MICHAEL VON ZADORA
Michael von Zadora was born in America of Polish parents. He first learnt to play the piano from his father and then at the age of seventeen he enrolled at the Paris Conservatoire. From there he travelled to Vienna for lessons with Theodor Leschetizky before continuing his studies with Ferruccio Busoni in Berlin. Periods of teaching followed at institutions including the Hochschule für Musik and the Klindworth-Scharwenka Conservatory in Berlin, but as World War I approached Zadora returned to America and took a post at the Institute for Musical Art in New York, later to become the Juilliard School of Music.
By 1923 Zadora was back in Berlin, where at the Beethovensaal he was the first pianist to give an all-Busoni recital. With Egon Petri he prepared the piano part of the vocal score of Busoni’s opera Doktor Faust and gave two-piano recitals. Zadora also set up a Busoni Society. In 1924, as Busoni lay on his death-bed, Zadora played a Mendelssohn Lied ohne Worte for him.
It would appear that Zadora was not well suited to public performance. In 1938 he played at London’s Wigmore Hall and received a poor review. He was described as ‘…a follower of Busoni (who) travestied his master’s style’ by playing Liszt’s Piano Sonata in B minor too fast, without clear articulation or observance of the composer’s markings of piano or pianissimo. A second recital given two weeks later was not reviewed. On 5 February 1938 New York’s Broadway saw the opening, and closing, of a musical play written by August Strindberg with music by Michael von Zadora; he also transcribed five songs by Schumann, as well as works by Bach, Pergolesi, Delibes, Offenbach, Jensen, Henselt and Schubert and wrote original works under the pseudonym of Pietro Amadis.
To date, no systematic reissue of Zadora’s recordings has been made, although a few of his 78rpm discs have been reissued by Pearl and Naxos. It would appear that Zadora recorded for Polydor in Germany between 1924 and 1927. A few discs were made for the German Grammophon Company in the 1930s as well as some discs for Ultraphon, Odéon and Vox. In 1940 he made some discs for the Friends of Recorded Music Society in America. These are important as they contain Zadora playing Busoni’s Sonatinas Nos 3 and 5. He recorded waltzes, études, préludes and nocturnes by Chopin; some of Liszt’s Consolations; and many encore pieces by Lamare, Stockhoff, Raff, Sgambati, Scarlatti, Field, Brahms, Beethoven, Hummel, Anton Rubinstein and himself. He also recorded some Bach, Prokofiev’s Prelude in C major Op. 12 and Debussy’s Prélude and Toccata from Pour le Piano. Most of his discs are impressive, yet he has a tendency to rush in fast music; this is particularly noticeable in the ‘Carmen’ Sonatina and Debussy Toccata recordings. He had a wonderful tone which can be heard in his recording of his own arrangement of Henselt’s Larghetto and La Passion by Lamare. His most impressive disc is of an arrangement he made of a work by Jensen entitled Whispering of a Gentle Breeze.
Zadora’s most well-known recording is of Busoni’s Sonatina No. 6 ‘super Carmen’. Although it is a good performance, Zadora’s tendency to rush over the music, missing many details, is apparent. The threeBusoni Sonatinas have been reissued by Naxos on compact disc ( 8.110777).
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — Jonathan Summers (A–Z of Pianists, Naxos 8.558107–10).