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Marian Filar, piano = CHOPIN & BRAHMS works (1949-52) – MeloClassic

Marian Filar, piano = CHOPIN: Ballade No. 1 in g minor, Op. 23; Ballade No. 2 in F Major, Op. 38; Polonaise in B-flat Major, Op. 71, No. 2; Barcarolle in F-sharp Major, Op. 60; Scherzo No. 2 in b-flat minor, Op. 31; Impromptu No. 1 in A-flat Major, Op. 29; Preludes, Op. 28: Nos. 1-12; BRAHMS: Intermezzo in B Major, Op. 76, No. 4; Intermezzo in A Major, Op. 118, No. 2; Intermezzo in C Major, Op. 119, No. 3 – Marian Filar, p. – MeloClassic MC 1026, 67:51  [www.meloclassic.com] *****:

Polish piano virtuoso Milan Filar (1917-2012) has a tale to be told much in the manner of the film The Pianist – about his fellow countryman Wladyslaw Szpilman – a powerful combination of talent, oppression, courage, and human will. A pupil of Kazimierz Wilkomirski and Zbigniew Drzewiecki, Filar had already won recognition for his work with the Warsaw Philharmonic before the Nazi invasion of Poland and the subsequent murder of Filar’s immediate family. Filar and brother Joel participated in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and suffered imprisonment at Buchenwald and assorted concentration camps. After the liberation by the Allies, Filar made his way to Wiesbaden and tutelage of Walter Gieseking (was not exactly a Nazi resister). Eventually, Filar made his way to the United States and a formidable career in Philadelphia and the Settlement Music School. He accepted a post at Temple University with the Boyer School of Music and Dance.  Filar’s 2002 book From Buchenwald to Carnegie Hall should provide another ambitious film-maker besides Spielberg or Polanski adequate cinematic and musical materials. Perhaps a restoration CD project will bring back Filar’s Colisseum inscriptions.

The assembled recital, from studio venues 1949-1952, illuminates us as to exactly why Walter Gieseking had become thoroughly enchanted with this young refugee who had suffered incredible losses from Nazism and had sought life-crisis advice from the master German pianist. Not only does the Chopin under Filar enjoy a native sensibility without “accent,” but the facility of transition between Chopin’s sectionalized dance and dramatic forms occurs without any loss of dynamic pulse. The G Minor Ballade served as Filar’s calling card, and it occupies first place among a group from 19 September 1949.  The rare, early Chopin Polonaise in B-flat Major enjoys a breezy elan that urges our rehearing. The massive yet delicately colored  Barcarolle ebbs and flows with the studied, naturally evocative pulse that rivals in musicianship what both Lipatti and Horowitz bring to this epic piece.  Often, Filar utilizes a diminuendo of soft pedal to finish am musical point that others might have hammered home.

Both the Second Scherzo and Impromptu No. 1 derive from a Frankfurt session 8 July 1952. Not so monolithic as the DGG inscription by Michelangeli, the Scherzo manages an aristocratic resonance, with fleet, nuanced figurations in the middle section. The Impromptu has the same dragonfly acrobatics we expect from such as Josef Hofmann or Mischa Levitzky, but everywhere intelligent and beautifully sculpted.  The set of Chopin Preludes (10 July 1952) emerges as finished whole, a thoroughly organic unity of the first half of the complete odyssey.  Since the  instantiate every aspect of the Chopin ethos, any and all of these miniatures testify to Filar’s comprehensive absorption of the style. The b minor stands out for its eerie legato and tragic sensibility, as does the more volatile F-sharp Minor.  The B Major seems to anticipate every rainy-day note Brahms ever wrote.  The G-sharp Minor proffers a magnificently concentrated mazurka in military garb, true, but rife with the national dance that forgives everything.

Apropos of rain, the Brahms B Major Intermezzo exudes a natural pathos and haunted melancholy that speaks volumes of what Gieseking may have bequeathed Filar.  Filar (9 July 1952) eschews the tendency to make the A Major, Op. 118 Intermezzo over-ripe and cloying.  Instead, he carries the progression of falling figures to what Rachmaninov deemed “the point,” so as to maintain the nobility of line.  The rhythmically guileful C Major Intermezzo from Op. 119, a perennial encore for Gieseking and Rubinstein, certifies a natural Romantic pianist in Filar for whom music – just as for Nietzsche – life had not been condemned as a mistake.

Again, the MeloClassic production proves first-rate, the excellent liner notes’ having a last-page photo of Filar seated with conductor Hermann Abendroth.

—Gary Lemco

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