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Hyperion Records

APR5660 - Heinrich Neuhaus – Beethoven, Scriabin & Chopin
Recording details: Various dates
Moscow, Russia
Release date: May 2007
Total duration: 68 minutes 16 seconds

Heinrich Neuhaus – Beethoven, Scriabin & Chopin
Largo – Allegro  [5'49]  recorded 1946
Adagio  [6'28]  recorded 1946
Allegretto  [5'50]  recorded 1946
No 2 in A minor: Allegretto  [1'59]  recorded 1948
No 5 in D major: Andante cantabile  [1'41]  recorded 1948
No 8 in F sharp minor: Allegro agitato  [1'25]  recorded 1948
No 11 in B major: Allegro assai  [1'17]  recorded 1948
No 12 in G sharp minor: Andante  [1'24]  recorded 1948
Allegro maestoso  [18'21]  recorded 1951
Romance: Larghetto  [8'46]  recorded 1951
Rondo: Vivace  [9'48]  recorded 1951

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
Heinrich Neuhaus was born in Ukraine to a German father and a Polish mother. His father Gustav had been a pupil of Ferdinand Hiller; his mother, Olga, was the sister of Felix Blumenfeld, pianist, conductor, composer and teacher of, among others, Simon Barere, Maria Grinberg, Vladimir Horowitz, Alexander Kamensky and Anatole Kitain. Additionally, via his maternal grandmother, Neuhaus was related to Karol Szymanowski. The latter and his uncle Felix were to be influential mentors and lifelong friends. Neuhaus’s parents ran a private music school and such were its demands on them that the young Heinrich enjoyed only infrequent lessons with his parents. He can to a consider­able extent be regarded as self-taught, driven, as he explained it, by the feeling that from a very early age he was ‘contaminated by music‘. Neuhaus made his first public appear­ances in his native town of Elizavetgrad (now Kirovograd) before his teens: a brief all-Chopin recital and, in 1902, a joint recital with the eleven-year-old violin prodigy Mischa Elman. Three years later he gave his first major recital at the Westphalia Festival in Dortmund after which there were noted appearances in Bonn, Cologne and Berlin where he studied theory and composition with Paul Juon, a pupil of Taneyev who tried to persuade Neuhaus to abandon the piano in favour of composition. In 1906 he made his Warsaw debut and took some lessons from Aleksander Michalowski which undoubtedly influenced his interpretation of Chopin. Introductions from Blumenfeld and Glazunov led to advanced studies with Leopold Godowsky, first in Berlin (1905–7) and later in Vienna (1912–4). Neuhaus returned to Elizavet­grad on the outbreak of the First World War, graduated as an external student from the St Petersburg (then Petrograd) Conservatory in 1915, and took the post of piano professor at the Tiflis College of Music the following year.

Neuhaus’s true path to fame as a perfor­mer and teacher dates from after the October Revolution when he was appointed Piano Professor at the Kiev Conservatory (1918–22). He also frequently appeared on the concert platform both as recitalist – he introduced all ten Scriabin sonatas to the city – and as duo partner to, among others, Blumenfeld and Vladimir Horowitz. It was thence to Moscow where he remained, an indelible part of the capital’s musical life, for the next four decades. Soon after his arrival he repeated the Scriabin sonata cycle and introduced Muscovites to the music of Alexandrov, Myaskovsky, Szymanow­ski and fellow pianist Samuil Feinberg. Always an erratic, nervous performer in public, teaching gradually took precedence over his concert activities and he gave his Farewell Recital in Moscow in 1949. He was the leading piano professor at the Moscow Conservatoire from 1922 to 1964, and Director there between 1935 and 1937. It is almost certain that he relinquished the directorship in order to extricate himself from the lethal political intrigues that were an integral part of everyday life in Stalin’s Soviet Union. Despite this, Neuhaus was arrested and imprisoned by the KGB in November 1941 and it was due largely to the intervention of Emil Gilels that he was released many months later. His home and property confiscated, Neuhaus was exiled to Sverdlovsk, teaching at the Conservatory there until he was readmitted to Moscow in 1944. Neuhaus’s remarkable roll-call of pupils include Emil Gilels, Sviatoslav Richter and Yakov Zak (all three of whom will be featured in this series), his son Stanislav, as well as Ryszard Bakst, Leonid Brumberg, Victor Erebsko, Tatiana Goldfarb, Tamara Gusyeva, Zdenek Hnat, Vladimir Krainev, Maria Kruscelnycka, Radoslav Kvapil, Radu Lupu, Yevgeny Malinin, Lev Naumov, Alexei Nasedkin, Alexander Slobodyanik, Anatol Vedernikov, Eliso Virsaladze, Maria Vlad and Igor Zhukov.

Neuhaus was a ‘philosopher-pianist’. His deep thinking allied to his all-embracing appreciation of the arts in general, plus his skills as a linguist, made him an ideal tutor, stimulating the imagination and nurturing the thinking of his receptive pupils. As with all great teachers he never attempted to impose his personality upon his pupils – rather he encouraged their individuality. His personal motto, ‘You can’t produce talent but you can create a culture in which it thrives’, was born out of his respect for his ‘incomparable teacher’ Godowsky who, Neuhaus claimed, was ‘not a teacher of piano, but first and foremost, a teacher of music’. Not surprisingly, Neuhaus was much loved and deeply admired by his students. Vladimir Krainev, one of his last and most favoured pupils, described him as ‘a truly great phenomenon both in performance and pedagogics’, while Eliso Virsaladze spoke glowingly of ‘a man of rare artistry’. He held most of his classes in concert conditions, with a small gathering of pupils who were encour­aged to play for the student audience rather than the tutor. These lessons were usually held twice a week, with only those wishing to perform doing so. His home was also an ever-open house for his students.

As mentioned, Neuhaus’s ‘concert nerves’ made him an unpredictable and erratic performer. Despite this – perhaps because of this – there could on occasion be a magical aura of improvisation about his inter­preta­tions. He abhorred empty virtuosity: in his view the performer existed solely to serve the music. As a consequence his interpretations combined clarity of thought with a striking simplicity of approach. Indeed, directness and lack of affec­ta­tion were the hallmarks of his style. A master of rubato and dynamic shading, Neuhaus also had an exceptional grasp of the most diverse styles. He was known to pay minute attention to the printed score: there could never be any over-familiarity with a score – the better one knew the music, the more profound and refined was the resulting performance. For Neuhaus mastery of tone was ‘the first and most important task of all the problems of piano tech­nique that a pianist must tackle’. His tone, not ideally captured in his recordings, was much admired: Lazar Berman, for one, never fathomed how he achieved some of his sonorities.

Neuhaus’s immense repertoire, from Bach, Haydn and Mozart to the core classics via much Soviet music, is partially reflected in his discography of both studio and live recordings, the majority of which date from after the Second World War. There are, however, rare pre-war shellac recordings, notably a recor­ding of Beethoven’s ‘Kreutzer’ Sonata with Myron Polyakin and the two Chopin Mazurkas included in this programme. Neuhaus admitted that he was passionate about Beethoven (‘I love him, I worship him’) and his recording of the ‘Tempest’ Sonata is a fine example of his mercurial and improvisatory style of perfor­mance which goes some way to refute the claim that he did not have a strong technique. We do, however, hear that characteristic ‘skating’ over rapid passages, the antithesis of the pinpoint clarity characteristic of the playing of his most famous pupils. This ‘failing’ can be partially explained by the lack of instruction during his early years, but also by the smallness of his hands – he worked ceaselessly in his early career to over­come this handicap. His Scriabin, represented here by five of the opus 11 Preludes, makes a refreshing alternative to the halucinatory Sofronitsky approach. Of his two recordings of the Chopin E minor Concerto the 1951 version conducted by Alexander Gauk has been preferred to the more exposed 1948 recor­ding with Nikolai Anosov. (The accompanying orchestra in this recording has, incidentally, also been variously identified as the ‘USSR Radio Symphony Orchestra’ and ‘Radio Orchestra’.) The pervading poetic melancholy which inhabits almost all Neuhaus’s finest interpretations is much to the fore in this interpretation.

Bryan Crimp © 2007

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