Dinu Lipatti is one of the most mystical of pianists, yet over a half century after his premature death, most pianophiles know little more than the sketchy biographical information published with the frequent reissues of his critically lauded recordings. Before his death, Lipatti was already considered one of the greatest pianists and musicians to have graced the concert stage.
Born in 1876 near Cracow (Poland), Josef Hofmann gave his Golden Jubilee concert on November 28, 1937 at the Metropolitn Opera House., it was recorded and on the LP Columbia Masterworks ML 4929 we can read :
“The MET filled with an audience of 4,000 assembled to pay tribute to Josef Hofmann, who appeared on the same stage where, as a boy of 11, he made his American debut on Nov.29, 1887”
Josef Hofmann gave his first private concert in New York on November 28, 1887 at the Wallack Theater in New York City, and it was followed by a series of concerts at the Metropolitn Opera House which impresses us with the variety of works played : he was only 11 years old.
The program of the first Metropolitn Opera House was :
Metropolitn Opera House : November 29, 1887
Berlioz : Overture , “Carneval Romaine”
Beethoven : Concerto in C (No1)
SAINT-SAENS : “Phaeton” Symphonic Poem
Rameau : Variations
Mendelssohn : Overture, “Midsummer Night’s Dream”
Hofmann : Berceuse
Chopin : Nocturne, Waltz
Weber-Liszt : Polacca for piano and orchestra
More on this Golden Jubilee Concert by Marc Ainley.
Alfred Cortot was a supreme interpreter of Chopin – he studied with the composer’s pupil Émile Descombes – and fortunately he left us many recordings made over the course of several decades.
Among his most significant contributions to recorded music are his stupendous accounts of Chopin’s Etudes, his expansive, creative interpretations taking these works well beyond the realm of technical studies to reveal their rich musical content.
“Musical performers and academics often focus on what editions of scores or which treatises can provide an understanding of a composer’s intentions, but historical recordings allow us to hear the actual playing of musicians of the past. Although greats like Mozart and Beethoven didn’t live to record (neither did Chopin or Liszt), we do have recordings by legendary composers like Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev, as well as of students of Liszt and grand-students of Chopin (as well as at least one pianist who heard Chopin play).
What we hear in these recordings is very different from the playing on the concert stage or on recordings today. Historical recordings provide an opportunity to travel back in time to hear some of the greatest performers of the past and witness playing that words can scarcely describe. Until today’s pianists have heard Josef Hofmann’s palette of tonal colors, Ignaz Friedman’s magical pedal effects, Marcelle Meyer’s sublimely fluid phrasing, and Dinu Lipatti’s stunningly transparent voicing, their interpretative choices are limited to present-day norms.
In this insightful presentation, pianophile Mark Ainley will explore the tremendous importance of historical piano recordings and how they can enhance both pianists’ and listeners’ understanding of musical interpretation and the rich array of possibilities that the piano can provide its performers.”
When it comes to the great British pianist Dame Myra Hess, two points are among the most shared: her wartime concert series at the National Gallery in London and her arrangement of Bach’s beloved chorale prelude Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.
It is a tremendous blessing that recording technology has allowed the playing of great musicians of the past to be preserved for future generations. In some cases, we are able to hear performances that came perilously close to disappearing into thin air and which now form the foundation of a musician’s current reputation. One such case is the remarkable Chilean pianist Rosita Renard, whose only Carnegie Hall recital – in 1949 – is justly considered legendary and is a milestone of recorded pianism.