Reviews

GHCD 2377 – Rudolf Ganz as Pianist and Conductor

Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra; Rudolph Ganz (conductor)

To the CD in our Shop


Musik & Theater, Juli / August 2011

Ganz, ganz gross

Mit der Widmung von «Scarbo» aus «Gaspard de la Nuit» an Rudolph Ganz stellte Ravel dem Zürcher Pianisten ein glänzendes Zeugnis aus. Viel von seiner Grösse lassen die Welte-Mignon-Aufnahmen von 1913 und Duo-Art-Einspielungen von 1920 erkennen, die sich durch ein modernes Klavierspiel auszeichnen. Im Unterschied zu seinen Altersgenossen – Ganz lebte von 1877 bis 1972 – schlug er die Tasten mit der linken und der damals nachhinkenden rechten Hand gleichzeitig an. Nebst dieser antiromantischen Auffassung und der spieltechnischen Meisterschaft beeindruckt die Breite des mit Raritäten gespickten Repertoires. Als Interpret grossen Formats erweist sich Rudolph Ganz in Korngolds zweiter Sonate, in der Liedtranskription «Murmelndes Lüftchen» von Adolf Jensen, in der Etüde «La Nuit» von Alexander Glasunow, aber auch in brillanten Stücken von Chopin, Debussy, Granados, Liszt und Mendelssohn. In Griegs «Holberg-Suite» stellt er sich zusätzlich als versierter Dirigent vor. In einem Interview zum 80. Geburtstag kramt der zuerst von Friedrich Hegar und Robert Freund ausgebildete Künstler, der es in den USA zu einem der erfolgreichsten Pianisten und bis zum Artistic Director des Chicago Musical College brachte, aus seinen Erinnerungen an den späteren Lehrer Busoni und die 1920er-Jahre in Berlin.
Walter Labhart

Kulturtipp März 2011

Pionier aus der Schweiz
In seiner Heimatstadt Zürich und in Berlin fiel sein musikalisches Talent früh auf. Voll zur Entfaltung kam es aber erst in Chicago, wohin es ihn 1900 verschlug. Als Pianist, Dirigent, Komponist und Musikvermittler nahm er dort im Konzertleben eine Pionierrolle ein. Rudolph Ganz (1877-1972) ist bei uns kaum mehr bekannt – und doch zu entdecken: Die Zentralbibliothek Zürich, wo ein Teil seines Nachlasses liegt, erinnert mit dieser CD an die grosse Kunst dieses Interpreten.
Thomas Meyer

Audiophile Audition February 14, 2011

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.
Gary Lemco

New Classics.Co January 2011

Rudolph Ganz (1876-1972) was one of the most remarkable Swiss musicians of the 20th-century, as pianist, teacher and conductor. Born in Zürich, he was a pupil of Ferruccio Busoni in Berlin an from his earliest days he knew, performed and recorded music by the latest composers before World War I. When he went to America he became head of piano studies at the Chicago Musical College and conducted the St Louis Symphony Orchestra as well as the New York Philharmonic and Chicago Symphony Orchestras for many years. Ganz continued to give concerts in his 80s as a pianist, and the range of his achievements is considerable. This new CD is a magnificent tribute to a great musician, friend of Bartok, Korngold and Busoni – Ravel dedicated one of his most famous piano works to Ganz – and the conductor who gave the world premieres of music by Copland and Elliott Carter, among many others. This invaluable CD includes recordings from piano rolls of 1913, a radio interview given at the age of 80, and a very rare performance of Grieg’s Holberg Suite recorded in the late 1940s. The booklet notes are fascinatingly detailed and include many photographs. Also new from Guild is TOSCANINI – AVE ATQUE VALE (GHCD 2369/70), a double album featuring the great conductor’s first ever broadcast concert with the NBC Symphony Orchestra, an orchestra founded expressly for him in 1937 in New York. The Maestro’s last appearance with the Orchestra in April 1954 is also included, making this a true ‘hail and farewell’ to the art of the conductor many regard as the greatest of all. GREAT PIANISTS, VOL. 2 (GHCD 2367) features historic live performances by three masters of the keyboard from the latter half of the 20th-century: Alexander Brailowsky, Shura Cherkassky and Rudolf Serkin. The CD includes two performance of Liszt’s virtuoso ‘Don Giovanni’ Fantasy played by Cherkassky and the conductors are Serge Koussevitsky and Dmitri Mitropoulos, lending their own artistry to this unique release.