• Alexander's Playlist: Ignaz Friedman: Complete Recordings (1923–1941)

    By Alexander Neef

    General Director Alexander Neef shares his favourite music recordings in this series of weekly recommendations.

    Ignaz Friedman: Complete Recordings (1923–1941)

    Last week, I shared my thoughts about the French pianist Marcelle Meyer; since then, I have gone back even further in time to explore some of the first pianists in recorded history.

    This week, I want to recommend Ignaz Friedman: Complete Recordings (1923–1941) from the Danarcord label. What fascinates me about Ignaz Friedman is how his life stands in relation to larger historical patterns of musical transmission and knowledge — how certain ways of playing are passed down through the years.

    Born in 1882 in what is now Poland but was then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Friedman came of age at a time when there were highly distinct schools of piano playing. These were determined by geography — no Leipzig student sounded like a Vienna student, for example, and vice-versa.

    But Friedman studied in both Leipzig and Vienna and drew something valuable from each of these musical centres, combining tradition with interpretive freedom. When you listen to Friedman, you’ll be astonished by the sheer virtuosity of his playing; Sergei Rachmaninoff, the Russian composer who might be considered the most virtuosic player of the 20th century, counted Friedman an equal in this sphere. There are curious elements in his delivery, such as the asynchronicity of hands, which was a hallmark of the Vienna school. Critics have long dismissed this practice as bad technique, but recent commentary suggests it was a deliberate attempt to improve the sonority of the instrument.

    As you listen to recordings — some of which were made nearly a century ago — keep in mind that Friedman studied in Vienna under the Polish pianist Theodor Leschetizky, who in turn studied under the prodigious composer Carl Czerny, who was himself a famous pupil of Beethoven’s. The genealogies of music are fascinating indeed.

    These recordings are a way for us to travel through time, moving along an auditory bridge that brings the Romantic Era to our ears today.

    ––Alexander Neef

    Music credit: Ignaz Friedman: Complete Recordings (1923–1941). Danarcord

    Posted in Alexander Neef Playlist


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