About this Recording
GP712 - FRIEDMAN, I.: Piano Transcriptions (Banowetz)
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Ignaz Friedman (1882–1948)
Piano Transcriptions


The Polish pianist, Ignaz Friedman (1882–1948), remains one of the foremost interpreters of the works by his compatriot Frédéric Chopin (1810–1849), especially in the latter’s Mazurkas. Friedman’s colossal technique and exquisite artistry caused critics and colleagues to place him in a league with the leading virtuosos of his day (Hofmann, Godowsky, Rosenthal, Lhévinne). The famous piano pedagogue, Theodore Leschetizky (1830–1915), acknowledged that his pupil, who later became his assistant, possessed all the essentials for a music career—of Slavic origin, Jewish heritage, and a child prodigy.

Friedman would perform close to 3000 concerts during his lifetime, yet his career also expanded to composing, transcribing, editing, teaching, and serving on many international piano competitions. He concertised throughout the world at a time when travelling was long and tedious, visiting North and South America, Asia, Europe, and South Africa. His attempts to emigrate to the USA, where his reception was only mild, never materialised. Fleeing Europe during WWII, he died in Australia before his sixty-sixth birthday. Neuritis brought on by diabetes ended his career a few years before his death. Only a handful of Friedman’s recordings exist, now reproduced on the Naxos Historical label.

Ignaz Friedman was a master transcriber. His masterclasses with Busoni in 1908 may have influenced this art, for he called Busoni “a good musical thinker”.¹ Friedman’s prodigious transcriptions not only show the musical predilections of the times for such varied repertoire from the 17th to the 19th centuries, but they also gave audiences the possibility of knowing a repertoire that might otherwise have sunk into obscurity. Drawing on works originally for other keyboard, instrumental and orchestral configurations, Friedman’s intelligent transcriptions are both a delight for the listener and a challenge for the performer, as, for example, the Paganini-Liszt-Busoni-Friedman La Campanella.

Veteran pianist Joseph Banowetz has chosen seventeen transcriptions that date from Friedman’s prime years, providing the listener with a walk back into history to the eras when the harpsichord and organ were the supreme keyboard instruments. Friedman’s creative imagination as an improviser and composer is given reign in these delicious, charming, and moving works, which take on a life of their own going beyond the original works while simultaneously remaining faithful to them. The dedicatees of Friedman’s transcriptions range from well-known pianists such as Carl Friedberg, Elly Ney, and Vladimir de Pachmann to lesser known figures who played a role in Friedman’s life.²

A word of caution to those relying upon composers’ birth and death dates as found in Friedman’s published transcriptions: current musicology has been able to provide more accurate dates in some cases. This information is updated in the liner notes.

A well-known favourite heads this recording. Dedicated to “Miss Josephine McQuade”, Friedman’s transcription of the Siciliano from the Sonata No. 2 for Flute and Piano in E flat Major, BWV 1031 by J.S. Bach (1685–1750) preserves the original tonality of G minor. A lilting edge prevails through the flowing accompaniment figures.

Friedman’s 1914 transcription of Le rappel des oiseaux by Rameau (1683–1764) predates the bird song transcriptions by Olivier Messiaen (1908–1992) and beautifully captures “The Call of the Birds”. The work is dedicated to Banowetz’s former teacher, Carl Friedberg (1872–1955).

Another Rameau transcription, Musette, is taken from the composer’s opera Les Indes Galantes (published 1735/1736). With its penchant for third and sixths allowing for optimal pianistic effects, Friedman’s beautiful transcription takes full advantage of the piano’s colours.

Many settings of this beautiful work, the Ballet from Orpheus, by C.W. Gluck (1714–1787) have been made for piano, notably by Giovanni Sgambati (1841–1914) and Alexander Siloti (1863–1945). Dedicated to Amélie Gerardy, Friedman’s tender work challenges pianists in tonal control and pedalling.

Dedicated to Madame Eveline Pairamall, Friedman’s transcription of a John Field (1782–1837) Nocturne is remarkably faithful to the original work. It retains the original key of B flat major and certain passages verbatim. Friedman’s genius is found in the simplicity of the enriched chords throughout, thereby not impairing the melody. In the second section, flowing left-hand passages are found, after which a sophisticated Coda closes the piece.

Prélude, Fugue et Variation, Op. 18, No. 3 for organ by César Franck (1822–1890) was composed between 1860–1862. Maintaining Franck’s key of B minor, Friedman stays close to the original music score while filling out a few chords and transferring the organ pedal part to the left hand. The work is dedicated to Mr. and Mrs. W.A. Crowle.

The Romance from the opera La pazza per amore (1786)—originally titled Nina, La folle par amour (‘Nina, The Woman Besotted with Love’) by Nicolas Dalayrac or d’Alayrac (1753–1809)—is a kind of barcarolle, which, in Friedman’s hands, becomes an alluring delicacy. It is dedicated “in friendship” to Bruno Blüthner of the famed Leipzig piano factory. Dalayrac—a Parisian lawyer, prolific opera composer, and Freemason—is credited with having composed the music for the induction of Voltaire into his lodge. In 1804, Dalayrac received the French Légion d’honneur

In his transcription of Le Caquet (‘The Chatter’) by Jean-François Dandrieu (1681–1738), a French Baroque composer, harpsichordist, and organist, Friedman chooses octaves for the original repeated-note melodic banter. This pattern is later transferred to the left hand with the right hand playing rapid, “understated”, accompanying passages. The work, dedicated to American pianist and fellow Leschetitzky pupil, Arthur Shattuck (1881–1951), closes with deceptive and ironic simplicity.

Les Fifres derives from Dandrieu’s Pièces de Clavecin, Première Livre, Suite No. 4, dated 1724. Originally a ‘rondeau’ in A major with the indication of ‘légèrement’, the work is transcribed by Friedman into C major and marked ‘Tempo marciale’. The simple melody transforms into the entire “Fife and Drum” brigade, replete with double thirds and sixths, broken chords, octave glissandi, and other pianistic bravura. The transcription is dedicated to Friedman’s friend and pianist, Severin Eisenberger.

The Gigue, K. 523 (dedicated to Vladimir de Pachmann, 1848–1933), and Pastorale, K. 446 (dedicated to German pianist and Liszt pupil, Emile Sauer, 1862–1942) by Domenico Scarlatti (1685–1757) are tasteful transcriptions that embellish the simplicity of the original harpsichord works. In 1904, Friedmann performed Carl Tausig’s (1841–1871) transcription of the Pastorale, as well as Scarlatti’s original Gigue in Kraków.

The Gavotte from Gluck’s ballet Don Juan is dedicated to the Ukrainian pianist, Vladimir de Pachmann. The simple and charming melody provides Friedman with ample opportunity to show his pianistic wares. The melody, alternating between the hands, is joined with running accompaniment passages before terminating with a triumphant end.

Dedicated to the German pianist Elly Ney (1882–1968), Friedman’s transcription of La tendre fanchon (“the soft kerchief”) (Rondeau) by François Couperin (1668–1733) presents the first part with simple ornamentation. Then, the alternating variants, in typical rondeau style, begin to gain in complexity and virtuosity before the piece is driven back to its humble and haunting origins.

The Adagio by Giovanni Battista Grazioli (1746–1820)—organist at St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice and composer of many sacred works—is taken from one of his most popular works, the Harpsichord Sonata in G major, Op. 1, No. 11. Friedman’s transcription clearly delineates the monothematic melody while filling in middle voices and supporting the bass. Dedicated to Richard Buhlig (1880–1952), it was also performed by Italian pianist Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli (1920–1995).

Ballet des Ombres Heureuses by Gluck is given a pianistic garb that is not only orchestral but is delicately carved into the upper register of the ivories. The hymn-like work is dedicated to Ignace Tiegermann (1893–1968), whom Friedman deemed “the greatest talent I ever worked with”.

Nancy Lee Harper

¹ Evans, Allan (2009) Ignaz Friedman: Romantic Master Pianist. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, p. 60.

² Ibid.

³ Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicolas-Marie, consulted on 3 October 2013.

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