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8.111226 - STRAUSS II, J.: Paraphrases and Piano Transcriptions, Vol. 1 (1930-1954)
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Johann Strauss II · Paraphrases and Piano Transcriptions
An Anthology of Historic Performances · Volume 1 (1930-1954)

 

One of Strauss's waltzes as far surpasses in charm, finish, and real musical worth hundreds of the artificial compositions of his contemporaries as the steeple of St Stephen's surpasses the advertising columns on the Paris boulevards.

-- Richard Wagner (1813-1883)

An astute observer of nineteenth-century Viennese culture aptly described Strauss's popular compositions as "those irresistible waltzes that first catch the ear, and then curl round the heart, until suddenly they invade the legs". Of the many light-hearted pleasures in which the Viennese indulged with so lusty a spirit, none was more dear to them than dancing. According to contemporary statistics, one out of every four people in Vienna danced regularly. They danced the polka, and the quadrille; but most of all they danced the waltz. The undisputed master of these dance forms was Johann Strauss II (1825-1899), who brought a seemingly inexhaustible fertility of ideas as well as imagination, sound instincts, good taste and fine musicianship. Strauss not only achieved popularity but greatness. His efforts in rhythm and harmony, and his innovations in form, were sometimes so daring that there were some critics in his day who branded him a "futurist". The great classical musicians of his generation – Brahms, Verdi, Offenbach, Gounod and Wagner – all regarded his music with genuine respect and admiration. He became the most popular musician of his generation because his music had extraordinary appeal with the connoisseur and the masses. His publishers printed countless copies of his sheet music making it possible for anyone who had access to a piano to play his compositions at social gatherings or simply for enjoyment at home. The demand for his music was astronomical and concert pianists in the late nineteenth century and throughout the twentieth century added to Strauss's popularity by creating paraphrases and transcriptions on many of his works.

Gathered here, in this anthology of historic performances, are fourteen wonderful examples of the art of transcription, performed by some of the master pianists of the past. We have included solo piano performances, as well as duo-piano transcriptions and one recording on four pianos. A number of these historic recordings appear for the first time on compact disc.

Opening the programme is a scintillating elaboration on Strauss's Schatz Waltz (Treasure Waltz, from Zigeunerbaron), Op. 418 by the Hungarian virtuoso Ernö Dohnányi (1877-1960). A brilliant pianist, an outstanding conductor, and a venerated teacher, Dohnányi's 1931 recording illustrates the stylish, well-nuanced approach to Strauss, emotionally performed, sweeping in its gestures, yet with a very clear feeling for pacing and subtlety. Dohnányi wrote his three Strauss transcriptions in Budapest in 1928, and performed the Schatz Waltz for the first time there on 4 November 1929.

The Annen Polka, Op. 117, first performed by Strauss in Vienna 's Prater on 26 July 1852, became one of his first works to achieve universal fame. Created in celebration of the Saint's Day of Anna, it is also a tribute to Strauss's mother, whose name was Anna. It is one Strauss's most tender and charming creations and as performed by duo-pianists Maryann Rawicz (1898-1970) and Walter Landauer (1910-1983), proves to be full of smiles, as it teases us through this Strauss bon-bon. Polish-born Rawicz met Viennese pianist Landauer in 1933. Playing classical and pop duo piano transcriptions in Continental cabarets, they eventually settled in England in 1935. Their duo piano team lasted some 37 years, and enjoyed enormous success and many recordings, including some best sellers with Mantovani and His Orchestra.

Although On the Beautiful Blue Danube, Op. 314, was first heard not in a purely orchestral form but performed by a male-choir (the Vienna Men's Singing Club in 1867), this distinctive waltz became Strauss's most famous composition. Seldom had Strauss written music so literal. From the distinctive opening measures, there is a liquid flow to the music that depicts with astonishing accuracy the rhythmic ebb and rise of the Danube current. Its transcribed state, Concert Arabesques on themes of Strauss's Waltz "On the Beautiful Blue Danube " by Andrei Schulz-Evler (1852-1905), was praised by Albert Lockwood in his book Notes on the Literature of the Piano (1940). He stated that "the Blue Danube found, at last, an able and satisfactory transcription. It will be long before anyone does a better one". It is perhaps fitting that Schultz-Evler used the term "arabesques" since this bravura show-piece is not simply a literal transcription but a concert work full of embellishments and effective musical flights of fancy, requiring of the performer the utmost virtuosity and ease of execution. Of Strauss transcriptions, this one is probably the most recorded. With wonderful performances by Lhevinne, Mildner, Renard, Kentner, Lympany and others, one of the rarest is the 1932 performance by Isador Goodman (1909-1982). Born in South Africa of Jewish parents, he spent his formative years in England and eventually moved in 1930 to Australia. There he taught, concertized and played an important rôle in the development of the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC). Alexander Sverjensky, shortly after Goodman's first concert in Sydney, brought a gift of music to the young pianist – Schultz-Evler's Concert Arabesques on themes of Strauss's Waltz "On the Beautiful Blue Danube" - indicating that there was no chance that he would ever be able to play it, but that the work would suit Isador's technical abilities and would invariably be very popular with audiences as well. Two years later Goodman recorded the work in Australia. The Schultz-Evler work remained in Goodman's active repertoire for the rest of his career. Goodman's interpretation is magnificent. His technical assurance is evident from the very first notes, but Goodman also brings lyricism and poetry to his interpretation, making this virtuoso encore piece into a musical masterpiece.

Pianist Alfred Grünfeld (1852-1924) was born in Prague, studied at the Kullak Academy in Berlin and eventually moved to Vienna, where he became a popular teacher and performer. He was court pianist to Emperor Wilhelm I of Germany. He knew Brahms, Strauss and Leschetizky. Based on extant concert programmes, Grünfeld was a pianist of intellect and virtuosic abilities. He performed many of the major works of Beethoven, Bach, Chopin, Schumann, Schubert and Brahms, often including new works by composers of the day, such as Grieg's Ballade, Op. 24. He was a prolific composer, mostly of shorter character pieces, and effective transcriptions. He recorded extensively, as early as 1899 (on acoustic Berliners). Although he recorded his own interpretation of his transcription Soirée de Vienne (on themes by Johann Strauss II) as early as 1905, we present a fairly rare Russian recording of this work played by Jakov Fliere (1912-1977). Grünfeld's music was popular in Russia. After all, he concertized there (performing in the best venues, including the Winter Palace and Princess Voronozov's Palace) and received an honour from Czar Alexander III. Fliere, who studied with Igumnov, was introduced to Grünfeld's music while a student, and Grünfeld's Soirée de Vienne was among Fliere's favourite encores of his early concert career. In 1936 he won the International Piano Competition in Vienna. From 1937 until his death he was on the faculty of the Moscow Conservatory of Music.

Another transcriber who transformed Strauss's original waltz themes into pianistic masterpieces was Carl Tausig (1841-1871). A Franz Liszt pupil, he settled in Vienna in 1861 and published his first suite of three Nouvelles Soirées de Vienne a year later. Subtitled, Valses-Caprices d'après Strauss, the works were intended to follow in the footsteps of Liszt's Soirées de Vienne (Valses-Caprices d'après Schubert), to whom Tausig dedicated his set. In Valse–Caprice No. 2 d'après J. Strauss II ("Man lebt nur einmal", Op. 167) Tausig weaves an intriguing path through Strauss's themes tinged with unusual harmonies, occasional dissonant chords and enharmonic sleighs-of-hand. Ania Dorfmann's 1938 recording of Tausig's transcription was only the second recording of this work (Rachmaninov's magnificent performance was first, issued in 1927). Russian-born Dorfmann (1899-1982) studied at the Paris Conservatoire under Isidor Philipp. She moved to the United States in 1936 and performed with all of the major orchestras and made numerous recordings, including a much praised performance of Beethoven's First Piano Concerto with Arturo Toscanini. Dorfmann was a greatly revered teacher at the Juilliard School.

Abram Chasins (1903-1987) studied with Ernest Hutcheson and Rubin Goldmark in New York. When he enrolled at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, he was fortunate to have studied with the legendary Josef Hofmann. For many American pianists of his day, radio offered a new and exciting venue for performance. Chasins saw the clear opportunities and became musical director of WQXR in New York in 1946. Later in life, Chasins was musician-in-residence at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, and director of radio station KUSC. As a composer, Chasins wrote many pieces, primarily for his own performance, and later, when he married pianist Constance Keene, for their duo-piano concerts. The Concert Paraphrase on Strauss's "Artists' Life", is among his best works for two pianos, four hands. Although Chasins and Keene recorded this work, we present another contemporary performance from 1954 in this anthology, played by the duo piano team of Vera Appleton (b.1918) and Michael Field (1918-1971). Vera Appleton and Michael Field studied at the Juilliard School and formed their duo piano team in 1943. Unlike other piano teams of their day, Appleton and Field where not married to each other. Their recordings of Mozart, Schumann, Liszt, Stravinsky, and Chasins's Concert Paraphrase on Strauss's "Artists' Life", show that they were virtuosos of the first rank. Their duo played its final performance in 1964.

Viennese pianist and composer Otto Schulhof (1889-1958) was a professor at the Wiener Musikakademie. He was the pianist on various recordings and on concert tours with Pablo Casals, as well as with many other singers and cellists. He often performed his own transcriptions and paraphrases on Strauss themes, making a few recordings into the LP era. In 1945 Paul Badura-Skoda (b.1927) entered the Vienna Conservatory, and two years later won first prize in the Austrian Music Competition and a scholarship which allowed him to study with Edwin Fischer. In 1949, Wilhelm Furtwängler and Herbert von Karajan became aware of Badura-Skoda, and invited him to play concerts. Practically overnight the young Viennese became a world-famous artist. Paul Badura-Skoda has recorded a vast repertoire – more than 200 LPs and dozens of compact discs including the complete cycles of the piano sonatas of Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert. Among numerous encores, the delightful Schulhof transcription of Strauss's Pizzicato-Polka, Op. 449, has been a favourite of Badura-Skoda's since he first recorded it 55 years ago.

Alec Templeton (1909-1963) studied at London 's Royal Academy. In 1936 he moved from Wales to the United States, where he performed with many orchestras and began a successful radio career, appearing on The Rudy Vallee Show, The Chase and Sanborn Hour, the Kraft Music Hall and The Magic Key programmes. His own radio programme, Alec Templeton Time, was heard on the air in 1939-1941, 1943 and 1946-47. Blind from birth, Templeton was a serious musician who also was a marvellous satirist. His 1939 Carnegie Hall concert included works by Bach, Handel, Beethoven, Chopin, Rachmaninov, Debussy and several of his own transcriptions and improvisations. Templeton's creative improvisations became his calling card and he recorded and published a number of them. The 1954 recording of his Improvisation on Strauss's "Tales from the Vienna Woods" shows his effortless technique and inventive musicality.

Leonard Pennario (b.1924) gave his first piano recital at the age of eight. At twelve, he was the last minute replacement for an ailing pianist with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra (conducted by Eugene Goossens) in Grieg's Piano Concerto. His sensational performance of the work launched him on a glorious career. In 1986 Pennario returned to Dallas to celebrate his fiftieth anniversary, playing the Miklos Rósza Piano Concerto. A student of Guy Maier, Olga Steeb, Isabelle Vengerova and Ernst Toch, Pennario has toured the world, playing with virtually every major symphony orchestra and in all the major music centres. A pianist with a phenomenal technique, Pennario also is a composer of note. Among his best known works is Midnight on the Cliffs (1942) depicting the cliffs of Newport, Rhode Island, which was prominently featured in the 1956 film Julie (starring Louis Jourdan and Doris Day). Among his earliest and most effective transcriptions is the Emperor Waltz, which he recorded in 1952. In his paraphrase of Strauss's Kaiser Walzer, Op. 437, Pennario manages to transmit the special charm of this waltz, retaining much of the natural flavour of the original, while also creating a piece which is a test of a player's piano technique.

Eduard Schütt (1856-1933) is today a forgotten pianist and composer. Born in Russia, he studied at the St Petersburg Conservatory. In Germany he continued his studies with Richter, Jadassohn and Reinecke. Later he became a private pupil of the legendary Leschetizky. As a composer he published over a hundred works, including an opera, two piano concerti, two piano trios and a piano quartet, songs, and many piano pieces. He created very effective transcriptions and paraphrases of the music of Brahms, Wagner, Weber, Lanner and Strauss. His Concert Paraphrase on "Die Fledermaus" Waltzes is among his best known. The unusual performance from 1938 of Schütt's transcription is by Adolf Wolff, who was active in Germany as both pianist and Wurlitzer organ virtuoso. Little information about Wolff seems to have survived, although he was still active, recording for German radio in the early 1950s.

Stanislas Niedzielski (1905-1975) was born in Warsaw and studied with Sliwinski and Opienski, before taking lessons from Paderewski in Switzerland. At the age of twenty he gave his first concert in London, which launched his international career. He toured all over the world, including frequent performances in South Africa. Although his repertoire was varied and extensive, he is today, perhaps best known for his impassioned performances of Chopin's music. Niedzielski made his home in Paris, where he died in 1975 from a tropical disease contracted during an African tour. His astonishing technique serves him well in his own paraphrase on Strauss's Thousand and One Nights Waltz, recorded in London in 1930.

Roderich Bass was born in 1873 in Pardubitz (now Pardubice, Czech Republic ) and died in Vienna in 1933. A pianist and composer of short, salon piano pieces (mostly published by Bosworth and Eberle), he was a colleague and friend of pianist Walter Rehberg (1900-1957). Swiss pianist Rehberg received his first piano instruction from his father Willy Rehberg (1863-1937). In Germany he continued his studies with Toch and d'Albert. In his younger years Rehberg performed concert cycles devoted to the history of the piano sonata, or of chromatic piano literature, or of the complete piano works of Brahms. He taught at the Musikhochschule in Stuttgart, and after 1934 at the Music Academy of Zürich and the Music School in Winterthur. After the war Rehberg devoted himself to teaching, composing, editing and writing books with his wife, Paula Rehberg. Bass's rarely heard "Voice of Spring" – Concert Paraphase on the B major Waltz by Strauss, Op. 410, was recorded by Rehberg in Germany in 1930 on a Bechstein concert grand.

The Philharmonic Piano Quartet made its public début at a Lewisohn Stadium concert in New York in June 1949. Four pianists playing together must have been quite a spectacle. The reviewer, writing for the New York Times, stated that "the four young pianists brought freshness to their difficult medium, as well as precision, agility and some fairly successful attempts to obtain color contrasts". The four pianists were Ada Kopetz, Bertha Melnik, Max Walmer and John G. Scales. Two months before their first public performance, the Philharmonic Piano Quartet recorded in the 30th Street Studio of Columbia Records a very effective paraphrase on "Die Fledermaus" Waltzes, Op. 56, specially written for them by Moritz von Bomhard (1908-1996). Born in Germany, Bomhard received a law degree from the University of Leipzig and a music degree from the Leipzig Conservatory of Music. He moved to the United States in 1935, continued his studies at Juilliard and became a music instructor at Princeton University, where he also directed its orchestra and glee clubs. He eventually settled in Louisville where he founded Kentucky Opera and taught at the University of Louisville. His transcription for four pianos of Strauss's best known melodies, gives equal time to each of the four pianists to shine, and also combines the four instruments in an amazingly unifying way, giving the impression that there is only one large piano being played. The piece is pure fun.

This anthology closes with one of the best known duo piano teams of all time - Arthur Whittemore (1915-1984) and Jack Lowe (1917-1996). The two pianists met while students at the Eastman School of Music, in Rochester, New York, and began performing together in 1935 in Puerto Rico. In 1940 they made their American concert début in Town Hall, New York. During the War both men served in the Navy, returning to their concert career in 1946. Their repertory included several hundred of their own transcriptions for two pianos. They were also responsible for the world premières of many significant two-piano compositions, including works by Quincy Porter, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Francis Poulenc and Morton Gould. Their own Waltz-Fantasy on Themes of Johann Strauss II (a distillate of an earlier work entitled Straussiana that Whittemore and Lowe wrote for two pianos and orchestra) was one of their earliest recordings, made in New York in 1941.

Marina A. Ledin and Victor Ledin
Encore Consultants LLC © 2007.

 

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Acknowledgements

Since many of the recordings in this anthology are quite rare and scarce, we have relied on musical colleagues and collectors who provided advice, their discerning ears, their extensive collections, and willingness to help in order to preserve and share recordings not commonly heard today. Many thanks to engineer and collector Richard Wahlberg, historian and collector Lance Bowling, pianist William Corbett-Jones, and to archivist and discographer Michael Gray for making sure that the historical data was accurate. Additional thanks go to Michael Gartz and Peter Ford for their advice, and for searching and locating extra copies of some of the recordings.

 

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Ernö Dohnányi: Schatz Waltz (Treasure Waltz, from "Zigeunerbaron"), Opus 418
HMV C2363 (2B391-II). Recorded in London, 25 February 1931

Maryan Rawicz and Walter Landauer: Annen Polka, Opus 117
Columbia DB2788 (CA21610-2). Recorded in London, 1 January 1950

Andrei Schultz-Evler: Concert Arabesques on themes of Strauss's Waltz "On the Beautiful Blue Danube", Opus 314
HMV ( Australia ) EB65 (HV6507/8). Recorded in Sydney, 1932

Alfred Grünfeld: Soirée de Vienne (on themes from "Die Fledermaus")
Aprelevski Zavod (NKOM USSR ) V10626-4 (GRK576) and V10627-6 (GRK577). Recorded in Moscow, 1939

Carl Tausig: Valse-Caprice No. 2 d'après J. Strauss II ("Man lebt nur einmal", Opus 167)
Columbia 4270-M (CA17184/5). Recorded in London, 5 November 1938

Abram Chasins: Concert Paraphrase on Strauss's "Artists' Life" (Kunstlerleben Walzer, Opus 316)
Allegro/Royale 1587 A. Recorded in New York, 1954

Otto Schulhof: Neue Pizzicato-Polka, Opus 449 (Schulhof's Op.9, No. 2)
Westminster WL 5277 (XTV20515-1G). Recorded in the Konzerthaus, Vienna, Austria, December 1951 – January 1952

Alec Templeton: Improvisation on "Tales from the Vienna Woods" (Geschichten aus dem Wienerwald, Opus 325)
Remington R-199-158 (1200B). Recorded in New York, in 1954

Leonard Pennario: Emperor Waltz (Kaiser Walzer, Opus 437)
Capitol H8167-Z1. Recorded in Los Angeles, 9 May 1952

Eduard Schütt: Concert Paraphrase on "Die Fledermaus" Waltzes
Telefunken E2527 (022963). Recorded 18 March 1938

Stanislas Niedzielski: Thousand and One Nights Waltz (Tausen und eine Nacht Walzer, Opus 346)
HMV C1993 (Cc19398-1). Recorded in London, 14 June 1930

Roderich Bass: "Voices of Spring" - Concert Paraphrase on the B major Waltz by Strauss, Opus 410
Polydor B47100/1 (23737) (2572 and 2573). Recorded in Germany, in 1930

Moritz von Bomhard: "Die Fledermaus" Waltzes, Opus 56
Columbia A1572-1 (7-1291) (ZSP 12148). Recorded in 30th Street Studio, New York, 2 April 1949

Arthur Whittemore and Jack Lowe: Waltz-Fantasy on Themes of Johann Strauss II
RCA Victor 10-1362-A/B. Recorded in New York, 18 February 1941

 


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