He gave his first concert at age nine, and toured throughout Lithuania and East Prussia soon afterwards. Godowsky wrote in his autobiographical fragment, Retrospect: I would be very glad could I have stated with truth that I was a pupil of [Franz] Liszt or any other great man, but I was not. I have not had three months lessons in my life. I have been told I was playing the piano before I was two. I think, however, an imaginative family perpetrated this story.
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These pieces remained legend to me — up to one of my last visits to a CD shop in Zurich when these still existed. They inevitably lose, while by themselves they are definitely a very impressive set of pieces — and masterworks, for sure!
These Godowsky studies are an excellent example for this! But they are also definitely — studies: each of them is focusing on one particular technical aspect, such as rapid scales and broken chords, parallel passages, etc.
A pianist would rarely perform just one or two, I think excepting encores, of course , but rather one complete cycle op. Sokolov did not record op. It was made at a time when he was at the height of his technical abilities. But this plan did not materialize. So, all of these Studies are filled with almost unimaginable difficulties and intricacies, in their polyrhythmic and polyphonic structure. With some of the Studies for the left hand alone one can — without seeing the pianist — hardly imagine how a pianist with two hands can possibly play this, and consequently, with some of the Studies for two hands, one tends to think that there are two pianists, or at least three hands playing!
Before briefly talking about the two interpretations at hand, let me add a word on how that music sounds to me. Playing all of these in a single concert is unimaginable besides the astronomic technical and physical challenge for the pianist! But that is hypothetical anyway, because there are only a handful pianists worldwide playing these studies in concert. I think it pays to listen into these pieces carefully and not too much at a time.
With superficial hearing this easily ends up as background music that may get boring after a while. His playing is virtuosic, transparent, clear. His playing is certainly correct, and one learns to appreciate the complexity and the difficulty in playing these pieces. And yes, it often sounds like two pianos or at least like piano with four hands, as mentioned above. I get the impression that the artist wants to demonstrate exactly that and his technical abilities.
I see no musical reason for this, and to me this does not fall under rubato. The interpretation often sounds a bit dry, not really engaging. There are some tempo variations ritardandi, etc.
I have decided to scan the text content except for the track listing , and to make this available as PDF.
Studies on Chopin's Études
Das musikalische Wunderkind zeigte sich bereits im Alter von 3 Jahren. Sein Lehrer im Klavierspiel scheint bis dahin ein Ernst Friedrich gewesen zu sein. Die Klavierabteilung wurde von Ernst Rudorff geleitet. Rudorff lehnte dies als Salonmusik ab. Es war seine Absicht gewesen, in Weimar bei Franz Liszt zu studieren. Dort heiratete er am April Frieda Saxe.
Recital Mūza’s Dedication to Godowsky and Chopin
Studies after Frederic Chopin (Godowsky, Leopold)