P0065. Carl Friedberg: The Brahms / Schumann Tradition, incl. Brahms, Schumann, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Chopin, Mozart, Pauer, Cramer, Paradisi, Scarlatti & Friedberg. 2-Marston 52015, from Private Recordings & Live Performances, 1949 & 1951, Juilliard. Transfers by Ward Marston. Final Sealed Copy! - 638335201528
“Carl Friedberg was a pianist with bona fide ties to the old world of the 19th Century. He knew Clara Schumann and Brahms, and in the 1880's played extensively for them. He performed as soloist under Mahler and was associated with many other now legendary musicians of the golden era….This is a release of historical significance, but also of very high quality…."
- David Mulbury, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, Jan./Feb., 2004
"Carl Friedberg harbored a lifelong antipathy to the recording process. According to his pupil and biographer Julia Smith, Friedberg “was never satisfied with the sound of the piano even at best as it was reproduced on recordings. A far more important reason is that he did not wish to have his conception of a given work forever stamped by one set, or fixed interpretation achieved in a recording session. For him, art existed as the sublime improvisation of an intensive mood which must always remain variable and flexible.” Nonetheless, during the spring of 1953—two years before his death—Friedberg was persuaded to record a few selected works for release by the small Zodiac label. The result was a single 40-minute LP that stayed in the catalog for barely three years and soon became a prime collector’s item. Some additional repertoire was also taped for possible release by Zodiac, but these items remained unedited and were not issued until 1985, when they appeared in an LP album produced by the International Piano Archives at Maryland.
The present pair of CDs contains what is believed to be the complete repertoire from Friedberg’s Zodiac sessions. In all cases the original master tapes were used as source material. Augmenting these studio recordings are live recital performances given by Friedberg at the Juilliard School of Music during the summers of 1949 and 1951. Both programs were broadcast, and lacquer transcription discs—apparently made on a home disc-cutter during the broadcasts—have survived of some, but not all, of their contents. As far as possible, the original lacquers have been transferred for the present release, but in certain instances it was necessary to draw upon existing tape copies. Isolated sonic problems are evident in some of these recordings, such as radio interference during the Chopin Impromptu in G-Flat. However, where feasible every effort has been made to overcome these flaws.
One of the unique aspects of Friedberg’s musicianship was his ability to create short improvisations of remarkable quality and coherence, employing a distinctive musical and pianistic approach in each. Fortunately, several examples of his improvisations were captured by the microphones. These can be found on the second disc of the present collection.
The only remaining documentation of Friedberg’s pianism, apart from a few reproducing piano rolls that he disowned, consists of airchecks of three or four chamber music collaborations dating from around 1940 plus an amateur tape of his 1951 appearance with the Toledo (Ohio) Symphony. A broadcast of the Brahms F Minor Quintet with the Perolé Quartet is believed to feature Friedberg as the pianist, although there are no announcements on the one known copy of the performance. There may also be off-the-air transcriptions in existence of trios by Beethoven and Brahms with the Trio of New York (comprised of Friedberg, violinist Felix Salmond and cellist Daniil Karpilowsky). It is hoped that these performances will see the light of day in the near future."
- Donald Manildi
"Carl Friedberg (1872-1955) is remembered today as one of the great pianists of the last century, perhaps the most significant of that group of Schumann and Brahms pupils who left a substantial legacy of recordings. Less well remembered is that he was also one of the outstanding pedagogues and supreme musicians of his time.
When Friedberg met Brahms at the Schumann household, frequently playing the composer’s works to him, an additional dimension entered his intuitive understanding, enhancing his natural romantic feeling. Brahms felt his music was too often played with vulgar force, and he wanted a more subtle depth and breadth of tone. Among Friedberg's many pupils, the one considered most likely to carry on his performance and teaching traditions was the highly gifted William Masselos—a star pupil from the age of nine. His Brahms and Schumann repertory and his championing of contemporary piano music earned him great acclaim.
Age seemed not to touch him—the youthful romance was still to be heard in his playing [at age 80]. In 1954 Friedberg returned to Europe for his first visit in 15 years. When asked what prompted this journey, his reply was typical: ‘To hear the nightingales sing’.”
- Barbara Holmquest, Program Notes