Piano Music from the Carnegie Hall's Golden Years
Akira Eguchi plays at Carnegie Hall
Released on May, 2003.
This CD was selected as one of the best new released albums
from Japanese recording magazine, Recording Arts September 2003.
|The night before the recording session at Carnegie Hall, I played the 115-year-old piano featured on this CD for the first time. Mr. Yu Takagi, the president of Takagi-Klavier and the current owner of the piano, had requested that Mr. Franz Mohr prepare and tune it prior to the session - this was especially promising because Mr. Mohr was the only piano technician that Vladimir Horowitz had completely trusted with this beloved piano.
The piano, newly awakened from its long hibernation, however, was not very friendly. Its sound and touch were totally different from the modern pianos I was used to, and the more I tried to find my sound, the more I was refused. "So, you think you can tame me?" it seemed to say, and to be honest, I started thinking that I would never be able to handle this stubborn instrument.
But after half an hour, something suddenly changed. I now realized that this piano had a marvelous singing voice of its own, and I decided to trust it completely. At that moment, everything clicked. It seemed as if the piano were trying to give me lots of new ideas. As I played on, it kept surprising me with an unexpected but pleasant tone, and I could only sigh with happiness
The piano truly had its own spirit.
Some of the pianists who composed, or arranged the pieces recorded on this CD must have played this piano at either Carnegie Hall (1891-) or at the original Metropolitan Opera House (1883 - 1966) in the 1890's and 1900's. They most likely performed in the common style of that era, which, as Ignacy Paderewski notes, emphasized the use of rubato and tempo changes. Even Fryderyk Chopin, two generations before Paderewski, sometimes played in a big wavering tempo, which was quite contrary to his musical philosophy - that the left hand must keep the tempo like a metronome, while the right hand could be as free as possible.
What you hear on this CD may be quite surprising to an audience familiar with most of today's modern piano recordings because of the difference of the sound and style of the music. It may not seem to be recorded in the present day. You may also hear some noise from the old instrument and even from the historic hall itself.
But this is what the audience would have heard at Carnegie Hall about a hundred years ago. Please enjoy this warm nostalgic sound and the somewhat old-fashioned style of music.
I would like to express my deep appreciation to Mr. Yu Takagi, who planned and produced this recording; to Ms. Kano of Takagi-Klavier, who assisted Mr. Takagi; to Dr. Natsui, who generously provided valuable piano scores; to the president of FSI Enterprise Mr. Kojima, for his generous cooperation; to Mr. Okada, the engineer; to my wife, Eri, who directed the recording session; to all concerned people at Carnegie Hall; and finally, to Mr. Franz Mohr, who sometimes had tears in his eyes while listening to the sound in Carnegie Hall during the session.
This NY Steinway made in 1887 was originally placed on the stage of Carnegie Hall for its opening in 1891. Many pianists of that era have played this piano on the stage, and when Maestro Horowitz toured Japan in 1986, he found this piano at a hotel lobby in Tokyo, and fell in love with it right away. He told Mr. Mohr that it was the one he played at his Carnegie Hall Debut.
Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962) / Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)|
Kreisler and Ranmaninoff were nearly the same age but were vastly different in personality - the former was witty and even-tempered, while the latter was introverted and sullen. Still, they made many great recordings together as a duo. The two artists respected each other not only as performers but as composers: Kreisler arranged Rachmaninoff's song "Daisies" for violin and piano, and Rachmaninoff arranged two of Kreisler's lovely short pieces for solo piano. Making full use of his technique, Rachmaninoff brought overwhelming power to "Love's Joy" and his typically dusky tonal color to "Love's Sorrow", thus transforming them into massive piano works. Rachmaninoff made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1909.
Ignacy Paderewski (1860-1941)
A patriotic pianist who became prime minister of Poland in 1919, Ignacy Paderewski was known as a charismatic virtuoso, and his use of rubato and freely moving tempi were among the many charming characteristics of his playing. "Melodie Op. 16-2" was composed when he was about 28 years old, and its beautiful nostalgic theme reflects his passion for both the piano and his beloved country. Paderewski performed at the brand new Carnegie Hall in 1891.
Schura Cherkassky (1909-1995)
Cherkassky had long questioned 1911 as his birth year, but it was not until a 1995 visit to Odessa, his birthplace, that he discovered he had actually been born in 1909. This two-year difference, however, does not diminish the extraordinary accomplishments of his youth. According to some of his concert publicity materials, Cherkassky emigrated from Russia to the United States, published "Prelude Pathetique", and made his US debut all in the same year, 1923, when he would have been about 14 years old. His Carnegie Hall debut was a few years later, 1926. The title and mood of this prelude suggest the youthful innocence of Cherkassky's childhood during the years of the Russian Revolution.
Leopold Godowsky (1870-1938)
In the spring of 1891, Leopold Godowsky performed at Carnegie Hall two weeks prior to its official opening concert with Tchaikovsky. A famous virtuoso pianist, Godowsky was also an accomplished composer and arranger. Among his arrangements for piano, "Die Fledermaus" is one of the most difficult to play, and that is why it is rarely heard in the concert hall. The difficulty lies not so much in the fingerings and physical movements - Godowsky tailored the arrangement for his own use - but in the complexity and density of the polyphony created from the overlapping themes and motives introduced simultaneously. The many wide leaps also create a flood of sound. The pianist's job is to highlight these various individual themes while managing to stay afloat in the sheer number of cascading notes!
Fryderyk Chopin (1810-1849) / Wilhelm Backhaus (1884-1969)
This arrangement of the second movement of Chopin's Piano Concerto, No.1, was published in Germany in 1918. In terms of rarity, it is a very valuable piece, but, unfortunately, little is known about it. Although Wilhelm Backhaus recorded a tremendous amount of piano music - an unusual accomplishment in his era - he apparently did not record "Romance", nor is it found in current LP and CD catalogs.
The goal of Backhaus' arrangement is not to flaunt a pianist's virtuosity; rather, the arrangement faithfully follows Chopin's original piano solo while adequately filling out the orchestra part. This seems to reflect Backhaus' philosophy of honesty to great music. Backhaus made his debut at Carnegie Hall in 1912.
Josef Hofmann (1876-1957)
Another Polish pianist, Josef Hofmann made his U.S. debut at the original Metropolitan Opera House in 1887 and his Carnegie Hall debut in 1898. In 1926, he became president of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia and counted Schura Cherkassky among his students.
Hofmann composed many short pieces, and "Nocturne" was published in 1923. He recorded it in the same year, and that performance has recently been restored on CD. Hofmann's performance style was often described as strictly faithful to the score yet musically flexible. The generous use of rubato and the many daring tempo changes in his early recording confirm that romantic flexibility.
Franz Liszt (1811-1886) / Vladimir Horowitz (1903-1989)
Vladimir Horowitz, the twentieth century's master of piano, described this piece as one of the most difficult of his arrangements to play. His version of "Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2" is found in two different editions transcribed from an old recording. Though Horowitz's live recording shows quite a few mistakes, it remains a superb performance. I put together a performing version from the recording and the existing scores and immediately recognized another example of a successful arrangement by a great pianist.
"Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2" contains the slow and fast movements, "Lassan" and "Frisca". The adaptation of "Frisca" is the most effective in showing Horowitz's extraordinary technique. His North American debut was at Carnegie Hall in 1928.
Camille Saint-Saens (1835-1921) / Leopold Godowsky (1870-1938)
In addition to "Die Fledermaus", Leopold Godowsky arranged "The Swan", the most well known short piece of Camille Saint-Saens. Godowsky added some very original chromatic harmonies and brought his own polyphonic style to the piece, giving it an interesting impressionistic shade. Godowsky appeared at Carnegie Hall in 1891; Saint-Saens would also perform there in 1906, conducting his Symphony No. 3.
Photographer Miori Inata took some photographs at the recording session.
Purchase this CD in Japan