Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Walter Gieseking Plays Mozart

This is my Tuesday Blog. from May-19-2015  

For readers who are following my month-long series of piano recital podcasts by great pianists of yesterday and today – Ciccolini playing Satie, Kempff playing Brahms or even last week’s Vinyl’s Revenge post featuring Tamás Vásáry playing Chopin, today’s Once Upon the Internet is another piano recital featuring a late great pianist of the 20th century performing works from the piano catalog of one composer.

Today’s feature composer is Wolfgang Mozart, who leaves us with a rich catalog for the solo piano as well as 27 “numbered” piano concertos and chamber works that place the piano in a predominant role. The Mozart catalog features 18 “numbered” sonatas for solo piano, as well as a handful or more of sonatas for piano four hands or two pianos. In fact, in a past post on this blog we featured four of Mozart’s piano sonatas – including the oft-performed sonata no. 11 (or the “Turkish rondo” sonata). Today, we offer a six more Mozart sonatas to add to your music collection (from the “front nine” of the series, nos. 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, and 9) composed between 1774 and 1777.

Born in Lyon, France, the son of a German doctor and lepidopterist, today’s featured pianist Walter Gieseking (1895-1956) first started playing the piano at the age of four, but without formal instruction. From 1911 to early 1916, he studied at the Hanover Conservatory where his mentor was the director Karl Leimer.

Gieseking made his first appearance as a concert pianist in 1915, but was conscripted in 1916 and spent the remainder of World War I as a regimental bandsman. His first London piano recital took place in 1923, establishing an exceptional and lasting reputation.

During World War II Gieseking continued to reside in Germany, while continuing to concertize in Europe. Because he performed in Nazi-occupied countries such as France, he was later accused of having collaborated with and supported the Nazi Party.

Like many German artists, Gieseking was blacklisted during the initial postwar period but by January 1947, he had been cleared by the U.S. military government, enabling him to resume his career although his U.S. tour scheduled for January 1949 was cancelled owing to the protest of a number of organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League and the American Veterans Committee. Although there had been other protests (in Australia and Peru, for example), his 1949 American tour was the only group of concerts actually cancelled due to the outcry.

He continued to play in a great many other countries, and in 1953 he finally returned to the United States. His concert in Carnegie Hall was sold out and well received, and he was more popular than ever.

Gieseking had a very wide repertoire, ranging from various pieces by Bach and the core works by Beethoven through to the concertos of Rachmaninov (the composer himself was impressed with his interpretation of the Third) and more modern works by the likes of BusoniHindemithSchoenberg and the lesser-known Italian Petrassi. Today, though, he is particularly remembered as one of the greatest interpreters of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and the two French impressionist masters Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel, virtually all of whose solo piano music he recorded on LP for EMI in the early 1950s, after recording much of it with even greater youthful vitality for Columbia in the 1930s and 1940s.

Parallel to Gieseking's work as a performing artist he was also a composer, but even in his lifetime his compositions were hardly known, and he made no attempt to give them publicity. As a footnote, as Gieseking's father had earned a living as a lepidopterist, Gieseking, too, devoted much time to the collecting of butterflies and moths throughout his life. His private collection can be seen in the Natural History Collection of the Museum Wiesbaden.

The selections provided here were downloaded about four years ago from the now defunct Japanese site Public Domain Classic and I believe they are from the set he recorded in August 1953 at EMI’s Abbey Road studios.

Happy Listening!

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

Piano Sonatas:

No. 1 (C Major) K. 279
No. 2 (F Major) K. 280
No. 5 (G Major) K. 283
No. 6 (D Major) K. 284 "Durnitz"
No. 7 (C Major) K. 309
No. 9 (D Major) K. 311

Walter Gieseking, piano
Public Domain Classic, 11 Jan 2011

No comments:

Post a Comment