After speaking with many of my students, I realised that many of them were unaware of the existence of the wonderful pianists from the golden era. Without this being their fault (as currently there are so many wonderful pianists that one does not have a need to look out for more recordings), I felt that this would be a great shame if those, who play or just listen to piano music, will never learn about the pianists from our past.
For a start, here are 6 recordings which I highly recommend for you to listen to:
1. Moriz Rosenthal (17 December 1862 – 3 September 1946) was a Polish pianist and composer. He was an outstanding pupil of Franz Liszt and a friend and colleague of some of the greatest musicians of his age, including Johannes Brahms, Johann Strauss, Anton Rubinstein, Hans von Bülow, Camille Saint-Saëns, Jules Massenet and Isaac Albéniz.
He is one of my most favourite pianists of the golden era. The lightness of his style, mixed with artistry and beautiful sound control always moves me to the core.
Rosenthal's usually malicious wit was legendary. A colleague once played Rosenthal's arrangement of Chopin's Minute Waltz in thirds at a recital, after which Rosenthal thanked the pianist "for the most enjoyable quarter of an hour of my life". Towards the end of his life Rosenthal lived at the Great Northern Hotel in New York, which he referred to as "more Northern than Great".
His pupils included Charles Rosen, Robert Goldsand, and Jorge Bolet. An anthology of Rosenthal's autobiographical writings were published as Moriz Rosenthal: In Word and Music (ed. Mark Mitchell, Allan Evans. Indiana University Press, 2006), which also contains a CD of representative and unpublished recordings. (This information was taken from the Wikipedia article which I suggest you read in full).
2. My great-granduncle Vladimir Horowitz does not require an introduction, however recently YouTube started surfacing some of his rare recordings. This is one with him playing Poulenc pieces, which despite the old recording quality, shows his mastery of sound and tempo development.
3. Bernhard Stavenhagen (24 November 1862 – 25 December 1914) was a German pianist, composer and conductor. His musical style was influenced by Franz Liszt, and as a conductor he was a strong advocate of new music. Born in Greiz, he commenced his piano study in 1868. His family moved to Berlin in 1874 where he began studying with Theodor Kullak. He entered university there in 1878, privately studying composition with Friedrich Kiel.
In 1885 Stavenhagen became a pupil of Franz Liszt in Weimar, travelling with him to Rome, Budapest, Paris, London and Bayreuth. After Liszt's death in 1886, Stavenhagen embarked on a ten-year series of piano concert tours in Europe and to North America. Among his piano roll recordings is a performance of Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12 (below); he annotated this recording to suggest that it was how he had heard Liszt play it. (This text is taken from Wikipedia article)
4. Wanda Aleksandra Landowska (5 July 1879 – 16 August 1959) was a Polish harpsichordist and pianist whose performances, teaching, writings and especially her many recordings played a large role in reviving the popularity of the harpsichord in the early 20th century. She was the first person to record Johann Sebastian Bach's Goldberg Variations on the harpsichord in 1933. She became a naturalised French citizen in 1938 (taken from Wikipedia).
The incredible sound of this recording commands mastery and authority, incredible clarity and control of the instrument. Wanda Landowska decided to devote her career to the harpsichord rather than the piano, against the wishes of her friends, who thought she had a promising future as a pianist. I highly recommend you to listen to all her available recordings as she is an incredible musician.
4. Frederic Archibald Lamond (28 January 1868 – 21 February 1948) was a Scottish classical pianist and composer, and the second-last surviving pupil of Franz Liszt. Lamond was born in Glasgow, Scotland. After exhausting the resources of his home town, he continued his musical study abroad in Germany under Max Schwarz and Hans von Bülow. He studied with Franz Liszt at Weimar and Rome in 1885, and in London in 1886. In 1886 Lamond also met Johannes Brahms, who coached him in his own works. Lamond also became acquainted with Anton Rubinstein in Germany, hearing him conduct and play many times there, and later in Russia in the 1890s.
In addition to becoming one of the early champions of Brahms' piano works, Lamond was considered the primary authority on Beethoven's piano music before Artur Schnabel, and Breitkopf & Härtel published his edition of the piano sonatas. In 1893 Lamond was invited by Vasily Safonov to Moscow to play Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto in B-flat minor, Op. 23, at the request of the composer. While in Russia, he met Alexander Scriabin, whose Second Sonata, Op. 19, Lamond later played (taken from Wikipedia).
The masterful phrasing of this pianist and softness of the tone sounds beautiful. It also somehow sounds very different to the playing of pianists of our time.
5. Arthur Friedheim (26 October 1859 – 19 October 1932) was a Russian-born concert pianist who was one of Franz Liszt's foremost pupils. Friedheim was born in Saint Petersburg in 1859. He began serious study of music at age eight. He later studied for a year with noted pianist Anton Rubinstein but disapproved of Rubinstein's disorganised teaching methods and went instead to Liszt. At first Liszt did not like Friedheim's playing, though he admitted the individuality of Friedheim's style. Harold C. Schonberg asserts in his book The Great Pianists that another reason Liszt may have been hesitant was that Friedheim had studied with Rubinstein, of whom Liszt may not have been terribly fond (taken from Wikipedia).
Listening to this recording made me think about the pianos of the 20th century. These days the pianos have changed, they are more powerful and loud. As well as the recording process and recording equipment. However in this recording we can hear the richness of the instrument and the big dynamic range of this pianist.
6. Rosalyn Tureck (December 14, 1913 – July 17, 2003) was an American pianist and harpsichordist who was particularly associated with the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. However, she had a wide-ranging repertoire that included works by composers including Ludwig van Beethoven, Johannes Brahms and Frédéric Chopin, as well as more modern composers such as David Diamond, Luigi Dallapiccola and William Schuman. Diamond's Piano Sonata No. 1 was inspired by Tureck's playing. (Taken from Wikipedia).
I adore Rosalyn's recording of The Well Tempered Clavier. She is one of my favourite interpreters of Bach. Her mastery of sound, style and tempo is admirable. If you are not familiar with this wonderful pianist, I highly recommend you listen to her records, which recently became more available on many online platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music.
I hope you enjoyed these recordings.
Please feel free to look out for other recordings by these wonderful musicians.
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