Felicja Blumental’s father was a violinist and her sister a singer. She began to study the piano at the age of five with Joseph Goldberg and first appeared in public at the age of ten. She then won a scholarship to study at the Warsaw Conservatory with Zbigniew Drzewiecki, one of the founders of the International Chopin Competition. She also studied composition there with Karol Szymanowski. After her studies in Warsaw, Blumental went to Switzerland to study further with Jósef Turczyński.
In 1935 Blumental married, and three years later went to live in Nice. However, the mounting pressure brought upon Jews by the Nazis caused the Blumental family to travel to Brazil in 1940. In order to remain there, Blumental took Brazilian citizenship. She became a vital part of Brazilian musical life and formed a close association with composer Heitor Villa-Lobos. He was so impressed with her performance of his Bachianas Brasileiras No. 3 in 1954 that he wrote his Piano Concerto No. 5 for her, which she performed at the Royal Festival Hall in London in May 1956 with Jean Martinon and the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
During the 1950s Blumental played in Europe. In London she played Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor Op. 18 at the Royal Albert Hall in 1952, but reviews of later performances during the decade reported memory lapses and finger slips. In 1954 Blumental made the first of many journeys to Israel and in 1962 she and her family moved to Milan where her daughter, Annette Céline, studied voice. Eleven years later the family moved to London and at this time Blumental made her first return to Poland since World War II. She went in order to give the première of Penderecki’s Partita for Harpsichord and Orchestra with the composer conducting. At the end of 1970 Blumental made a tour of the USA playing twenty-two orchestral concerts, two of them in New York. In 1984 the family moved again, this time to New York. Blumental died on a visit to Israel. She was also a painter, producing portraits, landscapes, still-life and abstract works.
Blumental’s repertoire was initially standard, but she became interested in neglected composers and their music. She performed works by Portuguese followers of Domenico Scarlatti, Brazilian composers, and some sixty piano concertos by composers such as Clementi, Czerny, Paisiello, Viotti, Kozeluch, John Field, Hummel, Hoffmeister and Ries. Blumental recorded for many labels including Vox, Saga, Decca, EMI, Unicorn, Everest and Turnabout. For Vox she recorded mainstream concertos by Schumann, Tchaikovsky and Grieg. For Decca she made some LPs of short works by contemporaries of Scarlatti and an extremely fine disc of the Concerto in Brazilian Forms for Piano and Orchestra by Hekel Tavares. On this recording Blumental is joined by the London Symphony Orchestra and Anatole Fistoulari. Also on the disc is Paderewski’s Fantaisie polonaise. Blumental has also recorded some Chopin including the scherzos, waltzes and polonaises and some of her piano concerto recordings for Turnabout have been reissued on compact disc by Dureco/Ars Classica. In 1955 Blumental recorded the piano concerto Villa-Lobos wrote for her, and in 1972 Penderecki’s Partita, both recordings being conducted by their composers. For Saga Blumental recorded the complete Beethoven piano concertos with Robert Wagner and the Innsbruck Symphony Orchestra. In 1975 Blumental recorded a disc of Szymanowski for EMI that contains a fine performance of the Theme and Variations in B flat minor Op. 3. Many of Blumental’s recordings are being reissued on compact disc by Brana Records, whilst her discs of Portuguese music have been reissued by Claudio Records.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — Jonathan Summers (A–Z of Pianists, Naxos 8.558107–10).
Role: Classical Artist