Rudolf Ganz’s musical experience began with the cello, but he then studied piano with Robert Freund in Zürich, and at the Lausanne Conservatoire had lessons in composition from Charles Blanchet. More studies in Strasbourg preceded Ganz’s journey to Berlin where he studied with Ferruccio Busoni. At his Berlin debut he played Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 Op. 73 and Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1 Op. 11 and a year later conducted the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in a performance of his own Symphony No. 1. Ganz then undertook a major European tour and visited the United States for the first time in 1901, where his association with the Chicago Music College began in the same year. His debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra came in 1903, and with the New York Philharmonic in 1906. After heading the piano faculty of the Chicago Music College for five years Ganz again toured extensively throughout America and Canada. During the 1920s he was director of the St Louis Symphony Orchestra, being made a member of the French Légion d’honneur for his services to music in the United States. In 1929 Ganz became director of the Chicago Music College, and five years later on, becoming president, he invited Arnold Schoenberg to join the faculty; but Schoenberg’s health would not permit his living in Chicago. Ganz’s association with the Chicago Music College lasted from 1901 until his retirement in 1954. During the late 1930s and 40s he conducted a series of concerts for young people with the New York Philharmonic and San Francisco Symphony Orchestras.
Ganz was interested in contemporary music. Busoni dedicated his Sonatina No. 1 to Ganz, who played music by his teacher as well as introducing works by Loeffler, d’Indy, Bartók, Dukas, Debussy, Dohnányi and Korngold, whose Piano Sonata in E major he premièred in America. The most famous work to be dedicated to Ganz was Ravel’s Scarbo from Gaspard de la nuit, and this dedication gives an indication of Ganz’s level of virtuosity.
Although an impressive virtuoso, Ganz nevertheless made few recordings. Most representative are some 1940s radio broadcasts issued by Dante in 1996. Ganz plays piano solos by Edward MacDowell, an American composer he championed, including the Piano Sonata No. 2. Also on the compact disc is a live performance of Ganz playing his own Piano Concerto in E flat Op. 32, with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Frederick Stock. In the 1930s Ganz recorded some sides for Victor as conductor of the St Louis Symphony Orchestra, as well as a few piano solos.
However, Ganz also made some early discs for Pathé from around 1917 to 1921. He recorded just over forty sides. His Chopin Nocturne in E flat Op. 9 No. 2 and Liebestraum No. 3 of Liszt are rather uninteresting and it would appear that the record company required popular short works such as Sinding’s Rustle of Spring, Chopin’s Polonaise in A major Op. 40 No. 1 and Waltz in E minor Op. posth. Around 1930 Ganz recorded one ten-inch and one twelve-inch disc for Victor and then just after World War II he recorded an album of 78rpm discs of the music of Edward MacDowell. Ganz seems to be much happier in more unusual repertoire; his radio broadcasts and talks featured works by Rameau, Scriabin and Honegger; and a student reported finding a work by Boulez on Ganz’s piano. An LP on the Veritas label from 1967 includes a broadcast of Ganz playing Haydn’s Piano Concerto in D major in his own edition which was published in 1945 with ‘two ample cadenzas’.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — Jonathan Summers (A–Z of Pianists, Naxos 8.558107–10).