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Hyperion Records

APR5661 - Alexander Goldenweiser – Tchaikovsky & Grieg

Recording details: Various dates
Moscow, Russia
Release date: August 2008
Total duration: 68 minutes 15 seconds

Alexander Goldenweiser – Tchaikovsky & Grieg
No 1 in G major: Prière du matin  [1'00]  recorded circa 1952
No 2 in D major: Le matin en hiver  [1'00]  recorded circa 1952
No 3 in D major: Le petit cavalier  [0'37]  recorded circa 1952
No 4 in G major: Maman  [0'59]  recorded circa 1952
No 5 in D major: Marche des soldats de bois  [0'44]  recorded circa 1952
No 6 in G minor: La poupée malade  [1'08]  recorded circa 1952
No 7 in C minor: Enterrement de la poupée  [1'22]  recorded circa 1952
No 8 in E flat major: Valse  [1'23]  recorded circa 1952
No 9 in B flat major: La nouvelle poupée  [0'30]  recorded circa 1952
No 10 in D minor: Mazurka  [0'57]  recorded circa 1952
No 11 in F major: Chanson russe  [0'24]  recorded circa 1952
No 12 in B flat major: Le paysan prélude  [0'31]  recorded circa 1952
No 14 in B flat major: Polka  [0'46]  recorded circa 1952
No 15 in D major: Chanson italienne  [0'46]  recorded circa 1952
No 16 in G minor: Mélodie antique française  [0'41]  recorded circa 1952
No 17 in E flat major: Chanson allemande  [0'48]  recorded circa 1952
No 18 in E flat major: Chanson napolitaine  [1'03]  recorded circa 1952
No 19 in C major: Conte de la vieille bonne  [0'53]  recorded circa 1952
No 20 in E minor: La sorcière 'Baba Yaga'  [0'41]  recorded circa 1952
No 21 in C major: Douce rêverie  [1'44]  recorded circa 1952
No 22 in G major: Chant de l'alouette  [0'47]  recorded circa 1952
No 23 in G major: L'orgue de barbarie  [0'45]  recorded circa 1952
No 24 in E minor: À l'église  [1'30]  recorded circa 1952
Sylphe  [1'40]  recorded circa 1953
Gratitude  [3'55]  recorded circa 1953
French serenade  [2'20]  recorded circa 1953
Brooklet  [1'31]  recorded circa 1953
Phantom  [2'49]  recorded circa 1953
Homeward  [2'55]  recorded circa 1953
No 1: From days of youth  [4'38]  recorded circa 1953
No 2: Peasants' song  [1'47]  recorded circa 1953
No 5: In ballad style  [3'06]  recorded circa 1953
No 6: Wedding day at Troldhaugen  [6'42]  recorded circa 1953
Sailor's song  [1'34]  recorded circa 1954
Bedstemors menuet 'Grandmother's minuet'  [1'41]  recorded circa 1954
At your feet  [2'51]  recorded circa 1954
Evening in the mountains  [2'24]  recorded circa 1954
At the cradle  [2'30]  recorded circa 1954
Valse mélancolique  [4'21]  recorded circa 1954

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.

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Alexander Goldenweiser was born at Kishinyov (also known as Chisinau and Kishinev) in Moldavia to a Russian Orthodox family, his Jewish-born father having converted to Christianity in order to marry. Along with Heinrich Neuhaus and Konstantin Igumnov, Goldenweiser made an indelible impact on Russian/Soviet musical history. In their markedly different ways this illustrious trio of pedagogues stressed the importance of the score and instilled a more disciplined approach to the keyboard, much needed after the volcanic eruptions of Anton Rubinstein and the abandoned passion of Paul Pabst. Whereas Neuhaus was more inclined to be the ‘philosopher’ and Igumnov the ‘romanticist’, Goldenweiser was the committed ‘classicist’. The three worked, occasionally warily, along­side each other at the Moscow Conservatoire and frequently appeared side by side on important competition juries, most significantly, perhaps, at the first All-Union Competition of 1933. It seems that it was when they were jurists at the 1937 All-Union Competition that a major disagreement occurred between Golden­weiser and Neuhaus. Certainly from that time Goldenweiser did not hold back from publicly criticising Neuhaus’s teaching methods which he considered to be too free. It is hardly sur­prising therefore that Goldenweiser is not mentioned in Neuhaus’s celebrated The Art of Piano Playing – a book which Goldenweiser considered to be ‘too wordy’ – while Igumnov is rewarded by a solitary mention in a footnote.

After early lessons with Vasilly Prokunin, the young Goldenweiser was fortunate to enter the Moscow Conservatoire during its golden age; his fellow students and soon-to-be staunch friends included Alexander Scriabin, Sergei Rachmaninov and Nicolai Medtner. After piano studies with Alexander Siloti and Pabst he graduated in 1895 and went on to study composition with Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov, Anton Arensky and Sergei Taneyev for two years. Like Neuhaus, Goldenweiser was a nervous stage performer and early on in his profes­sional life decided to devote most of his energies to teaching. In January 1906, after a spell at the Moscow Nikolai Institute, Golden­weiser commenced a near-56-year reign as ‘the maker of Russian pianists’ at the Moscow Conservatoire. During this period, he twice acted as the Conservatoire’s Director – from 1922–24 (as the first post-revolution director) and between 1939–1942 (until he was evacu­ated to the North Caucasus as a result of the Second World War). Goldenweiser was to exert a profound influ­ence upon more than 200 pianists, among whom the most celebrated are Grigori Ginzburg, Samuil Feinberg, Rosa Tamarkina and Tatiana Nikolayeva (all of whom will be represented in this series), as well as Lazar Berman, Dmitri Bashkirov, Isabella Vengerova, Oxana Yablonskaya and Dmitri Paperno. It was also on Goldenweiser’s initiative that the Central School of Music (CSM) was established in Moscow in 1932 (with Leningrad and Kiev soon following suit). Attached to the ‘parent’ conservatoire, these CSMs gave exceptionally gifted children specialist music training as well as an all-round education. Goldenweiser was the Moscow school’s first artistic director.

Goldenweiser taught in the same studio (No 42) during his entire time at the Conserva­toire. We learn from Paperno that it contained two Bechstein instruments, one of which Goldenweiser always ‘locked upon leaving the studio, and an armchair for him in a remote corner by the window. Sofas and chairs lined the walls – several students were always waiting their turn to play.’ His lessons were as stimulating as they were varied; one day the emphasis might be on phrasing, another day the concern would be articulation or dynamics. He was a firm believer that the scrupulous observation of the composer’s indications in no way compromised a student’s creativity or individuality. He was correct of course – this belief is not only reflected in the playing of his finest pupils (Tamarkina, Nikolayeva, Feinberg, Ginzburg and Berman) but also in his own recordings. Goldenweiser was paternally fond his pupils, frequently exerting as great an influence upon their minds as their fingers, none more so than Ginzburg, to whom he became a surrogate father and, later, Berman whose studies with Goldenweiser were ‘extended’ for some 18 years, so saving his most outstanding pupil of the time from being drafted into the army. It was Berman who confirmed that, unlike Neuhaus, Goldenweiser would give technical advice, though admittedly his words of wisdom were frequently sphinx-like: ‘to play with the pedal means knowing how not to play with the pedal’! Bashkirov, among the last generation of Goldenweiser pupils and who also served as his assistant, was strikingly objective in his assessment of his mentor. He considered Goldenweiser to be ‘a great musician, unbelievably clever, edu­cated, and analytical in his thinking … [yet] very orthodox, very precise, not very artistic, and without fantasy or temperament’. Golden­weiser could also be irascible, his outbursts apparently being more frequent as he became older. Small wonder, given all the uncertainties he experienced during his later years at the Conservatoire when it was plagued with persecution campaigns conducted by rumour, innuendo, even sheer terror. He never­theless frequently sailed dangerously close to wind, speaking out if he felt a pupil had been unfairly treated, yet somehow managing to evade the kind of fate that befell Neuhaus who was imprisoned by the KGB in 1943 before being exiled to Sverdlovsk. Goldenweiser also saved Yakov Flier from suffering the same fate as Yakov Zak, who was tortured to death by the KGB in 1976.

Despite his stage nerves Goldenweiser appeared comfortable in the recording studio, as a result of which his discography is rela­tively extensive – though a surprisingly large proportion was released only after his death. The majority of his recordings were made during the earliest days of the LP era when he was in his seventies and his playing inevitably lacked the ‘sparkle’ of earlier years. Even so, as is apparent in this programme, his playing is illuminated by a telling fusion of simplicity and subtlety. For Goldenweiser rhythm was the foundation of all music-making, a rhythm that was both flexible and varied. As a result his rubato is uniquely refined and expressive. Naturally, for one so steeped in the culture of his own time and place, the Russian repertoire features prominently in his discography, with solo piano music by his friends and acquain­tances Arensky, Medtner and Scriabin, as well as Borodin, Glinka, Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev. And there is much Rachmaninov: the cele­brated duo recordings with Ginzburg of the six Duets and two Suites, the second of which was dedicated to Goldenweiser, as well as 78-rpm recordings of the Cello Sonata (with Sviatoslav Knushevitsky) and the Piano Trio (with Dmitri Tziganov and Sergei Shirinsky). Other chamber music recordings feature him with David Oistrakh (Catoire and Medtner violin sonatas) and with Leonid Kogan and Mstislav Rostropovich in his own massive, single-movement Piano Trio, written in memory of Rachmaninov and recorded just months before his death. Goldenweiser was a prolific com­poser, his output includes three operas, a string quartet and a considerable amount for solo piano, notably 24 Preludes, Fugues and Canons of 1931. He also had a pronounced fondness for Grieg, recording what appears to have been the first complete traversal of the Lyric Pieces, here represented by Books 7 and 9, and extracts from Book 8. Alongside the disarming directness of his interpretations we are able to savour Goldenweiser’s remarkably varied tonal and dynamic palette, this despite the relatively primitive recording and the poor quality of early Soviet LP pressings. Goldenweiser’s self-effacing playing in Tchaikovsky’s Children’s Suite, avoiding even a hint of faux naïveté, perfectly captures the innocence of these epigrammatic gems.

Goldenweiser’s death preceded the passing of his pianistic son, for many his greatest pupil, Grigory Ginzburg, by just days. It brought to an end to one of the most lengthy and influential chapters in the history of the Moscow Conservatoire.

Bryan Crimp © 2008

Other albums in this series
'Heinrich Neuhaus – Beethoven, Scriabin & Chopin' (APR5660)
Heinrich Neuhaus – Beethoven, Scriabin & Chopin
APR5660  Download only  
'Konstantin Igumnov – Schumann & Tchaikovsky' (APR5662)
Konstantin Igumnov – Schumann & Tchaikovsky
APR5662  Download only  
'Emil Gilels – Schumann, Beethoven, Liszt & Prokofiev' (APR5663)
Emil Gilels – Schumann, Beethoven, Liszt & Prokofiev
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'Emil Gilels & Yakov Zak – Mozart, Mozart-Busoni & Saint-Saëns' (APR5664)
Emil Gilels & Yakov Zak – Mozart, Mozart-Busoni & Saint-Saëns
APR5664  Download only  
'Yakov Flier – Chopin, Kabalevsky & Rachmaninov' (APR5665)
Yakov Flier – Chopin, Kabalevsky & Rachmaninov
APR5665  Download only  
'Tatiana Nikolayeva – Tchaikovsky' (APR5666)
Tatiana Nikolayeva – Tchaikovsky
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'Grigory Ginzburg – His early recordings – 1' (APR5667)
Grigory Ginzburg – His early recordings – 1
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'Grigory Ginzburg – His early recordings – 2' (APR5672)
Grigory Ginzburg – His early recordings – 2
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'Rachmaninov: Piano Concertos' (APR6005)
Rachmaninov: Piano Concertos
APR6005  for the price of 1 — Download only  
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