Ignaz Friedman Piano Music

Post Date: 22 July 2016
Post Type: Piano Things

6 Weiner Tänze Nach Motiven Von Eduard Gärtner (1916)
4 Klavierstücke, op. 27 (1908)
Strophes op. 71 (1917)
Stimmungen op. 79 (1918)
4 Préludes op. 61 (1915)
TT: 64:22

The great pianist Ignaz Friedman (1882-1948) is perhaps best remembered today for his definitive, extraordinarily beautiful recordings of Chopin’s Mazurkas, performances that continue to set the standard for pianists today. His editions, transcriptions and recorded legacy remain treasured and respected by pianofiles internationally, though his original compositions continue to be neglected and forgotten.
It is therefore with enormous gratitude that we welcome this new recording from Joseph Banowetz, doyenne of US pianists. Banowetz is a master of colour, voicing, subtle rubato, orchestral projection and aristocratic ease. His art is expansive, regally and unfussy. All of these attributes can be heard throughout the 28 tracks of this most generously presented recital, which is enhanced by fascinating and detailed liner notes from that indefatigably pianofile Nancy Lee Harper.

Friedman’s stylistic language lingers nostalgically backwards to the 19th century, leaning heavily on the dance rhythms of Waltzes and Mazurkas but with melodic and harmonic nods in the direction of early Scriabin, Rachmaninov and Grieg. His writing for piano is often orchestral, with tremendous opportunities for ‘colour counterpoint’ projections of inner voices and expansive phrasing. The first of the ‘Weiner Tänze’ movements shows Banowetz in complete control of flexible idiomatic ‘Viennese’ rubato, with wonderful delays on weak beats, exquisite leggiero and immediate colouristic changes as a direct result of harmonic changes. The second movement in the same set is more energised, showing Friedman to resemble Fritz Kreisler in terms of idiomatic spirit and stylistic raison d’être’. Elsewhere in the same set we have wistful counterpoint (no. 4) spacious orchestral colours (no 5) and Harry Potteresque bells and percussive glitter (opening of no. 6).
The four pieces op. 27 begin with nobility and depth in F sharp major, (no. 1) continue with Scriabin’s fancy and wistfulness (no. 2), move towards the Mazurka (no. 3) but conclude with more declamation and heroic fortitude (no 4).
The music of the op. 71 set, ‘Strophes’, may be conservative and modest, but is none the less beautiful nor well-crafted for that. More ‘progressive’ perhaps are the Stimmungen op. 79, dedicated to Rachmaninov and opening with a dark, lugubrious and intense tone poem that could well come from the pen of the work’s dedicatee. The second movement of the same set may only last 45 seconds, but is vividly elemental- a torrent of rain in a primeval forest, offering ample opportunities for sparkle and colour from Banowetz- which he exploits magnificently. The 6th movement leans heavily on Rachmaninov’s G flat Prelude whilst the final movement in the set is a close bedfellow of the celebrated D sharp minor etude op 8 no. 12 of Scriabin.
The music throughout displays an attractive melodic memorability. Pianistically it obviously affords much tactile pleasure to the executant. Certainly when it is recreated with as much authority as is the case here, the listener too can share fully in the pleasure and wonder of the textures too. Strongly recommended

Murray McLachlan