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