About this Recording
8.111114 - FRIEDMAN, Ignaz: Complete Recordings, Vol. 5: English Columbia Recordings (1933-1936)

Great Pianists • Ignaz Friedman
Complete Recordings, Vol. 5


Ignaz Friedman was born in Podgorze, a suburb of the Polish city of Krakow in 1882. His father was a musician who played in a local theatre orchestra and after piano lessons with local teacher Flora Grzywinska, Friedman left Krakow in 1900 to study composition at the Leipzig Conservatory with Hugo Riemann. It was not until 1901, when he was already 19, that he decided to go to Vienna for lessons with Theodore Leschetizky. As with Moiseiwitsch, Leschetizky was not enthusiastic when the young Friedman presented himself, but after three years of study (also becoming Leschetizky's teaching assistant), Friedman was ready to make his Vienna début in November 1904 at which he played Brahms's D minor Concerto, Tchaikovsky's First Concerto and the E flat major Concerto of Liszt. This début launched a touring career that began in 1905, and for the next forty years Friedman seemed to be perpetually on tour; he visited the United States 12 times, South America seven times, and Europe every year, as well as Iceland, Turkey, Egypt, South Africa, Palestine, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. Although he did not often perform chamber music in public, he collaborated with the greatest instrumentalists of the day, Casals, Huberman, Feuermann, Morini, Elman, Auer and Ysaÿe, and performed under the batons of Dorati, Gabrilowitsch, Mengelberg and Nikisch.

Until 1914 Friedman lived in Berlin but after the First World War he settled in Copenhagen. Friedman's first visit to America was in 1920 and in April 1923 he made his first records for the American Columbia Company. After extensive and exhaustive touring, the onset of the Second World War meant Friedman had to move again, as Scandinavia was not a safe home for him. The Australian Broadcasting Commission invited him for a tour and during the early 1940s he played and broadcast regularly in Australia and New Zealand. Partial paralysis of his left hand made him retire in 1943 (he was only just over 60) and he died in Sydney in January 1948.

This fifth and final volume of Friedman's commercial recordings contains all the published sides from sessions made in London in 1933 and 1936. Friedman spent two days at HMV's Abbey Road studio No. 3 at the end of February 1933 making records for HMV's affiliate, Columbia. On 27 February he recorded his own arrangements of two Viennese Dances by Eduard Gaertner (1862-1918) and Chopin's Ballade No. 3 in A flat major, Op. 47, a work he had previously recorded in America in 1925 (Vol. 1, Naxos 8.110684). Just two takes were made of each of the four sides. The Ballade is given a performance to make Chopin purists blanch; it is larger than life and rather cavalier but infectious in its surging power. All of these recordings were issued and the following day he returned to the studio to record an Etude by Scriabin from Op. 42, Two Balkan Dances by Tajcevic (which Friedman began playing in the late 1920s), and Chopin's Polonaise in A flat major, Op. 53, which he had previously recorded in 1927 (Vol. 2, Naxos 8.110686). None of these sides were released although takes of all the works were mastered.

Between February and June 1936 Friedman toured South America and returned to England in November. On 17 June he gave a recital in Liverpool which included Schumann's Kreisleriana, Op. 16, and Liszt's Venezia e Napoli, and the next day at 8.30 p.m. he gave a recital at London's Wigmore Hall where he played Mozart's Rondo in A minor, K. 511, and Bach's Chaconne in D minor in the arrangement by Busoni. Although the announced programme continued with a group of Chopin pieces and Schumann's Kreisleriana, Op. 16, Friedman substituted Chopin's Piano Sonata in B minor, Op. 58, and Schumann's Carnaval. Of the performance of the Chopin Sonata one critic wrote, 'The legato phrasing and the building of the phrases into coherent paragraphs were especially admirable'.

At the end of November 1936 Friedman made his last commercial recordings: he was only 54 years of age. It must be regretted that Columbia did not ask him to record some of the repertoire from his recent recitals. However, on 23 November he recorded the first part of Weber's Invitation to the Waltz, Chopin's Impromptu in F sharp major, Op. 36, and Chopin's Nocturne in E flat major, Op. 55, No. 2, the latter famously described by Harold Schonberg when he wrote that it 'may well be the most beautiful, singing, perfectly proportioned performance of a Chopin Nocturne ever put on records'. It is indeed a wonderful recording and an excellent example of the way a full tone can be produced from the piano without forcing it, something Friedman had no doubt learned from Leschetizky. That same evening he gave a recital in Cambridge, and the following day Friedman returned to the studio to record just two sides - two takes of the first part of Schubert's Marche Militaire arranged by Carl Tausig; neither was released. Further concerts were given in Sheffield and Manchester and a week later on 1 December 1936 Friedman was at Abbey Road again to record a few trifles from the piano literature. The Serenata, Op. 15, by Moszkowski and Dvořák's Humoreske were both issued from the first take as was Paderewski's Menuet in G major, Op. 14, No. 1. Friedman plays the opening theme of the Serenata with disarming simplicity and beautiful phrasing while the Humoreske is beautifully understated and displays Friedman's wonderful singing tone. The following day Friedman returned for his final commercial recording session. Invitation to the Waltz was completed as was another waltz, the Valse-Caprice in E flat major by Anton Rubinstein. This work was once very popular, and also recorded by Josef Hofmann (Anton Rubinstein's pupil), Ignace Paderewski, and Artur Rubinstein. The final work Friedman recorded was Schubert's Marche Militaire, a single take of part two and two more takes of part one.

Following this last recording session Friedman continued to tour Britain. On 8 December 1936 he was at St Andrew's Hall in Glasgow playing Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor, Op. 11, with Georg Szell who directed the Scottish Orchestra from 1936 to 1938. Two days later Friedman was on the south coast of England, at Bournemouth Pavilion. With the Bournemouth Municipal Orchestra and Richard Austin he played Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor, and two days after that he was at London's Wigmore Hall for a Saturday afternoon recital (incidentally given at the same time as his colleague Bronislav Huberman was playing at Queen's Hall). Friedman played Brahms's Variations and Fugue on a theme of Handel, a group of Chopin including the Nocturne in E major, Op. 62, No. 2, two Mazurkas, the Ballade in G minor, Op. 23, and four Etudes, as well as Schumann's Papillons, Op. 2, Debussy's La soirée dans Grenade, Jeux d'eau by Ravel, a prelude by Scriabin, an Etude by Poldini and two movements from Liszt's Venezia e Napoli.

It is a great shame that none of this repertoire was recorded by Columbia, but it must be remembered that the record companies were there to make money, and they knew single discs of encore pieces by Moszkowski and Dvořák would sell better than long works on large sets of 78rpm discs. An even greater loss are the sides actually recorded by Friedman but never issued and now lost. These include Beethoven's Emperor Concerto and his own arrangements of works by Johann Strauss - O Schöner Mai, Wiener Blut, Künstlerleben, Frauenherz and Rosen aus dem Süden.

Included as an appendix here are two alternate takes of Chopin Mazurkas which were not issued at the time, and two works that were not issued at all as performed by Friedman. From February 1929 comes a recording of the Waltz in A flat, Op. 69, No. 1, by Chopin to which Friedman gives an air of rather faded charm and sadness. The other recording is of one of his many arrangements of old keyboard music, this one being a Menuet ('The Countess of Westmorland's Delight') by the English composer William Shield (1748-1829). The score of Friedman's arrangement was published in 1928. Along with a short talk on Chopin (Vol. 4, Naxos 8.110736) Friedman speaking on Paderewski is the only surviving broadcast from the many he made for Australian and New Zealand radio in the 1940s. All the Friedman broadcasts of concertos and recitals by these radio stations have since been destroyed.

© 2005 Jonathan Summers

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