Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Chopin . . . . Wonderful Chopin

After my previous two posts you may be asking yourselves:

Does this fella, Eddie hear Offenbach or Bach often? LOL

Sorry, could not resist that one! Yes I hear Bach often but this week I have a change for us in the form of wonderful, wonderful Chopin and one of my all time favourite compositions which I have been meaning to post about for some time. Chopin's prodigiously difficult Sonata No 3 in B Minor.

I have the music and have tried in vain to play it - even at very slow speed. Utterly impossible!!! Mrs Bluelights has on several occasions protested that I am playing all the wrong note to which I reply, "No my dear they are all the right notes . . . . . but in the wrong order!" LOL.

Enough of the fun . . . let's hear the fantastic final movement, played by a chap who sadly died very young in 1950 from Hodgkin's Disease aged just 33. His name, Dinu Lipatti, born in Romania. He was a fantastic pianist and this recording was made in 1947.

I could have chosen several more modern pianists for comparison, including Emile Gillels, Katsaris, and other greats but instead I was attracted to this enthusiastic performance by a young lady called Colleen Lee, who is acclaimed as one of the leading piano talents of her generation.

Now I just cannot resist posting yet another rendition which 'knocked me down' . . . . . . and . . . . . wait for it . . . . . . I am going back in time to 1923 for a recording complete with warts and all plus tape hiss . . . . but who cares? What a fantastic technique and we can hear every note, not drowned by the loud pedal as in some later and contemporary recordings. Her name was Lucy Hickenlooper.

For those wanting to know more about her here is what I found:

Her name was Lucy Hickenlooper, and she was born in San Antonio, Texas, August 8, 1880. Later, not surprisingly, her manager Henry Wolfsohn thought that a name change was a necessary career move. She chose the professional name of Olga Samaroff from a remote Russian relative.
At the age of 12, she was taken by her grandmother to Europe where she remained until she was 21. Her talents were so impressive that she was given a scholarship in the piano class at the Paris Conservatoire thus becoming the first American woman to be granted that honor. There she studied with among others, Elie Delaborde (the illegitimate son of Charles-Valentin Alkan). Samaroff writes that when she was first introduced to Delaborde, he gruffly ordered her to play. While she played he restlessly beat time with his foot ..muttering to himself a sort of running commentary on Americans and their lack of musical talent. It was the first injustice that I had encountered in life. When Delaborde noticed that her name (Hickenlooper) had a Germanic origin, he suddenly found that her playing had vastly improved. After completing her studies at the Paris Conservatoire, she made a highly successful debut in Paris. Samaroff then married a Russian engineer, Boris Loutzky, and went to Berlin (1898) where she studied with Ernest Hutcheson, Otis B Boise and Ernest Jedliczka (pupil of Anton Rubinstein and Tchaikovsky). During her Berlin years, she met Richard Strauss, Felix Weingartner, Artur Nikisch, and Gustav Mahler among others. Later she performed the Grieg Piano Concerto several times under Mahlers direction in the United States. Her brief marriage to Loutzky was annulled.
Samaroffs American debut took place on January 8, 1905 at Carnegie Hall with the New York Symphony Orchestra. Her debut was a complete success.
About 1908, she met an obscure English organist and choir master who was a recent arrival in New York His name was Leopold Stokowski. Evidently, Samaroffs families (Hickenlooper-Grunewald) were also prominent members of the City of Cincinnati as they were able to secure for the unknown Stokowski the position of conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. (1909- 1912). Thus began the career of a legendary conductor. Samaroff and Stokowski were married in 1911. Their marriage ended in divorce twelve years later.
About 1920, Samaroff performed nearly all of Beethovens keyboard works in several cities. The concertos were, of course, conducted by her husband who by that time was conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra. This project included all 32 of the piano sonatas. (There have been rumors for years that it was Stokowski who pushed Samaroff into giving these recitals. Whatever the truth is, they were enormously significant both musically and historically). Unfortunately, except for Samaroffs recording of the Beethoven-Rubinstein Ruins of Athens Turkish March there are no other compositions of Beethovens music in her discography. (She was asked by RCA Victor to record the Moonlight Sonata. There were four takes. She did not approve any of them).

In 1926, Samaroff suffered an injury to her left arm. She subsequently devoted herself to teaching at Julliard and the Philadelphia Conservatory. She held both positions until her death after a brief illness. She died in her New York apartment on May 17, 1948.

Among her many students were, William Kapell, Claudette Sorel, Rosalyn Turek, Eugene List, Sigi Weissenberg, Raymond Lewenthal, Augustin Anievas and Bruce Hungerford.
Her pupil Claudette Sorell writes, Life with Madam was a continuous series of surprises, adventures and brainstorms. Nobody but Madam would call at 7 a.m. or 12.30 p.m. as she suddenly had decided a certain pupil should demonstrate the Romantic Period at her famous Laymans Music Courses at Town Hall, the following day. She would say, I do not care if you have to stay up all night long, but get it ready. And, invariably, the piece was prepared and the pupil was ready to collapse after the performance.

How about that!

1 comment:

  1. Eddie....I listened to all three of these. Interesting how vastly different they are because of technique. I like the last pianist's playing... (Lucy Hickenlooper.) I would love to have seen her expression, but I can feel it through listening to her play. I agree with you that the lack of the sustaining pedal is what sets this one apart from the others. They are all magnificent musicians.
    Thank you for sharing this music with us.
    Have a lovely week....


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