In the three great Strauss transcriptions, Godowsky elevated the art of the piano paraphrase to a higher musical and pianistic plane; however their extreme technical difficulty remains a striking feature and places them out of the reach of ordinary pianists. The last work on this dazzling disc is an oddity—indeed, a rarity. Sometime prior to , Godowsky made a piano roll of his arrangement of The Last Waltz by Oscar Straus — , the Vienna-born composer. The eponymous Waltz is heard throughout the operetta.
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Deutsch Johann Strauss II died in His music had come to define the era, painting a picture albeit a rose-tinted one of the opulent, confident, ever-gay Viennese, hedonistically dancing their well-heeled lives away in the capital of the Habsburg empire. A mere fifteen years later, the First World War destroyed utterly any vestige of the old Vienna. The Polish-born pianist and composer Leopold Godowsky made his home in this post-Strauss Waltz City from onwards, remaining there until the outbreak of hostilities, when he returned to his adopted country he had become an American citizen in In , following a decade in America teaching, giving concerts and composing, the thirty-year-old musician arrived in Berlin with his wife and three children.
There, on 6 December, he made one of the most sensational debuts in history. I shall never forget the unparalleled enthusiasm that his playing aroused. He was unofficially sounded out for this in the summer of The position carried with it the rank of honorary colonel and was directly answerable to the Emperor.
The contract made him the highest-paid artist-teacher in Europe at that time. Having moved to Vienna later that year, Godowsky began his duties early in The next five years were among the happiest of his life. Here he could combine all his composing, playing and teaching commitments in comfort, but with sufficient leeway to appear throughout Europe as a soloist—and enjoy a vivacious social life.
Twice during this period he was given leave of absence to tour America. This idyllic period came to an end in July Godowsky had taken a villa at Middelkerke, on the Belgian coast, for the summer. With him, as usual, were his pupils from the Vienna masterclass. Even after the assassination of the Grand Duke Franz Ferdinand at Sarajevo, he refused to entertain the possibility of any hostilities.
In the event, on the very day that Great Britain declared war, Godowsky and his family managed by sheer good luck to scramble onto the last boat sailing from Ostende to England.
After a brief stay there, Godowsky set sail for the United States, his home for the rest of his life. Tausig, Rosenthal and Schulz-Evler are merely the three most familiar pianist-composers who had earlier taken vocal and instrumental themes by Strauss and turned them into virtuoso keyboard works. In a way I am responsible for its vogue since I played it a good deal when it first came out.
But even then I omitted all its banal and empty interlude passages—they are musically impossible—and I kept on reshaping it each time I played it, until at last—there was no Schulz-Evler left! The next day, Hofmann called round again and played the entire piece from memory. Godowsky obligingly indicates which numbers he is using by placing the appropriate lyrics above or within the stave. It is rather amusing, not unmusical but queer, stranger than the beginning.
The transition between the second theme of the second valse and the first theme of the third valse is perhaps the most delicately impassioned passage I have ever written—it has genuine vitality!
I think the end is a complete success. You know how long I worry to bring a work like this to a proper climax … This part is almost unplayable, but will sound well when I can play it.
I think it very successful. I may be mistaken. Unlike several recordings of these works, Mr Hamelin plays all three without cuts. Godowsky intended the twenty-four Walzermasken to be played as a cycle Portrait, the final number, quotes the opening theme of Karnaval and, indeed, he gave the first public performance as such at the Bechstein Hall, London, on 19 March But he did not oppose the playing of selected pieces, as here.
The publication of twelve of the pieces as separate numbers supports this. No 24 in G flat major is by far the longest of the set and, fittingly, a homage to the Waltz King. The complete Triakontameron was published by Schirmer in May that year. These are picturesquely entitled miniatures of epigrammatic conciseness inspired by a variety of moods, places and experiences.
Binding the whole set together with marvellous subtlety is the waltz rhythm. These are haunting evocations of the vanished city of Gungl, Lanner and the Strausses. It is this revised version that is heard here.
Finally, an oddity—indeed, a rarity. The eponymous Waltz is heard throughout the operetta, but most notably at the end of Act I when Dimitri and Vera dance at the party of General Karsinski. It was all but illegible, so Hamelin Snr. Strauss II. Mais je peux me tromper. Dort machte er am 6.
Ich werde nie die unvergleichliche Begeisterung vergessen, die sein Spiel hervorgerufen hat. Im Sommer nahm man mit ihm in dieser Angelegenheit inoffizielle Kontakte auf. Die Position war mit einer Ernennung zu Oberst ehrenhalber verbunden und dem Kaiser in direkter Verantwortung unterstellt.
Dieser idyllische Lebensabschnitt endete im Juli Das war ein Genre, in dem er sich perfekt auskannte. Verfasser von Diskographien sollten das bitte zur Kenntnis nehmen. Wein, Weib und Gesang ist das op. Wie man sieht, haben die Themen keinen inhaltlich logischen Zusammenhang. Es ist recht witzig, nicht unmusikalisch, aber ganz speziell, ungewohnter als der Anfang. Ich glaube, das kommt an. Aber vielleicht irre ich mich. Er hatte aber auch nichts dagegen, wie es hier geschieht, eine Auswahl davon zu spielen.
Pastell Nr. Beide wurden von Heifetz eingespielt, das letztere auch von Kreisler. Jahrhundert lebenden Schriftstellers. August , das letzte, Rendezvous Nr. Februar vollendet. Kurz danach erhielt Gilles Hamelin eine Photokopie von Godowskys Manuskript, die fast unleserlich war. Davon machte Hamelin sen.
List of works by Leopold Godowsky
Symphonische Metamorphosen Johann Strauss’scher Themen (Godowsky, Leopold)
Godowsky - Strauss transcriptions and other waltzes