P1384. CARL FRIEDBERG: Mozart, Paradisi, Scarlatti, Pauer, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Brahms & Chopin - Live Performance, Juilliard School of Music Concert Hall, 24 July, 1951 [Excellent sound in an open acoustic]; w.Wolfgang Stresemann Cond. Toledo S.O.: Piano Concerto #2 in B-flat (Brahms) - Live Performance, 7 Nov., 1951; plus an incomplete, undated private recording of Chopin's Scherzo #1 in b, Op.20. [Most acceptable recordings, including the Brahms Concerto which alone has the very occasional tape recording technical issue] [NB: Julia Smith's biography of Friedberg, B1169] (Canada) 2-St Laurent Studio YSL T-1130. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
“Carl Friedberg 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. It was my rare privilege to study under his masterful guidance for more than ten years.
Friedberg was born in Bingen, Germany on September 18, 1872. He began giving private lessons at the age of 16, shortly after meeting and playing for Clara Schumann and Johannes Brahms. Within two years he was supporting himself through his lessons and accompanying jobs while still a student at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt. Shortly after his orchestral debut with the Vienna Philharmonic in 1892 (with Gustav Mahler conducting), he joined the faculty of the Hoch Conservatory. In 1904 he became the principal piano teacher at the Cologne Conservatory, all the while pursuing an international career with both solo and chamber music repertoire.
He made his American debut at Carnegie Hall in November 1914. The onset of the First World War obliged him stay in the United States, where he then taught privately and toured as pianist. He returned to Germany in 1918, replacing Artur Schnabel in the Schnabel/Flesch/Becker Trio. A year later Frank Damrosch recruited Friedberg to teach advanced piano students at the Institute of Musical Art in New York City (1905-1933), a conservatory that gradually merged with the Juilliard School of Music (from 1934 to the present). When I came to him in 1940 as a graduate student, age 19, he had been teaching at the Institute and at Juilliard for 24 years.
A familiar challenge from Mr. Friedberg was ‘Talent Oblige!’ adapted from the French ‘Noblesse Oblige’. The onus was strongest upon fellowship-holders at the Juilliard Graduate School who might not be living up to their expected potential….Friedberg did not focus on technique as such; we were expected to maintain it on our own, so that together with him we could explore only the music. That is not to say he didn’t have wonderful solutions to finger problems, and his specialty: how to sing on the piano.
In an interview for MUSICAL AMERICA in 1954, Friedberg declared his belief that when musical ideas became complete and exciting during a performance, the music should be dominant even if a few notes might go astray. In other words, an obsession with accuracy should not impede the artistic flow and the big line. Above all, one had to pay attention to tone production - a tone made beautiful by pressing weight rather than hitting the keys, and with the arms and elbows floating unrestrictedly.
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. Friedberg once told me that Brahms disliked most women pianists’ performances (excluding Clara Schumann’s, of course) because ‘they banged too much’.
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. Other prominent Friedberg pupils included Maro Ajemian, Malcolm Frager, Jeanne Therrien, Jane Carlson, Bruce Hungerford, Percy Grainger, Ethel Leginska, Yaltah Menuhin, Elly Ney, Erwin Schulhoff and Jascha Zayde.
Mr. Friedberg admired the artistry of the Polish pianist Jan Smeterlin, especially his Chopin interpretations. He also praised the two-piano work of Josef and Rosina Lhevinne, although it was a vastly different kind of piano playing from the Beethoven-Schumann-Brahms tradition. He adored Myra Hess’ playing, and she always stopped to play for him when in New York.
When a new administrative regime took over Juilliard in 1945, there were many changes in the curriculum and faculty. At the end of summer school, a message was sent to Mr. Friedberg’s secretary stating that his services would no longer be required. The dismissal was a topic of conversation for years afterward. Mr. Friedberg’s comment was simply, ‘They don’t need me anymore’. It was puzzling, since even at the age of 73 he was a masterful, energetic teacher who organized winter master classes in New York, Toledo and Kansas City, summer courses in Nantucket and Maine, and played recitals as well. In Toledo, there was a magnificent performance of the Brahms B-flat concerto when he was 80! Age seemed not to touch him - the youthful romance was still to be heard in his playing.
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’. The following year Friedberg had planned a late summer course in Munich, to which he was en route when he caught a cold on the boat going over and died shortly after reaching Trieste, just ten days before his 83rd birthday.”
- Barbara Holmquest
“As he was about to accept the post of head of the piano department of the Berlin Staats Hochschule für Musik, Frank Damrosch persuaded Friedberg to return to New York, where he had given master-classes since 1914, to teach at the Institute of Musical Art which later became the Juilliard School of Music. Friedberg retired from Juilliard in 1946, but continued to teach privately. Embarking in 1955 upon a tour of Europe he became ill on the crossing and died in Merano where he is buried.
Friedberg was noted for his interpretations of Schumann, and particularly Brahms. He gave an all-Brahms recital in Vienna in 1893, and only afterwards learnt that the composer was in the audience. Brahms took Friedberg out that evening but later, when Friedberg asked for advice on one of his compositions, told him that he did not give piano lessons. However, in time, Brahms played all his compositions for Friedberg, with the exception of the ‘Paganini’ Variations Op. 35. It is Friedberg’s link with Brahms that led him to be one of the foremost interpreters of the composer during the 1930s and '40s.
Friedberg did not like making records. In the days of 78rpm discs he felt the sound reproduction to be unrepresentative of the pianist, and was afraid of enshrining a performance that would forever exist as a definitive interpretation; but with the advent of the LP he decided to record, in 1953 when he was eighty-one years old. The most important work from these sessions for Zodiac is the Études Symphoniques by Schumann. However, live performances at the Juilliard School have been preserved, including music by Brahms, and a radio broadcast from the late 1930s of the Piano Quintet in f minor has also survived. Many of these recordings have been reissued on LP by the International Piano Archives at Maryland and more recently on compact disc by Marston.”
- Jonathan Summers, A–Z of Pianists