Notes and Editorial Reviews
Clearly a labour of love … teeming with insight and rich rewards.
Back in 2003 I wrote a review of a pioneering two-disc set of recordings of the pianist Ignace Tiegerman. Now, in a new restoration and expansion, Arbiter has revisited this set and significantly refashioned it. We now have 4 CDs under the rubric
Masters of Chopin. Some of the extra material comes via previously unpublished Tiegerman performances, or fragments of his playing, but there are also performances by Ignaz Friedman, and also by Severin Eisenberger. One of the Friedman recordings is very rare – a 1924 test pressing of
La Campanella and previously unissued. The Eisenberger items include his 1938 performance of the Chopin Concerto
in F, which has been issued before, but also two Kodály pieces, which haven’t.
Let me say first of all that the engineering of the new box has wrought distinct aural advances. Things are not always an easy listen, but this represents distinctly superior work vis
-vis its earlier incarnation.
Despite the Chopinesque theme, developed in the always instructive booklet notes, the performances themselves are not confined just to this composer. Friedman’s famous Mendelssohn
Song without Words recordings are here. The complete Friedman – less that unpublished side – can be found on Naxos. What follows is a reprise of my original Tiegerman review, very slightly amended and expanded to accommodate the new material, with added lines on Friedman, on Eisenberger, and on the mp3 items contained in disc four.
Part detective story, part historical reclamation, this set contains surviving recordings made by Leschetizky pupil Ignace Tiegerman. The story of his wanderings – he ended up in Cairo – is no less extraordinary than the lattice of contacts, friends, colleagues, relatives and survivors that led to the discovery of these discs and tapes. None were made for commercial purposes; they are private or off-air and the bulk made in Cairo … though some date from an Italian trip and are in significantly better sound.
Tiegerman was born in February 1893 and auditioned for Leschetizky when he was barely ten. Four years’ study followed as did further work with the eminent pedagogue’s assistant, none other than Ignaz Friedman. He seems not to have cultivated a big career in central Europe – though he’s reputed to have unnerved even so great a pianist as Horowitz, who routinely mocked putative rivals but not Tiegerman. Physical problems – bronchial asthma – and the worsening political climate led him to leave Europe and on Friedman’s advice he went to Egypt where he opened the Tiegerman Conservatoire. His life thenceforth concentrated mainly on pedagogic activity interspersed with recitals and the occasional concerto performance but even in Cairo he wasn’t to remain untroubled and the encroaching German North African advance saw him on the move again – this time, in 1941, he left for the Sudan. His return necessitated surmounting the later increasing domestic pressures in Egypt, which he seems to have done with phlegmatic courtesy. Occasional visitors appeared – Bruce Hungerford for one struck up a friendship with him but by the time of Tiegerman’s death, in 1968, it’s fair to say that he had been pretty much a forgotten man for nearly forty years.
As for the recordings some were made by the conductor Oreste Campisi in Italy in 1966, two years before the pianist’s death. These are in fine sound and allow one competently to judge Tiegerman’s mechanical and tonal qualities at the age of seventy-three. Others come from his final concerto performance in 1963 – the Franck and Saint-Saëns – and yet more were recorded
ad hoc, as he played for students and admirers. As befits a Leschetizky student, warmth and pliancy of phrasing predominate and are conspicuous features of his pianism. Enough aural material remains to substantiate the belief that he maintained a tenacious adherence to his teacher’s precepts and that his post mortem status has not been inflated.
Brahms’s Capriccio is full of rhythmic sophistication and the B flat minor Intermezzo full of tonal nuance and flexibility; both were Italian recordings. The Saint-Saëns
Egyptian Concerto - a final salute from a wanderer to the country he made his home – was part of his farewell concert of 1 June 1963. It’s survived in a rather poor off-air recording with a distractingly bad orchestra, the resident Cairo Symphony, but ones ears should be on Tiegerman. Amidst his very audible groans and the occasional aural distortions he essays some glittering runs, drenched in colour and light, whereas the rapt stillness of the Andante finds a poet at the keyboard. No less than another elite Leschetizky pupil, his near contemporary Moiseiwitsch (who as boys may well have met in their teacher’s classes), Tiegerman was alert to the crystalline and to the vivacious spirit that drives Saint-Saëns’ concertos. In Brahms’ Romance in F one can admire the poetic depth of his chording that even some queasy overloading can’t quite efface.
The two surviving movements of Brahms’ B flat Concerto attest to Tiegerman’s earlier fiery reputation. Indeed this is combustible playing, one that sweeps up its romantic tracery into a powerful vortex. Stormy and directional, with some memorable pointing the Allegro non troppo takes on monumental proportions but not ones that are motivated by speed or indifference (
vide Horowitz). His passagework is frequently coruscating, his technique impressively intact, his phrase-leaning of incisive imagination. Yes there are momentary pitch drops, yes the trumpets blare but the force that compels is Tiegerman’s alone. Nothing is trivialised, no matter how extreme the drive, and even the few dropped notes attest to the strongly directional aim of the performance. The speciously rhetorical had no place in Tiegerman’s armoury – he is part of the orchestral fabric and binds the solo part to it. The Allegro Appassionato once again has marvellous drive and a feeling of intense – but not unduly introspective – concentration. How frustrating that the final two movements have not survived but how lucky that we can hear those that have - and to hear Tiegerman’s leonine power in this of all works.
His Field is delicate and tonally beautiful and he plays a lot of Chopin as well. I particularly admired the Nocturne in B, which is phrased with real delicacy, and the Ballade in F minor, which is laced with drama and intensity, pitch drops notwithstanding. The Third Sonata is from a radio broadcast but despite the aural limitations we can hear a Chopin master at work; nobility, grandeur and sensitivity in the opening Allegro maestoso, rapid clarity of fingers in the scherzo – where for all the motoric imperative there is concomitant evenness and beauty of tone and colour. I found less to admire in his Fauré, the Nocturne in E flat emerging as rather leaden, metrical and cold.
Major additions for this expanded set include a good Chopin Op.9/3 Nocturne and fragments from the Op.10/3 Etude and Op.47 Ballade but not that these really are fragments, especially in the latter case; 1:16. There are two Beethoven sonata snippets. The most revealing and important of the surviving music however is Ondine, recorded c.1956, and the Brahms Handel variations, of which only I to XII survive. Enough does survive however to interest the collector, not least the barely suppressed excitement of the pianist, and corresponding brief affirmative exhalation of delight, when his fingers prove fully equal to the powerful demands made of them. There is a very brief souvenir of his speaking voice, and two examples of his compositions, one played by Tiegerman himself, the other – recorded in 1998 – by Henri Barda.
As I noted before, a major figure has been finally accorded the justice that in life escaped him. The relative primitiveness of the recordings is a price worth paying.
Sharing box space with Tiegerman is fellow Leschetizky pupil, Friedman. The Krakow-born pianist made numerous tours, routinely touring Egypt and Turkey, as well as the cultural centres of North and South America, Australasia and Japan. He lived in Berlin until the start of World War One and then left for Copenhagen where he was based until the outbreak of the Second War and flight to Australia. He died there in 1948, partial paralysis having truncated his career a few years earlier. His credentials included prodigious virtuosity, stunning attacks, huge dynamic ranges, a compulsively roguish sense of rubato, exceptional command of dance rhythms, and above all a gargantuan and explicitly Romantic temperament. Arbiter has thankfully included Chopin Mazurkas - known Friedman specialities. On all these occasions we are witness to extravagant technical accomplishments co-existent with powerfully personalised and romanticised interpretative decision making and it would be fair to add, quirks. Much here is ravishing; equally things that are so personalised as to be more problematical even though the textual emendations and lavish rubati were all part of the virtuoso arsenal. He is outsize and heroic in the A flat Polonaise – exhilarating if also somewhat exhausting. The Berceuse, perhaps because simpler, goes rather better and is not subjected to anything like the same degree of rhetorical romanticism. Suk’s Minuet, from the Op. 21 Suite, survives Friedman’s characteristic injection of high adrenalin rubati – emerging playful and pert. His Mendelssohn
Songs without Words may not be as well known as his Chopin Mazurkas but they share something of the same galvanic, life affirming aesthetic. Big, vital, rhythmically vivacious and personalised he brings huge tonal warmth and depth to these pieces. I’d especially cite the Op.30, F sharp minor which is a little miracle of poetry with superb differentiation of depth and colour in the right hand, and with the subtlest inflections in the bass pointing – truly an example of unselfconscious beauty. His rubati are sometimes as cavalier and provocative as they could be in Chopin – but who could fail to resist his teasing way with Op.67 No.2 or the vertiginous, unforced power of his bass colouration
The final and also fellow Leschetizky alumnus is the Galicia-born Severin Eisenberger. The Kodály pieces, brief though they are, are valuable survivors heard for the first time here. The Chopin Concerto is heard in improved sound to predecessors – there was a release a number of years ago, for example, on Pearl. It’s a shame that Eisenberger was so prominently over-recorded because thereby many of the orchestral counter themes and statements go for relatively little. Nevertheless one can admire his effortless roulades, and his Leschetizky-derived and to our ears very Friedman-like rubati.
On the mp3 we can hear a raft of witnesses talking about Friedman. There’s a brief extract [1:40] of the venerable Emil Telmanyi, and a sliver of 19 seconds of Nikita Magaloff talking about Friedman’s Chopin. We hear about that fabled tone, but not how he conveyed it to his students, as noted by Paula Kessler Hondius. There is an intriguing two and a half minutes of Ingebjørd Gresvik playing and illustrating Friedman’s advice. It’s also good to hear Dr. Miriam Hyde talking [1:20] about memory and of the initial disillusionment of Pnina Salzman. Friedman’s talk of left hand accenting in the Mazurkas seemed to her ‘criminal’ – talking about Chopin as if he were Bach. Later she realised – too late, she adds sadly - exactly what he was trying to tell her. There is also a larger extract, in French, of Segovia talking about Friedman. He ignores the telephone ringing in the background! There are also photographs of Friedman, and of Tiegerman, and annotated scores.
The thesis developed by Allan Evans in his notes about the Chopin tradition is very well worth reading, not least as regards mazurka performances. This is clearly a labour of love but it’s a set teeming with insight, and rich rewards as well.
-- Jonathan Woolf, MusicWeb International
Works on This Recording
Minuet by Josef Suk
Ignaz Friedman (Piano)
Date of Recording: 03/02/1928
Length: 3 Minutes 51 Secs.
Radio Announcement by Spoken Word
Date of Recording: 1950s
Length: 0 Minutes 14 Secs.
Meditation by Ignace Tiegerman
Henri Barda (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
Written: Cairo, Egypt
Date of Recording: 12/25/1998
Length: 2 Minutes 21 Secs.
Tiegerman speaks by Spoken Word
Date of Recording: 1950s
Length: 0 Minutes 11 Secs.
Gaspard de la nuit by Maurice Ravel
Ignace Tiegerman (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1908; France
Date of Recording: 1950s
Length: 6 Minutes 17 Secs.
Pieces (7) for Piano, Op. 11 by Zoltán Kodály
Severin Eisenberger (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1910-1918; Hungary
Date of Recording: 05/01/1937
Length: 2 Minutes 34 Secs.
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