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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDH55206
Recording details: May 1991
Doopsgerinde Kerk, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Produced by C Jared Sacks
Engineered by C Jared Sacks
Release date: September 1991
Total duration: 16 minutes 45 seconds

'A musical as well as a technical revelation … de Waal's virtuosity is awe-inspiring, and he's complemented throughout by a beautifully natural and wide-ranging recording' (Gramophone)

'This disc is amazing … wild stuff, to which Rian de Waal does ample justice' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Pure delight! And one of this year's outstanding recordings' (Fanfare, USA)

'Thunderously exciting pianism' (CDReview)

'De Waal offers a dumbfounding version of the Kunstlerleben 'symphonic metamorphosis', with its virtiginously virtuosic rethinking of the Strauss waltz, as well as several Schubert transcriptions and the equally astonishing 'contrapuntal arrangement' of Weber's Invitation to dance. All of these are thrown off with a fine sense of style—the wit and exactitude of de Waal's phrasing in Kunstlerleben have to be heard to be believed' (International Piano)

'Outstanding performances of transcendentally virtuoso music by a renowned virtuoso recorded superbly and presented immaculately' (MusicWeb International)

Passacaglia '44 variations, cadenza and fugue on the opening of Schubert's 'Unfinished' Symphony'

Other recordings available for download
Marc-André Hamelin (piano)
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The Passacaglia (44 variations, cadenza and fugue on the opening theme of Schubert’s ‘Unfinished Symphony’) was completed in October 1927. It was Godowsky’s last major composition, written as a tribute to Schubert on the centenary of his death. While the variations and cadenza were composed swiftly in about a fortnight, the fugue took him several more weeks. Its completion gave him ‘new strength and a feeling of aloofness … I simply believe that [the Passacaglia] is a great expression of human loftiness. While composing it I felt that I was purifying my soul and looking closer into eternity’.

Abram Chasins, who knew Godowsky well at this time, recalled in his book Speaking of Pianists the evening when he, along with a few others (including the great Josef Hofmann), gathered in Godowsky’s apartment in New York to hear the work for the first time. The composer played it from green-coloured proof sheets stacked on the piano rack. ‘And how he played! This was sheer enchantment, both the work itself and Godowsky’s pianism. It had the cool, colorful clarity of a stained-glass window. Although I was greatly moved and impressed by what I heard, Godowsky’s effortless mastery made me unaware of the vastness of his pianistic feat that night. Years later I realized it when one of the great virtuosos told me he had worked on the “fiendish piece” for a year, several hours each day, and had finally given up the unequal struggle. “It is impossible to master”, he said. I felt tactful that day and refrained from telling him with what devastating ease Godowsky had disposed of it, making it seem like nothing at all.’ Simon Barere played it, Vladimir Horowitz prepared it but never programmed it (though his reported excuse for not doing so—‘It needs six hands to play it’—is surely a comment on something other than his digital ability). Yet until recently very few had tackled it in public. Godowsky gave its London premiere at the Queen’s Hall in April 1928; Rian de Waal gave its second London performance in April 1991.

from notes by Jeremy Nicholas © 1991

Other albums featuring this work
'Godowsky: Sonata & Passacaglia' (CDA67300)
Godowsky: Sonata & Passacaglia
MP3 £7.99FLAC £7.99ALAC £7.99Buy by post £10.50 Studio Master: FLAC 24-bit 44.1 kHz £9.00ALAC 24-bit 44.1 kHz £9.00 CDA67300  Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available

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