P1338. FRANCIS PLANTÉ: Chopin, Berlioz-Redon, Mendelssohn, Schumann & Schumann-Debussy; ALFRED GRÜNFELD: Grünfeld plays Grünfeld; Grünfeld plus his Strauss, Schubert, Gounod & Wagner transcriptions. [One of the most historically and musically important of all the YSL issues; the day on which Yves St Laurent and we listened to the Planté 78s, all made in 1928 at his age of 89, we surmised we had made a mistake regarding his age since the brilliant pianism appears to be from a pianist less than half his age!] (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL 78-924. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
“Because French pianist Francis Planté lived nearly a century and remained musically active for most of his life, he is often viewed as a bridge linking vastly different keyboard worlds. Franz Liszt and Hans von Bülow were prominent figures in his early days, while Arthur Rubinstein and Vladimir Horowitz were rising stars in his latter years. He was one of the oldest pianists ever to record and one of the few who lived well into the twentieth century who may have seen Chopin perform. But his historical significance aside, he was one of the finest pianists from the latter half of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Planté was born in the small town of Orthez, southwest France, on March 2, 1839. He began playing the piano at a very early age and gave his debut recital in Paris at the age of seven. He took classes at the Paris Conservatory from Antoine Marmontel and won first prize in a competition there in 1850. That same year, he was presented to Rossini, who engaged Planté to perform regularly at his private concerts. Through him, the youth met Verdi, Dumas, and other luminaries of the day. A wealthy patron, Madame Erard, was also greatly impressed with his talents and often invited him to play for her. Liszt, a frequent guest of hers, admired the youth's pianism. Planté returned to the Paris Conservatory for further study, this time to take instruction in harmony from François Bazin. While there, he won another prize in a piano competition in 1855. He replaced Alkan in a trio that included Alard and Franchomme, and also gave regular recitals until 1861, when he largely withdrew from concert activity for about a decade.
During this period, he lived in the French Pyrénées, presumably to accommodate private study and to indulge his passion for hunting. But he did give concerts in Mont-de-Marsan in 1864, where his uncle was mayor. In 1869, Planté married Léonie Jumel, the daughter of a lawyer. Three years later, he returned to the concert circuit, appearing regularly throughout Europe and Russia. It was now that he made the greatest strides in his career, becoming widely recognized as one of the finest pianists of his time. He also appeared in numerous concerts with Saint-Saëns in duo-piano repertory during this period. He often discussed details of the repertory with audience members at his concerts. Typically, he traveled with a dummy keyboard and performed the most demanding compositions, including many by Liszt. When not concertizing, he lived in Saint-Avit, where he was elected mayor in 1896. Planté gave a memorable concert in 1886 in Paris, playing the Liszt Piano Concerto #2 and Hungarian Rhapsody #2, with the aging composer in attendance and afterward issuing lavish praise for the performances.
In 1908, Planté's wife died; thereafter, he withdrew from concert activity. He did occasionally appear at charity events, such as the two memorable concerts he gave in Paris in 1916. His first and only recordings were made in 1928, when Columbia Records sent a team to Mont-de-Marsan, capturing the pianist at this very late stage of his career in repertory by Chopin, Mendelssohn, and Schumann. The ‘one-take’ performances of the 89-year-old Planté are likely not representative of his art from its prime years of several decades earlier. He died in Saint-Avit on December 19, 1934.”
- Robert Cummings, allmusic.com
“Pianist Alfred Grünfeld (1852-1924) was born in Prague, studied at the Kullak Academy in Berlin and eventually moved to Vienna, where he became a popular teacher and performer. He was court pianist to Emperor Wilhelm I of Germany. He knew Brahms, Strauss and Leschetizky. Based on extant concert programmes, Grünfeld was a pianist of intellect and virtuosic abilities. Famed Viennese critic Eduard Hanslick said of Grünfeld, ‘He is a musician beyond criticism; in public and in private one of the best-known members of Vienna society, and the greatest favorite with all musical people. By his brilliant playing as well as his sweet expression and gay humour, he understands to perfection the art of charming his listeners in Vienna’. That's high praise from a notoriously tough critic.
Grünfeld was the first pianist of significance to leave behind a sizable legacy of recordings, both on early discs and on Welte piano rolls. Alfred Grünfeld's first recordings were made in 1899 for Emile Berliner's newly-formed Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft label, and by the time Grünfeld made his last records in 1914 he had made more than a hundred. Original copies of Grünfeld's records exchange hands at significant rates, and not all of the titles he is known to have made are believed extant. Grünfeld's recordings reveal that he was an outstanding pianist, and not nearly as stylistically old hat as his compositions might have suggested on their own.”