Rudolph Ganz am clavier, als dirigent
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Waltz Op.32 No.1 [4:31]
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Liebesträume R211/3 [4:07]
Adolf JENSEN (1837-1879)
Murmuring Breezes Op.21 No.4 [2:58]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Songs without Words — Spring Song Op.62 No.6 [2:05]
Enrique GRANADOS (1867-1916)
Danza Española No.5 [4:05]
Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865-1936)
La Nuit —Three Etudes Op.31 No.3 [4:14]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1916)
Preludes, Book 1 — La fille aux cheveux de lin [2:07]
Preludes Book 2 — La Puerto del vino [3:10]
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Nocturne Op. 9 No.1 [6:08]
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Mignon’s Lied R209/3 [6:42]
Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD (1897-1957)
Piano Sonata No.2 Op.2 — 1. Moderato and 2. Scherzo [13:18]
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
Holberg Suite Op.40 [16:12] ¹
Interview on Ganz’s 80th birthday—Radio Sottens, Lausanne, 1957 [4:39]
Rudolph Ganz (piano)
Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra/Rudolph Ganz ¹
rec. 1920, Duo-Art piano rolls (first 4 tracks); Freiburg 1913 (remainder of rolls); 1948, New York (Grieg)
GUILD GHCD 2377 [74:55]

A small word of caution regarding this latest release in Guild’s ‘Zentralbibliotek’ collection devoted to Swiss artists; there is clearly no attempt to deceive, but I should point out that whilst it’s perfectly true that Ganz is captured, as the booklet cover announces, ‘am klavier’, these are not disc recordings. Rather they are reproducing piano rolls, made for Welte-Mignon in Freiburg in 1913 and for Duo-Art in America in 1920, and so the former recordings, in particular, which enticingly offer two movements from Korngold’s Op.2 Piano Sonata, should be seen in that light. The remainder of the disc is devoted to a performance of Ganz conducting Grieg’s Holberg Suite, and a brief 1957 Lausanne radio interview.

Ganz (1877-1972) was born in Zurich studying successively cello, piano and composition. Crucially he also studied with Busoni, who was to remain a source of inspiration to Ganz for the rest of his life. In 1900 he premiered his own First Symphony with the Berlin Philharmonic and later, having married an American, departed for Chicago where he taught for a while before concentrating on a career as a concert pianist. He pioneered the appreciation of much new French music whilst in America, before returning to Germany where he did similar work as a conductor and pianist for such composers as Delius, Elgar, Sibelius and Bartók. When war broke out he returned to America as conductor of the St. Louis Symphony from 1921-27, and then became closely associated with the Chicago Musical College. He continued to programme new works by such as Copland, Ibert, and Honegger, and he performed recitals with his second wife, Ester LaBerge — including Webern lieder — and didn’t neglect the avant-garde of Elliott Carter and John Cage either.

The rolls are adequately transferred though the piano used for the transfers of the Freiburg Welte-Mignons comes under pressure and doesn’t sound wholly well regulated. The American rolls are of rather lightweight material, and don’t show him as one of the apostles of modernism, more a purveyor of gentle fireside charm. Seven years earlier we find the real Ganz, performing Granados, Glazunov — the Op.31/3 La Nuit — and Debussy. Balanced as these are by Chopin and Liszt, we are still heavily weighted toward contemporary literature in the shape of Korngold’s Second sonata, of which we hear two movements. It’s an index of Ganz’s Busoni-inspired capacity to absorb new music. And it’s rather a shame that we don’t hear more from these Freiburg sessions — he recorded Bartók and his own music — in preference to the rather trivial 1920 Duo-Arts. Highly imperfect though reproducing piano material is, it can still be instructive.

The Holberg Suite comes from a 1948 studio recording; a genial, well paced through not excessively imaginative performance. And we end with a four minute interview, in French, from 1957 in which he talks briefly about early influences.

If you are a Ganz admirer and were expecting revelations along the line of, say, Dante HPC050, which contained his own Op.32 Piano Concerto in the Decca 78 played by himself with the Chicago Symphony under Stock, you should probably think again. That disc also contained Ganz espousing MacDowell’s music, performances taken from World Program transcriptions. This Guild is more difficult to judge. The rolls are important but flawed objects, and the Grieg is lightweight. Given that there is not much Ganz available however, hardcore collectors may well be interested.

Jonathan Woolf

Hardcore collectors may well be interested.