Stephen Heller was a Hungarian pianist and composer. He showed musical talent at an early age. When he was 10 years old his father took him to Vienna, Austria where he studied piano with the noted pianist Anton Halm. He toured Germany and lived there from 1830-1838. Composer Robert Schumann heard about him and wrote about him in his music journal (Schumann was a music critic for a time). Heller then went to Paris, France which was a major hot spot for artists, writers, and musicians. He met Chopin, Liszt, Berlioz, and other important figures of the time and in a short period of time built up a reputation as a pianist and piano teacher. Stephen Heller wrote mostly for the piano. He had a gift for writing beautiful melodies. In many pieces there is a grace and sunny character.
Gerald Moore (1899-1987)
Gerald Moore was a famous British piano accompanist. He accompanied many of the great singers and instrumentalists of the 20th Century including: Victoria de Los Angeles, Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, Dietrich Fisher-Dieskau, Yehudi Menuhin, Josef Hassid, Jacqueline Du-Pre, and others. Here is a rare recording of Gerald Moore playing Stephen Heller’s Etude in E Major, Op. 45, No. 9. It was recorded in 1949. Gerald Moore is his best recordings played with a singing tone, fluidity, and natural timing. I hope that you enjoy this simple but nice little piano piece.
Ivry Gitlis is an Israeli violin virtuoso. He has had a long and varied career performing with many of the world’s major orchestras (such as the London Philharmonic, Israel Philharmonic, Berlin Philharmonic, and the Vienna Philharmonic.) Ivry also played with the Beatles in the Rock and Roll Circus film. He is also an actor and composer. He moved to the US in the 1950s. Since the 1960s he has lived in Paris, France. Ivry Gitlis style of playing is very different from violinists of today. He occasionally plays without vibrato, and he uses the bow to get different tonal colours out of the violin. Sometimes the playing is lush, at other times it has a frantic energy to it.
Here is a clip from 1962 of Ivry Gitlis and Georges Pludermacher playing Saint-Saens Rondo Capriccioso. He plays this piece unlike any other violinist I have heard. There is incredible energy and abandon in this performance.
For comparison, listen to this performance of Itzhak Perlman and the Sadler’s Wells Orchestra conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras. Perlman’s interpretation is quite a bit slower than Gitlis. Gitlis really goes for it. Enjoy
Johann Strauss II was an Austrian composer of light classical dance music and operettas. He was the son of Johann Strauss Sr. who was also known for his dance music and operettas. Johann Strauss II was known as the “Waltz King” during his lifetime and was responsible for popularizing the waltz in Vienna, Austria in the 19th Century. Some of his most famous compositions include: the “Blue Danube Waltz”, Tales from the Vienna Woods”, and the operettas “die Fledermaus” and “der Zigeunerbaron”.
Lucia Popp – soprano (1939-1993)
Lucia Popp was a Slovak operatic soprano. During her career she performed at the Vienna State Opera, Metropolitan Opera, Covent Garden, and La Scala. She was also a highly regarded recitalist and lieder singer. She died of brain cancer in 1993. Lucia was 54 years old.
Here is a filmed performance of Lucia Popp in 1965 singing Johann Strauss II’s Voices of Spring Op. 410. She was 25 at the time of this performance.
Joseph Rheinberger was a German organist and composer who lived most of his life in Germany. He was a child prodigy and was already serving as the organist for his local parish church when he was only 7 years old. He also wrote his first composition at the age of 7 or 8. Rheinberger was very particular about the music he liked and the music he disliked. One day, people outside his church noticed smoke coming from the chimney of the church. They went inside the church and discovered Rheinberger tossing sheetmusic into the fireplace.
Rheinberger was a prolific composer. Today he is best known for his elaborate and challenging organ music. He composed 36 solo pieces, 22 trios, 20 sonatas, and several pieces for violin and organ which are quite beautiful. Here is the Praeludium from his Suite for Violin and Organ, Op.166 from a Naxos recording played by violinist Line Most and organist Marie Ziener. Enjoy!
Henryk Wieniawski was a Polish violinist and composer. In 1843 (when he was only 8 years old) he was accepted into the Paris Conservatoire. Wieniawski was a violin virtuoso and toured quite extensively during his career. He composed several pieces for violin and piano that he often played in recitals when on tour. Wieniawski was a wonderful melodist, but his pieces are often very challenging to play and require a virtuoso technique. A violin competition was named after him. He is to the violin what Chopin is to the piano.
Here is a video clip of violinist Itzhak Perlman (accompanied on the piano by Janet Guggenheim) playing Wieniawski’s Etude Caprice Op. 18 No.4. This video clip was taken from a film of a tour Perlman did in Russia. As you will see in the video, this piece is extremely difficult to play. Perlman is such a master of his instrument that he makes it look easy.
Witold Małcużyński was a famous Polish pianist who specialized in playing the music of Chopin. He studied piano with Margarite Long and Isidor Philipp. He received some coaching from the famous pianist Paderewski and competed in the Third International Chopin Competition in Warsaw, Poland in 1937. He won third prize in that competition. Małcużyński’s piano playing had great passion and poetry.
Here are two recordings of him playing the Chopin Waltz in D Flat Major, Op. 70, No. 3, and the Chopin Waltz in c sharp minor Op. 64, No. 2. Enjoy!
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
Johannes Brahms was a 19th century German composer, pianist, and conductor. Today he is best known for his German Requiem, his 4 symphonies, piano concerto, violin concerto, and many pieces for solo piano.
On December 2, 1889, Johannes Brahms was recorded playing two pieces on the piano at the home of Dr. Fellinger and his wife in Vienna, Austria by Theo Wangemann (a associate of Thomas Edison who was the world’s first recording engineer). Brahms played a segment of his Hungarian Dance No. 1 in g minor, and a paraphrase of a Josef Strauss Polka called die Libelle. The wax cylinder was made of soft wax and the earliest cylinders were damaged after each play rendering them unplayable after they had been used only a few times. The Fellinger family no doubt cherished this historic recording and played it many times. It became cracked and badly worn. The recording was played many years later on a radio station and somebody recorded the broadcast. The recording was later transferred onto a disc and many people tried to get rid of the surface noise to better expose the music hidden underneath. Musicologists and mathematicians are still working on it to try and de-noise the recording but it is proving to be very difficult. What they most likely will end up doing is using a clean modern recording of the music and figuring out approximately what is being played where and adjust the tempo and the note lengths. This recording is important because it is a time capsule into the past and can tell musicologists and performing musicians how people in the 19th century may have played the piano. They didn’t play the way pianists play now with a strict unbending tempo. There was a lot of tempo variation and the right and left hands didn’t always play strictly together. Enjoy this rare recording.
Lili Kraus (1905-1986)
Lili Kraus was born in Budapest Hungary in 1903. She studied at the Franz Liszt Academy. At 17 years of age she studied at the Budapest Conservatory under Zoltán Kodály and Béla Bartók. She later studied piano with the famous pianist Artur Schnabel.
During the 1930s, Lili toured Europe, Japan, Australia, and South Africa. Lili and her family were captured by the Japanese and interned in separate concentration camps from June 1943 until August 1945. After the war Lili moved to New Zealand where she played, performed, and taught piano. She became a citizen of New Zealand and toured a lot and taught many students. From 1967-1983 Lili taught piano at the Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas. She then moved to Asheville, North Carolina and died in 1986.
Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
Franz Schubert was an Austrian composer, pianist, and violinist. He is known today for his famous ‘Trout’ Quintet, Unfinished Symphony, piano sonatas, and his more than 600 lieder, or German Art Songs. Schubert was an extremely prolific composer during his short life (he lived to be 31 years old and died from Syphilis). Schubert was one of the pallbearers at Beethoven’s funeral in 1827. He died the following year.
Here are selections from Franz Schubert’s Valses Sentimentales op. 50 played by Lili Kraus. I hope that you enjoy this beautiful music.
On September 13, 1889 violinist Herr Krahmer and pianist Herr Schmalfuss recorded Beethoven’s Romance in F Major, op.50. Here is that recording.) First you will hear an extract from the piece played by Louise Chisson (recorded in 2010). Then you will hear the 1889 recording which will be followed by a recording of the whole piece played by Jascha Heifetz with the RCA Victor Orchestra.
The 1889 recording is in very bad shape and it is hard to make out the violin and piano. If you listen carefully you can hear the instruments. In December of 1889 Johannes Brahms was recorded playing the piano. A historic year indeed! Enjoy.
Here is a recording of ‘Két Gitár’ (a traditional gypsy tune called Two Guitars) and Brahms Hungarian Dance no.5 performed in a gypsy style by gypsy violinist Roby Lakatos and pianist Frantisek Janoska for ABC Radio.
Roby Lakatos is a gypsy violinist who has a family that goes back seven generations of gypsy musicians all the way back to the “King of Gypsy violinists” Janos Bihari. He can play in just about any style (gypsy music, classical, and jazz) and has performed with many of the world’s great orchestras as well as his own ensemble. He makes playing the violin look effortless and doesn’t even break out in a sweat when he plays.
Frantisek Janoska is an up and coming pianist who is comfortable playing gypsy music as well as jazz. He often performs with Roby Lakatos’ ensemble and his brother Roman (a jazz violinist). Frantisek Janoska has his own group which performs gypsy music as well as jazz and classical music in a gypsy style.