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Ervin Nyiregyházi in Performance
CD 1 [76:28]
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Legendes: No. 1, "St. Francois d'Assise: la predication aux oiseaux" [13:06]
Old First Church, San Francisco, 6 May 1973
Legendes: No. 2, "St. Francois de Paule marchant sur les flots" [9:39]
Old First Church, San Francisco, 6 May 1973
Excerpts from No. 5 ("Elizabeth") of the oratorio Die Legende von der heiligen Elisabeth (arr. Nyiregyhazi) [7:23]
Zwei KonzertetudenL No. 1, "Waldesrauschen" [5:56]
Home of Ronald Antonioli, Novato, California, 29 July 1973
Annees de pelerinage, deuxieme annee, Italie: No. 6, "Sonetto 123 Petrarca" [8:01]
Home of Ronald Antonioli, Novato, California, 29 July 1973
Annees de pelerinage, troisieme annee: No. 2, "Aux cypres de la Villa d'Este" (No. 1, 3/4) [7:47]
Century Club of California, San Francisco, 17 December 1972
Annees de pelerinage, premiere annee, Suisse: No. 2, "Au lac de Wallenstadt" [4:12]
Dai-ichi Seimei Hall, Tokyo, 21 January 1982
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Intermezzo in E-flat Minor, Op. 118/No. 6 [6:23]
Home of Ronald Antonioli, Novato, California, 29 July 1973
Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915)
Sonata No. 4 in F-sharp Major, Op. 30 (two linked movements, [8:14])
Forest Hill neighborhood association clubhouse, San Francisco, 24 May 1973
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
Lyric Pieces, Op. 54: No. 4, "Notturno" [5:42]
Forest Hill neighborhood association clubhouse, San Francisco, 24 May 1973
CD 2 [74:51]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Douze morceaux, Op. 40: No. 8, "Valse" in A-flat Major [5:37]
Forest Hill neighborhood association clubhouse, San Francisco, 24 May 1973
Romance in F Minor, Op. 5 [7:22]
Takasaki College of Music, Takasaki, Japan, 1 June 1980
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Estampes: No. 1, "Pagodes" [6:25]
Forest Hill neighborhood association clubhouse, San Francisco, 24 May 1973
La plus que lente [4:59]
Forest Hill neighborhood association clubhouse, San Francisco, 24 May 1973
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Mazurka in C-sharp Minor, Op. 6/No. 2 [4:19]
Century Club of California, San Francisco, 17 December 1972
Prelude in C-sharp Minor, Op. 28/No. 10 [0:45]
Century Club of California, San Francisco, 17 December 1972
Mazurka in F Minor, Op. 63/No. 2 [2:37]
Century Club of California, San Francisco, 17 December 1972
Mazurka in B Minor, Op. 33/No. 4 [6:09]
Century Club of California, San Francisco, 17 December 1972
Nocturne in F Minor, Op. 55/No. 1 [6:58]
Old First Church, San Francisco, 6 May 1973
Sergei RACHMANINOFF (1873-1943)
Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18, II: Adagio sostenuto (arr. Nyiregyhazi): [15:51]
Dai-ichi Seimei Hall, Tokyo, 21 January 1982
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
"Der Wanderer" (arr. Nyiregyhazi) [6:55]
Takasaki College of Music, Takasaki, Japan, 31 May 1980
"Heidenroslein"(arr. Nyiregyhazi) [2:07]
Takasaki College of Music, Takasaki, Japan, 1 June 1980
Cameron O'Day MACPHERSON
"Before the Dawn" from Deserted Garden [4:39]
Los Angeles Federal Symphony Orchestra/Modest Altschuler
Federal Music Project, Program No. 76, 1936
Ervin Nyiregyházi (piano)
MUSIC AND ARTS CD-1202 [76:28 + 74:51]

 

Experience Classicsonline


Some piano aficionados will lick their lips salaciously at the thought of Ervin Nyiregyházi, whose extraordinary life and career are covered in the booklet notes by Kevin Bazzana, author of a biography of the pianist. Bazzana has turned up a large corpus of detail surrounding Nyiregyházi (1903-1987) who was an exploited child prodigy; Carnegie Hall debutant at seventeen; film actor, friend of Bela Lugosi, Gloria Swanson and Harry Houdini; husband of ten wives; frequent derelict and sleeper on park benches; visiting pianist-entertainer at Sing Sing prison; and who also appeared as ‘Mr X – Masked Pianist.’ His career petered out in the mid fifties only to revive in 1972 when he was rediscovered. Engagements and recordings followed.  One can catch a few appearances, including recital shots, on YouTube.

He made twelve Ampico piano rolls between 1921 and 1926 and performed on the soundtracks of several films – including The Soul of a Monster (1944) and The Beast with Five Fingers (1946). In M & A’s two CD collection we also have the only official recording he made before that late runs of LPs – the 1936 Federal Music Project, Program No. 76, of Cameron O’Day Macpherson’s "Before the Dawn" from Deserted Garden, which lasts only four and a half minutes. It’s a souvenir really.

What is at stake, beyond the lurid biography, is the playing and to a lesser extent the recording. The last first, then. The recordings are perfectly serviceable for what they are, even those that were recorded on a hand held portable cassette player during the recital. As for the playing his Liszt is an amazing amalgam of exceptional delicacy and a blistering tsunami of the most elemental power. St. Francois d'Assise: la predication aux Oiseaux has empyrean refinement and filigree followed by an unleashing of dramatic outbursts. The slight dropouts – few – hardly contain the torrent that is unleashed. Similarly St. Francois de Paule marchant sur les flots is suffused with romantic efflorescence and cataclysm, the music stretched to breaking point by the vehemence and unleashed violence of the playing. Sonetto 123 Petrarca offers a reprieve by virtue of its refinement of spirit. These Liszt performances are indices of Nyiregyházi’s incendiary pianism but also a deeply embedded lyricism that moves in romantic crests, playing of the utmost fascination, impossible to ignore, impossible to forget.

But there is more than just Liszt. His sole Brahms is the Intermezzo in E-flat Minor, Op. 118/No. 6, deeply and darkly personal and profoundly dramatic. His Scriabin Fourth Sonata is a daemonic drive through the outskirts of the music, often more a paraphrase than a literal recreation of mere notes, an evocation, a summoning up of feeling and sinew. Literalness is scattered to the winds in the face of Nyiregyházi’s recreative bravura. His Tchaikovsky is rich, verdant and fulsome, whilst of the two examples of his Debussy La plus que lente is toughly minted. Chopin’s Mazurka in C-sharp Minor, Op. 6/No. 2 is a study in barely concealed melancholia, the B minor Op 33/No.4 dramatic and powerful. His Nocturne in F minor is reflective and sorrowing- slow. And then we have the bewildering arrangement of the slow movement of Rachmaninoff’s Second Concerto – nearly sixteen minutes of it in this version and it certainly has its bizarre moments. Der Wanderer is torrid whilst his arrangement of Schubert’s Heidenröslein offers a deconstruction of the most limpid distension.

These discs enshrine playing of sometimes devastating candour and brilliance, as well as examples of heroic fallibility. Either way, they offer unrepeatable personalisation from one of the more bizarre heralds of the keyboard.

Jonathan Woolf 

 


 


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