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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


Ignaz Friedman (piano) Complete recordings Volume 2
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)

Scherzo in E minor Op. 16/2
Ignaz FRIEDMAN (1882-1948)

Elle danse Op. 10
Tabatière à musique
Marquis et Marquise
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Sonata in C sharp minor Op. 27/2 Moonlight – Allegretto and Presto agitato
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)

Polonaise in A flat Op. 53
Sonata in B flat minor Op. 35 – Marche funèbre and Presto
Mazurka in B flat Op. 7/1
Berceuse Op. 57
Etude in G flat Op. 25/9
Etude in G flat Op. 10/5
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)

Piano Concerto
Anton RUBINSTEIN (1829-1894)

Romance in E flat Op 44/1
Josef SUK (1874-1935)

Suite Op. 21 – Minuet
Franz MITTLER (1893-1970)

Little Nana’s Music Box Op. 2/2
Ignaz Friedman (piano)
Recorded 1927-28
NAXOS 8.110686 [65.15]
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I recently reviewed the first in Naxos’s Friedman series which began in 1923 when the Cracow-born pianist was a mature musician of forty-one. The same dazzling array of talents that manifested themselves in those late acoustics is equally apparent here – prodigious virtuosity, stunning attacks, huge dynamic ranges, a compulsively roguish sense of rubato, exceptional command of dance rhythms, and above all a gargantuan and explicitly Romantic temperament. The second volume again is laden with Chopin, the Mazurkas at least being known Friedman specialities, and covers the period of exactly one year, from 1 March 1927 to March 1928. There were flurries of recording activity – 1st and 2nd March 1927 which saw the first eight items safely recorded – and again around 9th and 10th February 1928. On all these occasions we are witness to extravagant technical accomplishments co-existent with powerfully personalised and romanticised interpretative decision making and it would be fair to add, quirks. We can also hear Friedman’s only published Concerto performance, that of the Grieg; an Emperor Concerto with Henry Wood was never issued.

Much here is ravishing; equally things that are so personalised as to be more problematical even though the textual emendations and lavish rubati were all part of the virtuoso arsenal. The disc opens with alternative takes of pieces heard on volume one; his own Elle danse is laced with luscious rubati, the glittering right hand roulades adding a layer of infectious charm to a salon piece. The Allegretto of the Moonlight is extremely slow however and the Presto agitato simply garbled at the speed he takes it. The freely applied rubati reinforce Friedman’s stance as a Romantic par excellence. When it comes to Chopin he is outsize and heroic in the A flat Polonaise – exhilarating if also somewhat exhausting. He is exceptionally fast in the presto of the B flat Sonata (as with the Moonlight only two movements are here) – really too fast for proper articulation and clarity. The Berceuse, perhaps because simpler, goes rather better and is not subjected to anything like the same degree of rhetorical romanticism. He is equally adept at Rubinstein’s once ubiquitous Romance, resisting the temptation to apply lavish designs upon it and Suk’s Minuet, from the Op. 21 Suite, survives Friedman’s characteristic injection of high adrenalin rubati – emerging playful and pert. The centrepiece of the collection is the Grieg Concerto accompanied by an unidentified French orchestra and conducted by Phillipe Gaubert. Dating from late 1927 the sessions took place in Paris and feature more of Friedman’s incendiary pianism. The first movement very much observes the Allegro molto moderato marking, sounding slower and more tension filled as a result. Friedman adopts a somewhat capricious profile here, launching exocet bass notes in the cadenza and a generally high-octane approach to dynamic variance. The second movement is temporarily at least vitiated by tremulous horn playing but equally there’s pounding vigour from the soloist; I wouldn’t call it over subtle. Some sticky moments intrude in the finale as well with its flaring first trumpet and drama inflated drive. But as ever with Friedman his colossal personality co-exists with performance idiosyncrasies that are as much intriguing as they are perverse.

The transfers are once more by Ward Marston and are highly successful; notes are by Jonathan Summers. Friedman lives again in all his bold, vexatious glory.

Jonathan Woolf

 


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