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PAGANINI AT THE PIANO

(arr. & var. by Mark HAMBOURG • Ferruccio BUSONI • Michael ZADORA • Ignaz FRIEDMAN • Boris PAPANDOPULO)


  • Goran Filipec, piano

In the years between 1902 and 1914 some of the world’s greatest pianists published a series of works that explored the lyricism and virtuosity of Paganini’s Caprices. Busoni was the greatest figure among them, but he considered Mark Hambourg to be the greatest pianistic talent of his generation. Both Michael Zadora and Ignaz Friedman carried out inventive free transcriptions while years later the Croatian Boris Papandopulo infused the pungent flavours of mid-20th-century idioms into the genre.

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Tracklist

Hambourg, Mark
1
Variations on a theme by Paganini (1902) * (00:15:58)
Busoni, Ferruccio
2
An die Jugend: IV. Introduzione e Capriccio (Paganinesco) (1909) (00:05:44)
Zadora, Michael
3
Eine Paganini-Caprice (1911) * (00:06:24)
4
Paganini - 24 Caprices, Op. 1: No. 19 in E-Flat Major (1913) * (00:02:56)
Friedman, Ignaz
5
Studies on a Theme by Paganini, Op. 47b (1914) (00:16:00)
Papandopulo, Boris
 
3 Capriccios after Paganini (1981) (00:07:41 )
6
No. 1. Corrente (after Paganini's Op. 1, No. 18) * (00:02:20)
7
No. 2. Moderato (after Paganini's Op. 1, No. 14) * (00:02:10)
8
No. 3. Ad libitum - Agitato (after Paganini's Op. 1, No. 5) * (00:03:10)
* World Première Recording
Total Time: 00:54:42

The Artist

Goran Filipec A pianist of fiery energy and captivating performing style inspired by the legendary piano traditions of the early 20th century, Goran Filipec (Rijeka, 1981) is acclaimed by critics from Argentina to New York and London for his “poetic, brilliant and refined performances”. Primarily renowned as a remarkable Lisztian, Goran Filipec endeavours in the domain of musical interpretation consist primarily of the perpetual rediscovery of emotional values of the music in question, and its relative subtraction from historicisation. Starting from this point, Filipec creates vibrant audible representations of the interpreted music in the spirit of the so-called "grand style," which occasionally unites interpretation and arrangement.

The Composer

Ignaz Friedman’s father was a musician who played in a local theatre orchestra. After about ten years of piano lessons with local teacher Flora Grzywinska, Friedman left Kraków 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 Theodor Leschetizky. As with Moiseiwitsch, Leschetizky was not enthusiastic when the young Friedman presented himself, but after three years of study (also becoming Leschetizky’s teaching assistant), Friedman was ready to make his Vienna debut in November 1904. He chose to play three piano concertos at his debut: the D minor Concerto Op. 15 of Brahms, Tchaikovsky’s in B flat minor Op. 23, and the E flat Concerto by Liszt. This debut launched a touring career that began in 1905 and during the next forty years he toured the United States twelve times, South America seven times, and Europe every year, as well as visits to such countries as Iceland, Turkey, Egypt, South Africa, Palestine, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. Friedman gave around 2800 concerts. He collaborated with such artists as Emanuel Feuermann, Erica Morini, Mischa Elman, Leopold Auer, Antal Dorati, Ossip Gabrilowitsch, Willem Mengelberg, Arthur Nikisch and Eugène Ysaÿe.

Until 1914 Friedman lived in Berlin but during World War I he lived in Copenhagen and after the war resided in Italy. Friedman’s first visit to America was in 1920 and in April 1923 he made his first records for American Columbia. In 1938 with the approach of World War II Friedman tried unsuccessfully to get a teaching position in America. However in 1940 Friedman was able to step into a tour of Australia due to a cancellation by other artists. He settled there and performed, taught and broadcast. His health began to fail in 1943, and he died in Sydney five years later.

Friedman also composed, with many short works and transcriptions to his name, as well as a piano quintet and three string quartets. He edited the complete works of Chopin as well as the major works of Liszt, Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Schumann. His vast performing repertoire ranged from eighteenth-century keyboard works (often in his own arrangements) to modern music of his day by Debussy, Ravel, Albéniz, Dohnányi, Kodály and Bartók. It was in the Romantic repertoire that Friedman excelled. He had a technique that apparently Horowitz acknowledged was superior to his own, and he used this to bring compositions alive. Rhythm and colour were very important to Friedman and he considered these attributes the most difficult to teach to students. His programmes would often contain a few major works such as a Beethoven sonata, a work of Schumann, a group of Chopin and a virtuosic closing work. When he played in London in 1925 the programme included Beethoven’s last piano sonata Op. 111 and Schumann’s Études Symphoniques and closed with Liszt’s Mephisto-Waltz No. 1. ‘It is no exaggeration to say he created a sensation by his technique alone. It looked so simple…’ Friedman’s desire to breathe life into compositions, to add colour and vibrancy, could lead to interpretations that were somewhat apart from the original text of the composer. His large musical personality could sometimes come between the composer and the audience, but then, Friedman was an interpretative performer (as were many musicians of his era) whose readings stemmed from his own feeling about the work he was playing, rather than subjugating himself entirely to what (he imagined) the composer would have wanted.

All of Ignaz Friedman’s recordings were made for Columbia, and the most famous of these are selections of Chopin’s mazurkas and Mendelssohn’s Lieder ohne Worte as well as Chopin’s Nocturne in E flat Op. 55 No. 2. Harold Schonberg famously described the latter when he said it ‘…may well be the most beautiful, singing, perfectly proportioned performance of a Chopin nocturne ever put on records’. Friedman’s love of rhythm and colour can be heard to full effect in his recordings of Chopin’s mazurkas. The infectious swing of his subtly-controlled rhythm is irresistible, whilst his tone production in Mendelssohn’s Lieder ohne Worte is something of pure beauty. This singing tone that Friedman produces has rarely, if ever, been equalled in these works. The few recordings of Chopin’s études are extraordinary. Both Op. 10 No. 7 and No. 12 are given performances of great bravura and drama with absolutely no sign of strain being put upon Friedman’s technique as he dashes these works off with aplomb. The same can be said of his dazzling recording of Busoni’s arrangement of Liszt’s La Campanella. Friedman again plays with unbridled bravura, in an astonishing performance that sweeps the listener along; although these traits can have a certain drawback in some works, such as Hummel’s Rondo in E flat, where Friedman’s impetuosity sounds incongruous.

Friedman’s only released concerto recording is disappointing. He recorded the Grieg Piano Concerto Op. 16 with an unidentified and under-rehearsed orchestra in 1928. An eminent critic once said that it sounds as though Friedman is playing with his legs crossed and a fat cigar wedged in the corner of his mouth. That is not to say that it is a slap-dash affair, but it is hardly a committed performance. What a thrill it would be to hear Friedman’s recording of Beethoven’s ‘Emperor’ Concerto, made with Henry Wood and the New Queen’s Hall Orchestra in 1927 but never issued and now probably destroyed.

Friedman often played chamber music during his career, but only recorded one work with an instrumentalist, and that was Beethoven’s ‘Kreutzer’ Sonata with Bronisław Huberman. Some of Friedman’s most delightful recordings are those of encore pieces of his own composition. His recording of his own Elle danse is full of teasing rubato and as two takes were published, we can compare different recordings of the same piece and note that Friedman plays differently in each. One ends quietly, the other loudly, Friedman playing as he felt on the day. Friedman’s complete commercial recordings have been issued on five compact discs by Naxos. Two short broadcasts have survived from New Zealand radio in 1941. Unfortunately, Friedman does not play the piano in these, but speaks on Chopin and Paderewski.

One of the greatest of the Leschetizky pupils, Friedman was without doubt one of the great pianists of the Golden Age, a larger-than-life musical personality whose character infused everything he played.

© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — Jonathan Summers (A–Z of Pianists, Naxos 8.558107–10)

Mark Hambourg

The multi-faceted career of Boris Papandopulo (1906–1991) means he could justifiably be crowned ‘Mr Music, Croatia’, yet beyond the boundaries of that country he is scarcely heard of. Among other things, he was a composer, conductor, pianist, arranger, educator, broadcaster and journalist. His ancestry was equally varied: he was born in Germany of Russian descent, and was the son of a Greek nobleman and a Croatian opera singer.

Operas, ballets, film scores, orchestral music, chamber music and pieces for solo piano feature prominently in his output of original works, while his many transcriptions include folk songs from south-eastern Europe in addition to homages to composers from the past.

Papandopulo was a highly resourceful composer, as his reworkings of Paganini demonstrate so perfectly. His versions of the Caprice No. 18 in C, Caprice No. 14 in E flat and Caprice No. 5 in A minor, for instance, go far beyond mere note-for-note transcription. They skilfully combine an infectious punchiness with the pungent flavours of mid-20th-century neo-Classicism to produce delightful re-imaginings of the original pieces. After hearing them, one is left pondering whether this is how Paganini might have composed had he lived a century or so later and been a pianist rather than a violinist.

Michael von Zadora was born in America of Polish parents. He first learnt to play the piano from his father and then at the age of seventeen he enrolled at the Paris Conservatoire. From there he travelled to Vienna for lessons with Theodor Leschetizky before continuing his studies with Ferruccio Busoni in Berlin. Periods of teaching followed at institutions including the Hochschule für Musik and the Klindworth-Scharwenka Conservatory in Berlin, but as World War I approached Zadora returned to America and took a post at the Institute for Musical Art in New York, later to become the Juilliard School of Music.

By 1923 Zadora was back in Berlin, where at the Beethovensaal he was the first pianist to give an all-Busoni recital. With Egon Petri he prepared the piano part of the vocal score of Busoni’s opera Doktor Faust and gave two-piano recitals. Zadora also set up a Busoni Society. In 1924, as Busoni lay on his death-bed, Zadora played a Mendelssohn Lied ohne Worte for him.

It would appear that Zadora was not well suited to public performance. In 1938 he played at London’s Wigmore Hall and received a poor review. He was described as ‘…a follower of Busoni (who) travestied his master’s style’ by playing Liszt’s Piano Sonata in B minor too fast, without clear articulation or observance of the composer’s markings of piano or pianissimo. A second recital given two weeks later was not reviewed. On 5 February 1938 New York’s Broadway saw the opening, and closing, of a musical play written by August Strindberg with music by Michael von Zadora; he also transcribed five songs by Schumann, as well as works by Bach, Pergolesi, Delibes, Offenbach, Jensen, Henselt and Schubert and wrote original works under the pseudonym of Pietro Amadis.

To date, no systematic reissue of Zadora’s recordings has been made, although a few of his 78rpm discs have been reissued by Pearl and Naxos. It would appear that Zadora recorded for Polydor in Germany between 1924 and 1927. A few discs were made for the German Grammophon Company in the 1930s as well as some discs for Ultraphon, Odéon and Vox. In 1940 he made some discs for the Friends of Recorded Music Society in America. These are important as they contain Zadora playing Busoni’s Sonatinas Nos 3 and 5. He recorded waltzes, études, préludes and nocturnes by Chopin; some of Liszt’s Consolations; and many encore pieces by Lamare, Stockhoff, Raff, Sgambati, Scarlatti, Field, Brahms, Beethoven, Hummel, Anton Rubinstein and himself. He also recorded some Bach, Prokofiev’s Prelude in C major Op. 12 and Debussy’s Prélude and Toccata from Pour le Piano. Most of his discs are impressive, yet he has a tendency to rush in fast music; this is particularly noticeable in the ‘Carmen’ Sonatina and Debussy Toccata recordings. He had a wonderful tone which can be heard in his recording of his own arrangement of Henselt’s Larghetto and La Passion by Lamare. His most impressive disc is of an arrangement he made of a work by Jensen entitled Whispering of a Gentle Breeze.

Zadora’s most well-known recording is of Busoni’s Sonatina No. 6 ‘super Carmen’. Although it is a good performance, Zadora’s tendency to rush over the music, missing many details, is apparent. The threeBusoni Sonatinas have been reissued by Naxos on compact disc ( 8.110777).

© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — Jonathan Summers (A–Z of Pianists, Naxos 8.558107–10)

Reviews

“The longer one hears the recording, the more one moves away from initial skepticism to enthusiasm… The whole of the 19th century is represented in these arrangements, and Filipec presents them to us as if on a silver plate: glittering, fiery and powerful in sound—simply brilliant.” – Piano News

“Filipec is an exciting prospect and his programme is most valuable. ” – Gramophone

“Goran Filipec is a powerhouse pianist, and it’s just as well because no less would do for the repertoire on his latest recording” – The WholeNote

“In Filipec, we see his marked and versatile musical personality, the breathtaking virtuosity, the freshness of inspiration, the sense of the grandiose and the magniloquence, the imperious and almost whipping incisiveness of touch, the resolute impetuosity and urgency, the charm and grace…” – La Voce del Popolo

Infodad.com

“…this disc offers a chance to hear some fascinating reinterpretations of Paganini’s music on an instrument for which he never wrote, but one that is able to produce effects as impressive in their way as Paganini’s own were on the violin.” – Infodad.com

ClassicsToday.com

“Ignaz Friedman’s Paganini Studies operate on a higher level of musical imagination and pianistic ingenuity, and Filipec clearly revels in the idiom, milking the slower variations for all they’re worth, albeit within the bounds of good taste.” – ClassicsToday.com