CARL FRIEDBERG (1872 - 1955)
Carl After early tuition, commenced at the age of four, from a local teacher, Friedberg entered the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt where he studied piano with Clara Schumann and James Kwast. When Friedberg was fifteen he first met Brahms, often turning pages for him when he played for Clara Schumann; in 1889 he heard Tchaikovsky and Grieg perform in Frankfurt, and from 1890 Friedberg studied orchestration with Engelbert Humperdinck. Shortly afterward Friedberg toured Spain with Pablo Sarasate and made his Vienna debut with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and Gustav Mahler. From the age of sixteen Friedberg taught piano privately, and when he was twenty-one he was employed by the Hoch Conservatory as a teacher. An offer of a teaching post at the Cologne Conservatory led Friedberg to accept as it would also allow him to perform and choose his teaching hours. As well as teaching and performing much chamber music, from 1906 Friedberg also conducted.
In 1914 Friedberg toured America for the first time giving solo recitals and concerto performances with orchestras including the New York Philharmonic. As a result of the outbreak of World War I he had to remain in America, not returning to Germany until just before the end of the war. Friedberg continued to teach and perform, and in 1920 replaced Artur Schnabel as pianist in the trio with Flesch and Becker. As he was about to accept the post of head of the piano department of the Berlin Staats Hochschule für Musik, Frank Damrosch persuaded Friedberg to return to New York, where he had given master-classes since 1914, to teach at the Institute of Musical Art which later became the Juilliard School of Music. Friedberg retired from Juilliard in 1946, but continued to teach privately. Embarking in 1955 upon a tour of Europe he became ill on the crossing and died in Merano where he is buried. His most important pupils are Elly Ney, Malcolm Frager and Bruce Hungerford.
Friedberg was noted for his interpretations of Schumann, and particularly Brahms. He gave an all-Brahms recital in Vienna in 1893, and only afterwards learnt that the composer was in the audience. Brahms took Friedberg out that evening but later, when Friedberg asked for advice on one of his compositions, told him that he did not give piano lessons. However, in time, Brahms played all his compositions for Friedberg, with the exception of the ‘Paganini’ Variations Op. 35. It is Friedberg’s link with Brahms that led him to be one of the foremost interpreters of the composer during the 1930s and 40s.
Friedberg did not like making records. In the days of 78rpm discs he felt the sound reproduction to be unrepresentative of the pianist, and was afraid of enshrining a performance that would forever exist as a definitive interpretation; but with the advent of the LP he decided to record, in 1953 when he was eighty-one years old. The most important work from these sessions for Zodiac is the Études Symphoniques by Schumann. However, live performances at the Juilliard School have been preserved, including music by Brahms, and a radio broadcast from the late 1930s of the Piano Quintet in F minor has also survived. Many of these recordings have been reissued on LP by the International Piano Archives at Maryland and more recently on compact disc by Marston.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — Jonathan Summers (A–Z of Pianists, Naxos 8.558107–10).