bell Telephone Laboratories in 1932. In the past, Ward Marston has produced records for a number of major and specialist record companies. Now he is bringing his distinctive sonic vision to bear on recordings released on the Naxos Historical label. Ultimately his goal is to make the music he remasters sound as natural as possible and true to life by lifting the voices off his old 78rpm recordings. His aim is to promote the importance of preserving old recordings and make available the works of great musicians who need to be heard.