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Brahms: Recaptured by Pupils and Colleagues
rec. 1889-1959
ARBITER 163 [79:33 + 77:05]

This fascinating twofer focuses on pupils and colleagues of Brahms – and concentrates inevitably on pianists. It will be of no interest to those who require fine sound, given that the music here is very variably recorded and there are missing bars and passages in many of the bigger works. Clearly its appeal is limited but if you are one of the fortunate few to whom the performers and repertoire – and the confluence of the two – appeals strongly, then there is a huge amount of aesthetic and stylistic benefit to be encountered.

Let’s start with Brahms himself in a December 1889 cylinder recorded in Vienna. This comes as a real jolt as it’s not the familiar one of one of his Hungarian Dances but an improvisation on Josef Strauss’s Libellule: Polka-Mazurka, 45-seconds that allows us a deeply imperfect listening experience but also a precious relic. Carl Friedberg’s few commercial recordings were made when he was elderly but his Kinderszenen is one of the most moving I know, his characteristic de-synchronisation adding a wealth of tonal depth to his reading. Here he plays Chopin’s Polonaise in a splintery home-recording in 1949 with great brio, adding a droll Schubert Moment musical from a live concert in Kansas City the previous year. If only there was more of his Beethoven. This torso of Op.10 No.1 reveals his rugged commitment to the repertory. A switch of acetates around the five-minute mark in the slow movement leads to a loss of signal for a brief time. There is inevitably a lot of surface noise. Its Beethovenian companion, Op.90, is from the Kansas City performance, and is notable for the way in which he balances hands, builds and accelerates and moves freely within the basic established pulse.

Having waited without hope for 25 years for a broadcast performance of the Trio of New York, here we have two, albeit very truncated. I can live with the truncation – these are historic documents after all, and exist as they are found – for the pleasure of hearing Friedberg, violinist Danil Karpilovsky and cellist Felix Salmond. The sound itself is reasonable for the time. The Brahms Trio in B, Op.8 comes from New York in December 1939. The torso lasts 16 minutes or so. The whole of the scherzo is missing. Friedberg anchors the performance stoically and with control, Salmond phrases with characteristic nobility of tone, Karpilovsky being somewhat more sentimental in that respect. The Trio in C, Op.101 was recorded earlier in the year in Philadelphia. It too is a torso, lasting a quarter of an hour as well. Rather more uncomfortably recorded it’s played with real intensity. The string players aren’t centred in the balance as well as in the New York recordings but they play with great spirit. These memorable survivors give me hope that more has been preserved from this ensemble.

A phalanx of pianists can be encountered on the second disc. The English pianist Edith Heymann, like Friedberg, studied with Clara Schumann. She can be heard reminiscing in a BBC broadcast about her studies with her teacher. These vivid recollections are well worth hearing – and you can also enjoy the sound of Heymann turning the pages of her talk. Elsewhere I’ve heard another such broadcast, never reissued, made by fellow British pianist Katharine Goodson, Curzon’s teacher, and it too proves revealing and historically valuable and contains what I understand to be the only surviving example of Goodson’s playing. If only the many other talks that were broadcast by the BBC in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s had been widely preserved. Heymann plays brief snippets of Robert Schumann, Bach and Beethoven (23 seconds). Friedberg returns to augment the items on disc one and this includes his own recollections of Brahms, which were recorded in 1951. Marie Baumayer’s sole c.1910 disc of Schumann’s Pedal Etude Op56 No.4 is here – a rare item. Born in 1851 she was the first female performer of Brahms’s Piano Concerto No.2 and was on good terms with the composer, moving in his circle, and admired by him as a sensitive player. Ilona Eibenschutz is represented by two recordings from the two polar ends of her career: her famous 1903 G&T of Brahms’s Ballade in G, Op.118 No.3 and two-minutes of her home-recorded Schumann in the 1950s in London. Etelka Freund can be heard in an important domestic 1959 recording of Brahms’ Variations on a theme of Schumann, and in a 1950 recording supervised by Peter Bartok. Almost all of her 1951 Bartók For Children has also been released by Pearl GEMM CDS9193 but this great pianist (1879-1977) always deserves new listeners.

Allan Evans’ wide-ranging and invaluably detailed note – which marries personal reminiscence with solid documentary information – makes for absorbing reading. This gatefold twofer contains a rich historical treasure trove. It requires tolerance but rewards perseverance.

Jonathan Woolf

Full track-listing
 
CD 1

1. Chopin: Polonaise in f#, Op. 44 9:59
2. Schubert: Moment musical in f 1:39
3. Brahms: Improvisation on Josef Strauss' Libellule: Polka-Mazur 0:45
4. Beethoven: Piano Sonata in F, Op. 10, no.1: I. Allegro molto e con brio exc. 0:39
5. Beethoven: Piano Sonata in F, Op. 10, no.1: II: Adagio molto 7:13
6. Beethoven: Piano Sonata in F, Op. 10, no.1: III: Prestissimo 3:02
7. Beethoven: Piano Sonata in e, Op. 90: I: Mit Lebhaftigkeit und durchaus 5:11
8. Beethoven: Piano Sonata in e, Op. 90: II: Nicht zu geschwind und sehr singbar vorgetragen 7:06
9. Beethoven: Rondo a capriccio, Op. 129 5:48
10. Brahms: Piano Trio in B, Op. 8: I. Allegro con brio (ends at double bar) 3:50
11. Brahms: Piano Trio in B, Op. 8: III. Adagio non troppo (starts at m.27) 6:09
12. Brahms: Piano Trio in B, Op. 8: IV. Finale. Allegro Molto Agitato 5:55
13. Brahms: Rhapsody in b, Op.79/1 (incomplete) 2:49
14. Brahms: Piano Trio in c, Op. 101: I. Allegro energico 7:06
15. Brahms: Piano Trio in c, Op. 101: II. Presto non assai 3:29
16. Brahms: Piano Trio in c, Op. 101: III. Andante grazioso & IV. ms. 1-14 4:28
17. Brahms: Ballade in g, Op. 118, no.3 3:29
Carl Friedberg, piano: tracks 1, 2, 4-9, 13, 17 (rec. 1948-51)
Johannes Brahms, piano: track 3 (rec. 2 Dec. 1889)
Trio of New York: Carl Friedberg, piano; Danil Karpilovsky, violin; Felix Salmond, cello: tracks 10-12, 14-16 (rec. 1939)

CD 2

1. Talk on Clara Schumann I 4:50
2. Schumann: Fantasiestücke, Op.12: Des Abends exc. 1:13
3. Clara Schumann on tempo 0:39
4. Schumann: Fantasiestücke, Op.12: Grillen exc. 0:47
5. Comments on Clara Schumann 0:35
6. On Schumann's Kinderszenen, Op. 15 0:15
7. Schumann: Kinderszenen: Hasche–Mann exc. 0:36
8. On Clara Schumann 0:19
9. Schumann: Faschingschwank aus Wien, Op.26: Intermezzo exc. 1:01
10. Clara Schumann as teacher 2:26
11. Beethoven: Sonata Op. 31, no.2 in d: III exc. 0:23
12. Clara Schumann as Bach interpreter 0:45
13. Bach: Well Tempered Clavier Bk.I: Fugue no.2 in c minor exc. 0:29
14. Clara Schumann on Bach 0:38
15. Bach: English Suite no. 3 in g: Gavotte 1:42
16. Heymann’s closing remarks 0:26
17. Friedberg recalls meeting Brahms 2:59
18. Brahms: Rhapsody Op. 79, no.2 in g exc. 1:40
19. Friedberg discusses Brahms 3:10
20. Beethoven: Sonata Op. 111: II exc. from lesson 1:23
21. Schumann: Pedal Etude in A flat, Op. 56, no.4 3:58
22. Schumann: Arabeske, Op. 18 (extracts) 1:45
23. Schumann: Kreisleriana: IV sehr langsam 2:00
24. Brahms: Ballade in g, Op. 118, no.3 2:37
25. Brahms: Variations on a theme by Schumann, Op. 9. 15:21
26. Brahms: Rhapsody Op. 119/4 repeated with the Intermezzo Op. 76/3 in A-flat 8:13
27. Bartók: Elegy, Op. 8b/2 molto adagio 6:22
28. Bartók: For Children: XXVI. Go round,sweetheart, go round 1:03
29. Bartók: For Children: XXXVII. When I go up Buda’s big mountain 0:22
30. Bartók: For Children: XXXVIII. Ten liters are inside me 0:42
31. Bartók: For Children: XXXIII. Stars, stars, brightly shine 1:08
32. Bartók: For Children: XXXIV. White lady’s eardrop 0:56
33. Bartók: For Children: XIII. A lad was killed 0:59
34. Bartók: For Children: XL. May the Lord give 0:51
35. Bartók: For Children: XVII. My little graceful girl 0:56
36. Bartók: For Children: XXXXII. Swineherd Dance 1:27
37. Brahms: Piano Concerto no. 2, Op.83: lesson advice 0:41
Edith Heymann, piano and speaker;  tracks 1-16 (rec. 1949)
Carl Friedberg, piano; tracks 17-20, 22, 37 (rec. c. 1951)
Marie Baumayer, piano; track 21 (rec. 1910)
Ilona Eibenschutz, piano; tracks 23-24 (rec. 1950s, 1903)
Etelka Freund, piano; tracks 25-36 (rec. 1959, 1951)

 

 




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