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This recently released 6 CD set began life as a 6 LP box set, the inspiration of Friedman biographer Allan Evans in tandem with the expert skills of New York-based transfer engineer Seth B. Winner. Evans had borrowed 78s from world-wide collectors as well as sourcing tapes of more elusive fare. The set was released in the mid-1980s by Danacord to enthusiastic critical acclaim, launching them "into the big league of internationally respected historical record labels". It was an inopportune moment, however. Around the same time, CD was on the ascendency, and the LP set fell by the wayside. Recently, pianophiles and pianists such as Cyprian Katsaris spurred the label on to issue a CD release. Danacord obliged, releasing it as part of their "From the LP Years" series, using Winner's original efforts. Claus Byrith and Jesper Buhl are responsible for the new touchings up, employing discreet and sensitively applied digital noise-reduction technology, all the time preserving the "signature sound".
Ignaz Friedman (1882-1848) was a Polish pianist and composer. A child prodigy, he studied with Hugo Riemann in Leipzig and Theodor Leschetizky in Vienna, and attended Ferruccio Busoni's masterclasses. He lived in Berlin until 1914 and settled in Copenhagen in 1920. At the outbreak of the Second World War, he took up the offer of a concert tour of Australia, eventually settling in Sydney, where he remained until his death. Among his pupils was Bruce Hungerford.
His approach to performing is bold, assertive, mercurial and capricious. Rubato and dynamic shadings are highly individual. He scores top marks in Chopin’s mazurkas and Mendelssohn’s Songs without Words. Chopin’s Nocturne in E flat Op. 55 No. 2 was described by Harold Schonberg in glowing terms: it "…may well be the most beautiful, singing, perfectly proportioned performance of a Chopin nocturne ever put on record". His infectious rhythmic audacity puts a personal stamp on the mazurkas. Op. 24 No. 4 is a fine example. Each of the Mendelssohn Songs without Words is a gleaming gem, enriched by beauty of tone and poetic phrasing.
Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata was recorded between September 1926 and March 1927 and we are offered it twice, each deriving from different takes. Friedman's trademark singing tone permeates the opening movement, but the finale does sound rather rushed and frenetic. Chopin's Third Ballade appears twice, from 1925 and 1933. The latter is preferable for its purer sound and absence of swish. The five Études featured spectacularly display the formidable technique the pianist possessed. It's fascinating listening to the pianist's own words on Chopin and Paderewski, culled from New Zealand Radio in 1941. The Paderewski contribution, however, sounds stilted.
There’s only one published concerto recording to his name, namely that of the Grieg. It was set down in Paris in 1927 and released the following year. The orchestra is unidentified, and the conductor is Philippe Gaubert. The orchestra sound unrehearsed and the performance is ragged. The playing is detached and it sounds to me that the pianist wasn't fully committed to the work. Funnily enough, he does briefly rise to the occasion with some poetic inspiration when the second subject 'big tune’ makes its initial appearance in the finale. Friedman had also recorded Beethoven's Emperor in 1927 with the New Queen’s Hall Orchestra and Henry Wood. It was rejected and has never been found.
The collaboration between Friedman and violinist Bronislaw Huberman (1882-1947), both fellow Poles, constitutes the pianist's sole chamber music collaboration in the recording studio. It was Huberman's second account; he left an acoustic version with his regular accompanist, Siegfried Schultze, issued on Biddulph. Due to time limitations, this version omitted repeats in the last two movements. The 1930 version is complete, and is a partnership of equals, with both artists contributing to a reading compelling for its singular vision. The outer movements are heated and generate much in terms of energy and pep. Huberman's anachronistic tone production and conspicuous downward portamenti are most pronounced in the slow movement.
New York-based composer, pianist, music writer and arts presenter Jed Distler best summed up Ignaz Friedman’s art for me when he referred to the pianist's "boundless technique, juicy tone, and larger-than-life temperament". It's all here, encompassed in this magnificent collection, indispensible for pianophiles with a passion for the Golden Age. The transfers are excellent in every way. Thankfully there’s no noise suppression utilising the Cedar process or something similar. Winner's skilful mastery reveals the freshness of the playing, the beauty of tone and the myriad coloration. Admittedly, the sound quality does vary. In the earliest recordings from the mid-twenties surface hiss is present, albeit to a tolerable level. The later recordings showcase the qualities I've already mentioned above to a fine degree. I've nothing but the highest praise for this glorious set.
Previous review: Jonathan Woolf Contents Beethoven, Ludwig van
Piano Sonata no.14 in C sharp minor, op.27 no.2 'Moonlight'
Violin Sonata no.9 in A major, op.47 'Kreutzer' Brahms, Johannes
Gavotte (after Chr. W. Gluck) Chopin, Frederic
» no.3 in A flat major, op.47
Berceuse in D flat major, op.57
Etudes (12), op.10
» no.5 in G flat major 'Black Key Study'
» no.7 in C major
» no.12 in C minor 'Revolutionary'
Etudes (12), op.25
» no.6 in G sharp minor
» no.9 in G flat major
Impromptu no.2 in F sharp major, op.36
» no.5 in B flat major, op.7 no.1
» no.6 in A minor, op.7 no.2
» no.7 in F minor, op.7 no.3
» no.17 in B flat minor, op.24 no.4
» no.23 in D major, op.33 no.2
» no.25 in B minor, op.33 no.4
» no.26 in C sharp minor, op.41 no.1
» no.31 in A flat major, op.50 no.2
» no.41 in C sharp minor, op.63 no.3
» no.44 in C major, op.posth 67 no.3
» no.45 in A minor, op.posth 67 no.4
» no.47 in A minor, op.posth 68 no.2
» no.16 in E flat major, op.55 no.2
Piano Sonata no.2 in B flat minor, op.35 'Funeral March'
» III March Funebre
» IV Finale. Presto
Polonaise no.6 in A flat major, op.53 'Heroic'
Polonaise no.9 in B flat major, op.71 no.2
Preludes (24), op.28
» no.15 in D flat major 'Raindrop'
» no.19 in E flat major
» no.3 in A minor, op.34 no.2
» no.6 in D flat, op.64 no.1 'Minute'
Alt-Wien (after Schubert)
Causeries (5), op.10
» no.5 Elle danse
Estampes (6), op.22
» no.4 Marquis et Marquise
Menuette from Le jugement de Paris
Pieces (3), op.33
» no.3 Tabatiere a Musique (Music Box)
Viennese Dances (6) on motifs by Eduard Gartner
Piano Concerto in A minor, op.16 Hummel, Johann Nepomuk
Rondo in E flat major, op.11 'Rondo favori' (arr. Ignaz Friedman)
Grandes Etudes (6) de Paganini, S141
» no.3 in G sharp minor 'La campanella' (arr. Busoni)
Hungarian Rhapsodies (19), S244
» no.2 in C sharp minor
Lieder (12) von Franz Schubert, S558
» no.9 Standchen von Shakespeare
Fantasies (3), op.16
» no.2 Scherzo in E minor
Songs without Words (Lieder ohne Worte): Book 1, op.19b
» no.3 in A major 'Hunting Song'
» no.6 in G minor 'Venetianisches Gondellied' (Venetian Boat Song)
Songs without Words (Lieder ohne Worte): Book 2, op.30
» no.6 in F sharp minor 'Venezianisches Gondellied no.2'
Songs without Words (Lieder ohne Worte): Book 3, op.38
» no.2 in C minor
» no.6 in A flat major
Songs without Words (Lieder ohne Worte): Book 4, op.53
» no.2 in E flat major
» no.4 in F major
Songs without Words (Lieder ohne Worte): Book 6, op.67
» no.2 in F sharp minor
Songs without Words (Lieder ohne Worte): Book 8, op.102
» no.5 in A major Mittler, Franz
Lustige Klavierstucke (2), op.2
» no.2 Die Spieluhr der kleinen Nana
Pieces (6), op.15
» no.1 Serenata
Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus
Piano Sonata no.11 in A major, K331
» III Rondo alla turca
Paderewski, Ignacy Jan
Humoresques de concert, op.14
» no.1 Minuet in G major
Soirees a St Petersbourg (6), op.44
» no.1 Romance in E flat major 'The night'
Valse caprice in E flat major
Marches militaires (3), op.51 D733
» no.1 in D major (arr. Carl Tausig for solo piano)
» no.2 Minuet
Pastorale in E minor (Scarlatti - Sonata K9)
Weber, Carl Maria von
Aufforderung zum Tanze (Invitation to the Dance), op.65 J260