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Ignaz Friedman
Complete Recordings Volume 4. English Columbia 1930-31
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)

Songs without Words

Op.19 No.3 in A major
Op.19 No.6 in G major
Op.102 No.5 in A major
Op.30 No.6 in F sharp minor
Op.38 No.2 in C minor
Op.38 No.6 in A flat major
Op.53 No.2 in E flat major
Op.53 No.4 in F major
Op.67 No.2 in F sharp minor
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Violin Sonata No.9 in A major Op.47 Kreutzer *
With alternative take of the First Movement
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

Hungarian Rhapsody No.2
Ignaz Friedman (piano) with
Bronislaw Huberman (violin) *
Recorded in London, 1930 and 1931
NAXOS 8.110736 [75.14]


Friedman is in safe hands in this series of Naxos restorations by Ward Marston. Aficionados will be very familiar with this series of English Columbias and for more general comments about Friedman I’d refer you to my other reviews of the edition, all of which teem with his incendiary echt Romanticism. Here we arrive at his 1930 remake of the Kreutzer Sonata with Huberman – they also left behind an acoustic version together (on Biddulph). Two alternative takes of this 1930 set – movements one and three – are also currently on Arbiter and Naxos gives us the same alternative take of the first movement. I’ve always found Huberman’s huge downward portamenti in the opening of the first movement to be as intensely provocative, as part of a musical argument, as the rather austerely snatched phrasing. His passagework positively crackles and Friedman is a worthily combustible partner, both men in regally driving form; the reappearance of that immodest portamento at the end of the movement is part and parcel of Huberman’s expressive symmetry. The differences however between this and the published take are minimal as is the case in the finale of the sonata, where Friedman’s bass pointing makes itself exquisitely apparent. In the slow movement Friedman’s fast passagework is as impressive as his colouristic imperatives.

His Mendelssohn Songs without Words may not be as well known as his Chopin Mazurkas but they share something of the same galvanic, life affirming aesthetic. Big, vital, rhythmically vivacious and personalised he brings huge tonal warmth and depth to these pieces. I’d especially cite the Op.30, F sharp minor which is a little miracle of poetry with superb differentiation of depth and colour in the right hand, and with the subtlest inflections in the bass pointing – truly an example of unselfconscious beauty. His rubati are sometimes as cavalier and provocative as they could be in Chopin – but who could fail to resist his teasing way with Op.67 No.2 or the vertiginous, unforced power of his bass colouration. His Liszt is a drama-laden curtain closer, masculine and powerful.

All these qualities are brought out in these vivid transfers that, though they retain characteristic Columbia surface noise, are impressive and lifelike.

Jonathan Woolf


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