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Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Tiegerman: the lost legend of Cairo. Radio and private recordings
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)

Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat Op. 83 (1878-81) – First two movements only
Capriccio in B minor Op. 76 No. 2 (1878)
Intermezzo in B flat minor Op. 117 No. 2 (1892)
Romance in F Op. 118 No. 5 (1892)
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)

Piano Concerto No. 5 Op. 103 Egyptian (1896)
César FRANCK (1822-1890)

Variations Symphoniques (1885)
John FIELD (1782-1837)

Nocturne No. 1 in E flat (1812)
Nocturne No. 13 in D minor (1834)
Frederic CHOPIN (1810-1849)

Prelude in A Op. 28 No. 7
Prelude in F sharp minor Op. 28 No. 8
Nocturne in B Op. 9 No. 3
Scherzo in B minor Op. 20
Ballade in F minor Op. 52
Barcarolle Op. 60
Etude in A flat Op. 10 No. 10
Etude in G sharp minor Op. 25 No. 6
Sonata No. 3 in B flat Op. 58
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)

Nocturne in E flat Op. 36 (1884)
Ignace TIEGERMAN (1893-1968)

Meditation - played by Henri Barda, a pupil of Tiegerman [recorded New York 1998]
Voices of Tiegerman (undated, in Cairo) and of Theodor Leschetizky (recorded in Vienna in 1907)
Ignace Tiegerman (piano)
Cairo Symphony Orchestra/Oreste Campisi (in Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2)
Cairo Symphony Orchestra/José Ferriz (in Saint-Saëns and Franck)
Radio and private recordings made c1955-65
ARBITER 116 [2 CDs 153.58]


Part detective story, part historical reclamation, this double CD contains surviving recordings made by Leschetizky pupil Ignace Tiegerman. The story of his wanderings – he ended up in Cairo – is no less extraordinary than the lattice of contacts, friends, colleagues, relatives and survivors that led to the discovery of these discs and tapes. None were made for commercial purposes; they are private or off-air and the bulk made in Cairo (though some date from an Italian trip and are in significantly better sound).

Tiegerman was born in February 1893 and auditioned for Leschetizky when he was barely ten. Four years’ study followed as did further work with the eminent pedagogue’s assistant, none other than Ignaz Friedman. He seems not to have cultivated a big career in central Europe – though he’s reputed to have unnerved even so great a pianist as Horowitz, who routinely mocked putative rivals but not Tiegerman. Physical problems – bronchial asthma – and the worsening political climate led him to leave Europe and on Friedman’s advice he went to Egypt where he opened the Tiegerman Conservatoire. His life thenceforth concentrated mainly on pedagogic activity interspersed with recitals and the occasional concerto performance but even in Cairo he wasn’t to remain untroubled and the encroaching German North African advance saw him on the move again – this time, in 1941, he left for the Sudan. His return necessitated surmounting the later increasing domestic pressures in Egypt, which he seems to have done with phlegmatic courtesy. Occasional visitors appeared – Bruce Hungerford for one struck up a friendship with him but by the time of Tiegerman’s death, in 1968, it’s fair to say that he had been pretty much a forgotten man for nearly forty years.

As for the recordings some were made by the conductor Oreste Campisi in Italy in 1966, two years before the pianist’s death. These are in fine sound and allow one competently to judge Tiegerman’s mechanical and tonal qualities at the age of seventy-three. Others come from his final concerto performance in 1963 – the Franck and Saint-Saëns – and yet more were recorded ad hoc, as he played for students and admirers. As befits a Leschetizky student, warmth and pliancy of phrasing predominate and are conspicuous features of his pianism. Enough aural material remains to substantiate the belief that he maintained a tenacious adherence to his teacher’s precepts and that his post mortem status has not been inflated.

Brahms’s Capriccio is full of rhythmic sophistication and the B flat minor Intermezzo full of tonal nuance and flexibility; both were Italian recordings. The Saint-Saëns Egyptian Concerto - a final salute from a wanderer to the country he made his home –was part of his farewell concert of 1 June 1963. It’s survived in a rather poor off-air recording with a distractingly bad orchestra, the resident Cairo Symphony, but ones ears should be on Tiegerman. Amidst his very audible groans and the occasional aural distortions he essays some glittering runs, drenched in colour and light, whereas the rapt stillness of the Andante finds a poet at the keyboard. No less than another elite Leschetizky pupil, his near contemporary Moiseiwitsch (who as boys may well have met in their teacher’s classes), Tiegerman was alert to the crystalline and to the vivacious spirit that drives Saint-Saëns’ concertos. In Brahms’ Romance in F one can admire the poetic depth of his chording that even some queasy overloading can’t quite efface.

The two surviving movements of Brahms’ B flat Concerto attest to Tiegerman’s earlier fiery reputation. Indeed this is combustible playing, one that sweeps up its romantic tracery into a powerful vortex. Stormy and directional, with some memorable pointing the Allegro non troppo takes on monumental proportions but not ones that are motivated by speed or indifference (vide Horowitz). His passagework is frequently coruscating, his technique impressively intact, his phrase-leaning of incisive imagination. Yes there are momentary pitch drops, yes the trumpets blare but the force that compels is Tiegerman’s alone. Nothing is trivialised, no matter how extreme the drive, and even the few dropped notes attest to the strongly directional aim of the performance. The speciously rhetorical had no place in Tiegerman’s armoury – he is part of the orchestral fabric and binds the solo part to it. The Allegro Appassionato once again has marvellous drive and a feeling of intense – but not unduly introspective – concentration. How frustrating that the final two movements have not survived but how lucky that we can hear those that have - and to hear Tiegerman’s leonine power in this of all works.

His Field is delicate and tonally beautiful and he plays a lot of Chopin as well. I particularly admired the Nocturne in B, which is phrased with real delicacy, and the Ballade in F minor, which is laced with drama and intensity, pitch drops notwithstanding. The Third Sonata is from a radio broadcast but despite the aural limitations we can hear a Chopin master at work; nobility, grandeur and sensitivity in the opening Allegro maestoso, rapid clarity of fingers in the scherzo – where for all the motoric imperative there is concomitant evenness and beauty of tone and colour. I found less to admire in his Fauré, the Nocturne in E flat emerging as rather leaden, metrical and cold.

Otherwise much else repays the closest scrutiny. A major figure has been finally accorded the justice that in life escaped him. The relative primitiveness of the recordings are, believe me, a price worth paying. The notes by Allan Evans are fascinating and the whole production an inspiring dual act of Hommage and reclamation.

Jonathan Woolf

Gerard Hoffnung CDs

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