Rudolf Ganz, piano = CHOPIN: Waltz, Op. 34, No. 1; Nocturne, Op. 9, No. 1; DEBUSSY: La fille aux cheveux de lin; La puerta del vino; GLAZUNOV: La Nuit, Op. 31, No. 3; GRANADOS: Danza Espanola No. 5; JENSEN: Murmelndes Lueftchen; KORNGOLD: Moderato and Scherzo from Piano Sonata No. 2 in E Major, Op. 2; LISZT: Liebestraume No. 3; Mignon’s Lied; MENDELSSOHN: Spring Song, Op. 62, No. 6; GRIEG: Holberg Suite – Rudolf Ganz, piano; Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra/Rudolf Ganz, conductor; Bonus Interview with the 80-year-old Rudolf Ganz – Guild GHCD 2377, 74:55 [Distr. by Albany] **** :
Swiss musician extraordinaire Rudolf Ganz (1877-1962) enjoyed a spectacular career as pianist, pedagogue and conductor, a disciple of Ferruccio Busoni who took the master’s dicta on modern music to heart, championing the avant-garde even to the advent of Carter, Rorem, and Cage. Conductor Felix Weingartner commented on Ganz, with whom he had performed the Liszt E-flat Concerto in 1906:
Natural warmth, vast knowledge and marvelous [technique] produce
wonderful sympathetic expression. Ganz stands today unequaled among
the younger piano virtuosos.
Guild assembles a collation of Duo-Art rolls (1920) and Welte-Mignon inscriptions (1913) that testify to fluid, brilliantly light, and aggressively pointed interpretations of mainstream keyboard repertory. Among those pianists who discarded the technique of having the left hand anticipate the right in attacks, Ganz produces a homogeneous tone that enjoys a canny knowledge of both harmony and architecture. His Liszt Dream of Love moves without lathered artificial sentiment, and his Granados has an inner drive that still nurtures the top line as a singer accompanied by fluent guitars. Liszt’s transcription of Goethe’s Mignon’s Lied elicits from Ganz a small tonepoem whose mercurial character embraces song, declamation, fire, and ardent poetry. Even the Mendelssohn Spring Song proceeds without bathos, a feat few besides Josef Hofmann could bring off. The Jensen piece is pure bravura, as is Glazunov’s music-box etude La Nuit, a lovely string of pearls.
The opening Valse brillante by Chopin has power and schwung, a marvelously athletic salon experience. The expansive B-flat Minor Nocturne, however, projects a thoughtful dramatic hue, highly subjective, relishing both Chopin’s modal harmony and his rhythmic freedoms. The central section–rising above a long series of D-flat Major chords–invokes from Ganz emotional disquiet. The contrasting quiet simplicity of Debussy’s The Girl with the Flaxen Hair is offset by the potent metrics and sonic density of La Puerta del Vino, and each has its requisite poignancy of style. Pianists may recall that Maurice Ravel dedicated “Scarbo” from Gaspard de la Nuit to Ganz.
Ganz performs two of the four-movements of the Piano Sonata No. 2 in E Major, Op. 2 (1910), by Erich Korngold, a work cast in stormy strokes in harmonies that thunder in chromatic waves often far from their tonal key center. The Moderato movement plays more like an Allegro, passionate and rhapsodic, the ardor close to Scriabin’s inflamed poems and just as fervently wayward, perhaps throwing occasional fireballs reminiscent of Brahms and Richard Strauss. The Scherzo possesses all the Gordian Knots we know from Reger and Zemlinsky, Viennese in temperament but angry, willful, and colossally percussive. The more blazing passages might hearken to the Richard Strauss Burleske, but the harmonic basis seems more unstable. If a radio program were to be devoted to Rudolf Ganz, it would have to be entitled “Fair Hearing.”
Ganz made his conducting debut around 1920, assuming the reigns in St. Louis in 1921. His inscription of Grieg’s patriotic string serenade, the Holberg Suite (1948, from Vermutl, New York) receives a stunningly aggressive reading especially in the opening Praeludium. If the Sarabande and exquisite Air exude plaintive mystery, the Gavotte combines rustic power and demure tenderness. The sprightly Rigaudon dispels any gloom with countrified revelry that “scrapes” the fiddles’ majesty out of the barnyard.
A four-and-one-half minute interview (in French) with Rudolf Ganz from Lausanne Radio on the occasion of his 80th birthday closes with Ganz recounting his early studies with Fritz Blumer in Strasbourg, a man he found intelligent, frank, direct, and much versed in Beethoven. Of Busoni, he recalls the Master’s mastery of over thirty concertos and a natural affection for young musicians and modern music.
“Perhaps the most fluently consummate performer on the keyboard of all time…”