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Michael Zadora - the Complete Recordings
see end of review for track listing
Michael Zadora (piano)
rec. c.1922-38
APR 6008 [71:53 + 66:51]

Experience Classicsonline

The mysterious Michael Zadora was born in New York in 1882, scion of a Baronial Polish family. His first lessons came from his father and a debut as an eight year old duly followed. In 1899 he left for lessons with Leschetitzky in Vienna and Heinrich Barth in Berlin. Thereafter he taught before returning to America in 1913 taking up a teaching position at the Institute for Musical Art. After the war he was back in Berlin, and as with Gunnar Johansen, and Petri, and so many others, he came under the spell of Busoni whose music he performed widely. In fact Zadora was the first to give an all-Busoni programme in 1923 and with Petri he gave two-piano recitals. He also prepared the piano part of Doktor Faust. The mid-1930s saw him back in America, giving annual recitals, writing and arranging pieces. His wrote music for a Broadway show. It closed the following day, it seems. Zadora died in 1946.

For the most part these recordings were made in Berlin in the decade or so between the early 1920s and the early 1930s. The repertoire is typical of his programming. It was only when he was back in America that, in 1938, he set down recordings of two Busoni Sonatinas. Incidentally I should note this isn’t quite the ‘complete’ recordings, as advertised, because as the notes themselves make clear two items are missing; pieces by Amadis (ie. Zadora) and by Strockhoff, - on an electric Polydor 19099.

Zadora used a Blüthner piano for his earlier sequence, and its tone comes across well in the acoustically recorded sides, which are all contained in the first disc. He was already 40 by the time he made these first recordings and plays with facility, affection and a fair degree of caprice which sometimes borders on affectation. However the pearly limpidity of his tone - sample the B minor Chopin Waltz - is undeniably alluring and the ‘Aeolian Harp’ Etude is similarly a fine choice to set down, one that suits his will o’ the wisp and rubato-rich approach. His Chopin in general promotes a slightly rococo character. What’s not in doubt is the frilly charm of his Raff, nor its sturdy nobility, or the stormy petrel that is his reading of Sgambati’s Prelude in E flat minor. His singing tone enriches the Scarlatti-Tausig Pastorale and the charm of Rubinstein’s ubiquitous Romance suits him better than the impersonally dispatched Brahms Intermezzo. His Field Nocturne must be one of the earliest on record, and the first disc ends with two of his own fripperies, droll dance-patterned affairs.

The second disc is more concentrated but also expansive as it were, running from Bach to Prokofiev via Busoni and Debussy amongst others. The sequence was recorded in the late 1920s, the early 1930s and then those two 1938 Busonis, which were his last recordings. They disclose a real affinity with Busoni’s writing, undimmed in the fifteen years since the composer’s death; in 1924 Zadora had played some Mendelssohn to the dying composer. Sonority is powerful, pedalling is controlled, there’s a bell-peal tone; these two performances are certainly important documents. So too in its way is the Sonatina No. 6 recorded back in Berlin c.1929, but here Zadora’s technique comes under strain. Elsewhere we can hear, in these electric sides, a Chopin Minute waltz even naughtier than the c.1922 acoustic. The C sharp minor Waltz is another remake of that earlier recording. The Prokofiev is the Prelude in C major - again, very early to be recording Prokofiev, and splendidly done. The Delibes and Jensen hyphenates are accomplished but decidedly salon in orientation. Much better is the Bach-attributed Sarabande and Partita, imposingly and nobly done.

A few of the recordings can be a touch steely in places due to their rarity, but Mark Obert-Thorn ensures that Zadora’s tonal qualities are respected and this is accomplished work. So too Jonathan Summers’ booklet notes. Maybe that missing Zadora disc will emerge in due course and can be appended to a repressing of this disc, or somewhere else. But it’s splendid to have this corpus of recordings available in one handy slim-line double.

Jonathan Woolf 

Track listing
CD 1
Acoustic Recordings; Recorded early 1920s
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Waltz in A-Flat, Op.69 No.1 [3:53]
Waltz in B Minor, Op.69 No.2 [3:59]
Waltz in C-Sharp Minor, Op.64 No.2 [3:12]
Nocturne in B, Op.32 No.1 [4:01]
Etude in F Minor, Op.25 No.2 [1:27]
Etude in G-Flat, Op.25 No.9 [0:56]
Etude in A-Flat, Op.25 No.1 [2:03]
Waltz in D-Flat, Op.64 No.1 [1:49]
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Consolations S 172; Nos.1 [1:24], 2 [2:36], 3 [2:59] and 5 [2:17]
Joachim RAFF (1822-1882)
La Fileuse, Op.157 No.2 [3:46]
Giovanni SGAMBATI (1841-1914)
Prelude in E-Flat Minor, Op.6 [3:27]
Domenico SCARLATTI (1685-1757)
Pastorale (Sonata, K.478, L.413) arranged by Carl TAUSIG (1841-1871) [3:41]
Giovanni Battista PERGOLESI (1710-1736)
Arietta, Se tu m'ami, se sospiri arranged by Michael ZADORA (1882-1946) [2:54]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Ecossaises arranged by Ferrucio BUSONI (1866-1924) [2:14]
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Preludes Op.28 Nos.6 in B minor [1:26], 7 in A major [0:47], 13 in F sharp major [2:37] and 23 in F major [0:43]
Mazurka in A Minor, Op.67 No.4 [2:44]
Anton RUBINSTEIN (1829-1894)
Romance in E-Flat, Op.44 No.1 [2:49]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Intermezzo in B-Flat Minor, Op.117 No.2 [3:13]
John FIELD (1782-1837)
Nocturne No.5 in B-Flat [2:46]
AMADIS (Michael ZADORA (1882-1946))
The Prima Ballerina [3:23]
Vienna Waltz [2:56]
CD 2
Electrical Recordings; Recorded 1929 - 1938
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Waltz in D-Flat, Op.64 No.1 [1:45]
Waltz in C-Sharp Minor, Op.64 No.2 [3:24]
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1892-1953)
Prelude in C, Op.12 No.7 [1:36]
LAMARE
La Passion [2:29]
Leo DELIBES (1836-1891)
Valse lente, from Sylvia arranged by Michael ZADORA [2:44]
Adolf JENSEN (1837-1879)
Murmuring Zephyrs Op.21 No.4 arranged by Michael ZADORA [2:58]
(attrib.) Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Sarabande e Partita in C, BWV 990 (abridged) [7:27]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Prelude and Toccata from Pour le piano [3:09 + 2:58]
Ferrucio BUSONI (1866-1924)
Sonatina No.6, after Bizet's Carmen [6:12]
Jacques OFFENBACH (1819-1880)
Barcarolle, from Tales of Hoffmann arranged by Michael ZADORA [3:14]
AMADIS (Michael ZADORA)
Meine Puppe Tanzt [2:01]
Adolf von HENSELT (1814-1889)
Larghetto, from Concerto in F Minor, Op.16 arranged by Michael ZADORA [4:10]
Johann Nepomuk HUMMEL (1778-1837)
Rondo in E-Flat, Op.11 [3:36]
Leo DELIBES (1836-1891)
Valse lente, from Coppélia arranged by Michael Zadora [3:30]
Pizzicati, from Sylvia [2:39]
Ferrucio BUSONI (1866-1924)
Sonatina No.3 "Ad usum infantis" [5:31]
Sonatina No.5 "In diem nativitatis Christi" [5:57]
 


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