> Ignaz Friedman Beethoven Chopin 8.110684 : Classical CD Reviews- Sept 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Ignaz Friedman
Frederic CHOPIN (1810-1849)

Mazurka in C sharp Op 63 No 3
Minute Waltz
Mazurka in D Major Op 33 No 2
Prelude in E Flat Major Op 28 No 19
Etude Op 25 No 6
Ballade in A Flat Op 47 No3
Mazurka in D Major
Etude Op 10 No 12 Revolutionary
Etude op 10 No7
Waltz in A Minor Op 34 No 2
Prelude in D Flat Op 25 No 15
Mazurka in B Minor
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)

Hark hark the lark arranged Franz Liszt

Viennese Dance No 1
Jan Nepomuk HUMMEL (1778-1837)
Rondo in E Flat Major
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

Rondo alla Turca From Sonata in A
Domenico SCARLATTI (1685-1757)

Moritz MOSKOWSKI (1854-1925)

Serenata Op 15 No 1
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)

Scherzo in E Minor
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Sonata in C Sharp Minor Moonlight
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

La Campanella arranged Ferruccio Busoni
Ignaz FRIEDMAN (1882-1948)

Elle Danse Op 10
Ignaz Friedman, piano
rec. 1923-26. mono. ADD
NAXOS HISTORICAL 8.110684 [74’57]


One of the galaxy of Leschetizky pupils, Friedman was a mature artist when he came to record, in New York, at the end of 1923. He hadn’t been invisible internationally either. The Krakow born pianist made numerous tours, routinely touring Egypt and Turkey, as well as the cultural centres of North and South America, Australasia and Japan. He lived in Berlin until the start of World War One and then left for Copenhagen where he was based until the outbreak of the Second War and flight to Australia. He died there in 1948, partial paralysis having truncated his career a few years earlier.

His records preserve performances of tremendous attack and staggering virtuosity with characteristic features of huge dynamic range, occasionally shattering attacks, teasing accents, a flair for implicit or explicit dance rhythms, and a dramatic, outsize Romantic temperament. In many respects, as has often been noted before, Friedman was the polar opposite of fellow Leschetizky pupil Benno Moiseiwitsch. The bulk of this fist volume in Naxos’ projected Complete Friedman edition is devoted to Chopin, of whose music he was an acknowledged master, at least in certain parts of the repertoire. Elements of egocentricity do hover around his playing – try the spry naughtiness of the Minute Waltz or the displacements and daring stresses of the D Major Mazurka. Against that is his fascinating vigour and control – in the Etude Op 25 No 6 he exercises stunning control at tremendous velocity managing to inflect a variety of colouristic effects. The Ballade in A Flat witnesses his huge dynamic range and a kaleidoscopic approach to tonal gradation whereas the D Major Mazurka is audacious, clipped, insistent and lavished with Friedman’s trademark rubato. If you think him too pugnacious try the Revolutionary Etude – tempestuous playing to be sure but perfectly scaled. No quarter is given at the end of the Op 10 No 7 Etude whilst the A Minor Waltz is commensurately lyrical and inward. Some surface chuffs intrude on the Raindrop Prelude; his ornaments are dramatically quick, dynamics huge, tempo not excessive, rubato flexible but noticeably active.

Elsewhere his exceptional gifts are extravagantly on display. His own arrangement of the Gaertner Dance is audacity itself; agogics abound, Friedman letting loose some thunderous bass notes and equally some raptly still treble runs; his technique is revealed as cast iron, his conveyance of mood staggering, his profile ever teasing. There is for instance daredevil panache in Hummel’s Rondo, vigorous and masculine and yet with a perfectly controlled set of dynamics. The Mozart Rondo alla Turca and the Scarlatti were experimentally recorded with strips of wood over the piano to simulate a harpsichord sonority. His accents are, as ever, unique and his Scarlatti is full of wistful sobriety and grace. The Mendelssohn Scherzo is dramatically energised whilst the Liszt-Busoni La Campanella is an increasingly spectacular display of virtuoso pianism, including a staggering octave ending marred only by its abrupt conclusion; apparently there was not enough room for the last few bars. It’s an interesting feature of Friedman’s recorded legacy that he needed a high number of takes for some of these items. Whereas many colleagues would routinely be covered by two or three takes, in the case of Friedman he could take eight takes (the Chopin Op 10 No 7 Etude) or even eleven takes (Moskowski’s Serenata). There is a major sonata here and that’s the Moonlight. He is melodic, rubato rich, sensitive and affectionate in the first movement, decisive and triumphant in the second and plays with a magical sense of control in the Presto Agitato concluding movement. This is highly personalised and romanticised playing but entirely effective on its own terms. His own Elle Danse concludes the recital; its characteristics might be Friedman’s – capricious, naughty, rhythmically decisive, deft, with vertiginous dynamics and a winning profile. A splendid start to what promises to be a major instalment in Naxos’s Great Pianists series.

Jonathan Woolf

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