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Hyperion Records

APR5532 - The Piano G & Ts, Vol. 2 – Alfred Grünfeld, Raoul Pugno & Natalia Janotha
APR5532

Recording details: Various dates
Various recording venues
Release date: June 1997
Total duration: 73 minutes 55 seconds

The Piano G & Ts, Vol. 2 – Alfred Grünfeld, Raoul Pugno & Natalia Janotha
Alfred Grünfeld
Raoul Pugno
Sonata in A major Kk24  [2'00]  Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757)  recorded April 1903
Impromptu valse  [2'35]  Raoul Pugno (1852-1914)  recorded April 1903
No 4 in C major, 'Spinnerlied': Presto  [1'25]  recorded November 1903
Valse folle  [2'50]  Jules Massenet (1842-1912)  recorded November 1903
Valse lente  [3'12]  Raoul Pugno (1852-1914)  recorded November 1903
Natalia Janotha
Fugue in A minor KKIVc/2  [2'15]  Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849)  recorded 10 December 1904
No 4 in C major, 'Spinnerlied': Presto  [1'42]  recorded 10 December 1904
Extract: Abridged  [0'52]  recorded 10 December 1904
Gavotte impériale  [3'04]  Natalia Janotha (1856-1932)  recorded 10 December 1904

This is a recording from Appian Publications & Recordings Ltd (to quote the full title)—the label invariably more familiarly known simply as "APR".

Since its foundation in 1986, APR has won an enviable reputation as a quality label devoted predominantly—though not exclusively—to historic piano recordings. In particular APR has won countless laurels for the high standard of its 78rpm restoration work—"Transfers of genius" to quote one critic—as well as the detail and content of its booklets.


The Gramophone and Typewriter Limited
The Gramophone and Typewriter Limited existed for no more than seven years yet during its brief life it was responsible for one of the most remarkable artistic and technical advances in the history of the gramophone. It was during this time that a few committed believers convinced a host of sceptical and suspicious luminaries that the gramophone should be looked upon as a valid artistic medium. The result was an astonishingly rapid metamorphosis: an expensive toy became one of the prime chroniclers of its age.

The story begins with The Gramophone Company Limited, formed in London in April 1898. This was the company which, just a few months after it came into being, employed a young American recording engineeer and talent scout called Fred Gaisberg. As the popularity of the gramophone gained a quite exceptional momentum, particularly in Britain, so Gaisberg and his fellow ‘recordists’ – as record producers were then known – set out on an unparalleled pilgrimage of exploration and documentation. It was largely due to their indefatigable efforts that The Gramophone Company was able to advertise the availability of no less than 5000 titles by December 1900. However, despite this runaway success the company’s managing director, William Barry Owen, was convinced the bubble would burst, to which end he decided to diversify into a totally unrelated field – the typewriter, in particular the Lambert typewriter, a machine which employed a rotating plate rather than the standard keyboard. A new company was consequently established in December 1900: The Gramophone and Typewriter Limited.

It was not long, however, before it became all too apparent that this particular exercise had been a major blunder; the Lambert machine proved to be as impractical as it was cheap. The magnitude of the flop resulted in Owen’s resignation as Managing Director in April 1904. Come February 1905, by which time Owen had also vacated the board room and returned to obscurity in his native America, The Gramophone and Typewriter Limited ceased the manufacture, sale and servicing of the Lambert typewriter. That the company survived this debacle was due entirely to the continuing success of the gramophone though it was not until November 1907 that the company dropped Typewriter’ from its name and reverted to being The Gramophone Company Limited. It was not, of course, the end of an era – indeed the gramophone went on to ever greater glories – though it was the end of what is commonly considered to have been the most adventurous and exotic period in the history of recording.

During the seven G&T years many sister companies were set up, notably in Germany, France, Russia, Austria and Spain. A magnitude of stellar names from across the globe were lured before the recording horn as moths to the dame. The briefest role-call of the great and glorious includes Melba, Patti and Calvé; Caruso, Figner and Tamagno; Battistini, Plançon and Chaliapin; Joachim, Sarasate and Kubelik; Saint-Saëns, Debussy and Grieg; Pugno, Diémer and Grunfeld; Eibenschütz, Janotha and Chaminade; even Carmen Sylva (H.M. Queen of Romania), H.I.M. Mouzaferedin Chan (Shah of Persia) and the Sistine Choir (including the castrato Moreschi).

The first G&T discs, seven inches in diameter, were launched in the UK in December 1900. Most of them were among the first records to benefit from a new process of manufacturing and duplication, this being the cutting of a ‘master’ into a wax blank as opposed to the cumbersome zinc-etched process. In October of the following year the first ten inch G&T discs, called ‘Gramophone Concert Records’, were released in Britain. Production of the twelve inch disc, the ‘Gramophone Monarch Record’, followed in the middle of 1903. Advertisements not only stressed the advantages of the larger diameter which ‘averaged about four minutes’ but revealed that ‘the less acute curve which the sound waves are called upon to traverse’ enabled ‘the sounds to be reproduced with even more exactness and truth to nature’.

The Gramophone and Typewriter Limited continued to employ the familiar ‘recording angel’ trademark which had first appeared on The Gramophone Company records in October 1898. Francis Barraud’s celebrated painting of ‘His Master’s Voice’ was first used on the company’s advertising material in January 1900 though Nipper, surely the most famous mongrel dog in history, did not begin to grace record labels until 1909.

Alfred Grünfeld
Alfred Grünfeld studied in his native Prague – he might even have had some tuition from Smetana – before proceeding to Berlin where his masters included Theodor Kullak (piano) and Richard Wüerst (composition). He settled in Vienna in 1873 and rapidly became an integral part of the city’s musical life. A confrere of, among others, Johann Strauss Jnr., Brahms and Leschetizky, Grünfeld was recognised as a pianist of enviable intellectual, musical and technical powers. If today he is widely considered to be a ‘salon pianist’ it is because most reference books insist that there was little substance to his repertoire – this of an artist who played not only Bach and Schumann frequently but also presented late Beethoven (the Sonata Op. 110) and rarely-heard Schubert (the Sonata D.575) in his recital programmes. Granted, lightweight compositions and transcriptions, a natural part of most self-respecting pianist’s musical diet at that time, dominate his considerable discography – published by Alan Vicat in 1988 – but we can also discover among some 125 titles recorded between 1899–1914 music by Bach, Brahms, Chopin, Debussy, Dvorák, Grieg and Schumann. Furthermore, it should be noted that Grünfeld’s artistry was praised by such illustrious figures as von Bülow and the notoriously crusty Hanslick. One of the few dissenting voices of the time was, perhaps not surprisingly, that of another pianist: while admitting he had a ‘velvety touch’, Josef Hofmann was of the opinion that Grünfeld ‘only played salon music really well’.

What so obviously endeared Grünfeld to a huge following in Vienna, where he was literally idolised, were his dashing if somewhat Bohemian good looks, an appealing platform manner and, of course, the elegance and charm of his interpretations. (Incidentally, Grünfeld’s remarkable keyboard mastery embraced an enviable ability to sight-read and to improvise in a wide variety of styles.) He toured extensively winning in the process royal accolades and considerable public acclaim. Among his many compositions are the operetta Der Lebemann, the comic opera Die Schönen von Fogaros and a wide selection of bonbons for solo piano.

The recorded repertoire
Grünfeld was among the very first pianists to record (7" Berliners in 1899). That he should have recorded so prolifically was an inevitable outcome of his exceptional popularity within Austria and Germany. His discography includes a large number of re-recorded titles. These invariably arose from a need for fresh masters to replace those worn by the production of a large number of discs than to any failure on the part of the pianist.

Grünfeld is represented by his recorded output for a single year – 1905 (the precise recording dates are unknown) – with the exception of one title, the Liliwalzer from his own Der Lebemann. (It has not been possible to find a copy of 45534 comprising the 1905 matrix. Grünfeld re-recorded the title in 1909 on matrix 14554u, this being published under the same catalogue number.) Even so, the resulting selection provides an intriguing snap-shot of Grünfeld’s art. The recordings are presented in the order in which they were recorded.

The artist is described on all record labels as ‘Kammervirtuose’.

Raoul Pugno
(Stéphane) Raoul Pugno was as gargantuan a musician as he was a man. His precocious gifts as a pianist won him an early entrance to the Ecole Niedermeyer. When he moved to the Paris Conservatoire his tutors included Georges Mathias (piano), one of Chopin’s most celebrated and influential pupils, and Ambroise Thomas (composition). Pugno’s many and varied successes at the Conservatoire were equalled in the immediate years following his entrance into Parisienne musical life by the diversity of his activities, not least chorus-master at the Théâtre Ventadour, organist of Saint Eugène, professor of harmony and (later) piano at the Conservatoire, and industrious composer. His works include an early piano sonata, a Concertstück for piano and orchestra, many stage works (operas and ballets) as well as character pieces for piano, two of which can be heard in this anthology.

It was not until he was forty that Pugno began in earnest his career as a pianist with a performance of the Grieg concerto at a Conservatoire concert (This late start might explain why he rarely played from memory.) Nevertheless, he rapidly won a worldwide reputation as a pianist of exceptional qualities in an unusually broad repertoire, significantly Mozart, Chopin and Franck – he even included Rachmaninov in some of his last recitals. Pugno was also a superlative chamber pianist and lieder accompanist: for years he regularly partnered Eugene Ysaye and appeared in public partnering Fritz Kreisler and Maria Gay.

Pugno died while on a concert tour of Russia.

The recorded repertoire
Pugno was not only the first eminent French pianist to record but the first internationally recognised king of the keyboard to commit his art to disc. Those chosen for this anthology commence with the first four solo titles he recorded. The precise recording date is not known though we know from a letter sent to London by Alfred Clark, then in charge of Cie. Française du Gramophone in Paris, that they were made during the same afternoon in April 1903 that Pugno partnered Tamagno before the recording horn. The same letter also reported that Pugno ‘was rather half-hearted’ about his first recordings ‘as he did not care for the piano solos which we already had on our catalogue’. However, three days later, when Pugno returned to audition these recordings, he was so impressed that he ‘immediately played … several more pieces and they are all perfect’. Clark went on to inform London that he too considered the discs ‘far beyond what I had dared to hope for. The records are more like a real piano than anything I have ever heard on any Talking Machine’ – this of the discs recorded on that notorious turntable! (Clark also expressed the hope of getting Pugno and Ysaye together in the studio that May though sadly the plan came to nothing.) Pugno’s complete solo discs recorded in two November 1903 sessions conclude his representation. Much of the first session was again spent partnering another singer, in this instance Maria Gay (Matrices 2506–10 & 2514–18).

During his extraordinarily busy life Pugno also found time to write many pedagogical books including Les leçons écrites de R. Pugno in which he justifies his unusual choice of tempo (crotchet = 52 rather than crotchet = 40) for Chopin’s Nocturne in F sharp, Op. 15/2 [15]. This, Pugno maintained, was the speed Mathias, who had played with Chopin, insisted it should be performed.

Certain discographical matters have to be addressed when listing Pugno’s discs. Known sources quote the suffix F – indicating ‘Française’ – as an integral part of the matrix number though it did not appear on any of the discs used for this anthology. (The matrix numbers listed below are exactly as they appear on the discs.) That only one sequence of numbers was used for Pugno’s recordings, irrespective as to whether 10" or 12" matrices were used, is not unusual during this period in France. However, what is puzzling, is the way the ‘recordist’ used the matrices. Why, for example, was the Chopin Berceuse, [21] lasting almost 3 minutes and a half, squeezed onto a ten inch matrix while Mendelssohns Song without words, [16] lasting not 1 minutes and a half, allocated a 12" matrix? The titles selected for this anthology are presented in the order in which they were recorded.

Natalia Janotha
After early studies with her father in Warsaw, where she made her debut at the age of 12, (Maria Cecylia) Natalia Janotha went to work with Ernst Rudorff and Woldemar Bargiel in Berlin. From 1871 she studied extensively with Clara Schumann who did much to introduce her to major European courts and concert halls. Being Polish born, Janotha also enjoyed a direct link with Chopin via one of the composer’s most loyal friends and admirers, Princess Marcelina Czartoryska.

Janotha was one of the great eccentrics of her time – at around the period she made her recordings she would not give a performance without the presence on stage of her cat White Heather. Her colourful and flamboyant personality made her a great favourite of the royal courts, particularly in Britain, Italy, Prussia and Spain. It could be argued that she became concerned more with speed than musical matters as she grew older. Certainly as a young woman she won George Bernard Shaw’s heart on account of her ‘exceptionally dexterous’ playing which he also found ‘beautiful, suggestive, poetic’: he was not alone in considering her to be Clara Schumann's natural successor. However, before the dawn of the new century he had become disenchanted, finding her ‘content to gabble over Mendelssohn’s G minor concerto like a schoolgirl’ and (in recital) ‘idly displaying her rare dexterity of hand and her capricious individuality of style without a ray of thought or feeling’.

For many years Janotha lived in London but suffered the indignity of deportation in the middle of the First World War. She subsequently settled in The Hague where she appeared on the concert platform only infrequently and where she died in relative obscurity.

The recorded repertoire
Janotha presented herself before the recording horn on two occasions. Both sessions are quoted in full below. The 1904 session saw four titles recorded. These were announced a few months later, the leaflet carrying a photograph of an obviously elegant lady with her celebrated cat seated proudly on her lap. However, it seems that Janotha underwent a change of heart about these recordings and requested that they should be withdrawn from the catalogue – which no doubt explains their exceptional rarity. During the second session Janotha returned to three of the earlier titles as well as essaying possibly two new titles though nothing from this 1906 session, which included a tribute to her beloved White Heather, was published.

The most celebrated of Janotha’s four published records is undoubtedly that of Chopins Fugue in A minor [24]. Janotha acquired the manuscript from Princess Czartoryska and she subsequently allowed Breitkopf and Härtel to publish this curiosity in 1898. She also inscribed the manuscript to Queen Victoria. (More recently it belonged to Arthur Hedley before being sold to the Chopin-Sand Museum in Valldemosa.) It remained the only recording of the piece for something like half a century.

On all four records the pianist is described simply as ‘Miss Janotha, Court Pianist to HIM The German Emperor’ though the full extent of her idiosyncrasies become apparent on a closer examination of the labels. 5561 informs us that the Fugue is ‘arranged by Janotha from the original MSS in her possession’ and that it is ‘dedicated to HM The Queen’; 5562 proudly announces that in Mendelssohn’s Spinning Song the pianist ‘holds the record for the rapidity of her execution’; 5563 advises us that in The Celebrated Polish Carillon (Striking Twelve o’clock) – to give the piece its full title – Janotha employs ‘only the upper three octaves of the piano’; 5564 tells us that the Gavotte impériale is ‘Dedicatcd to HIM the German Empress’.

The titles are presented in the order in which they were recorded. (The one copy of the Polish Carillon to be located was broken: as a consequence it was possible to transfer only the second half of this curiosity.)

Bryan Crimp © 1997


Other albums in this series
'The Piano G & Ts, Vol. 1 – Vladimir de Pachmann, Aleksander Michalowski & Landon Ronald' (APR5531)
The Piano G & Ts, Vol. 1 – Vladimir de Pachmann, Aleksander Michalowski & Landon Ronald
Buy by post £8.50 APR5531 
'The Piano G & Ts, Vol. 3 – Chaminade & Saint-Saëns' (APR5533)
The Piano G & Ts, Vol. 3 – Chaminade & Saint-Saëns
Buy by post £8.50 APR5533 
'The Piano G & Ts, Vol. 4 – Diémer, Eibenschütz, Hofmann & Backhaus' (APR5534)
The Piano G & Ts, Vol. 4 – Diémer, Eibenschütz, Hofmann & Backhaus
Buy by post £8.50 APR5534 
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