[ EMI / Philips / Sony / 2 CD ]
Release Date: Thursday 1 June 2000
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Before he became the brilliant and charismatic virtuoso to whom Rachmaninov dedicated his Third Piano Concerto, Joseph Hofmann was a child prodigy. He was also the first pianist ever to make a record: in 1888, at age 12, he sat on Thomas Edison's lap and played into a prototype of the cylinder machine. That was a year after his New York debut at the old Metropolitan Opera house had caused general amazement among the public and the critics, but had also brought the wrath of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children upon the heads of his promoters. A wealthy New Yorker put up $50,000 (the equivalent of at least half a million today) to see that young Hofmann was educated rather than exploited; he was sent off to study with Anton Rubinstein in Dresden, and made his adult debut in the U.S. at the acceptable age of 22. By then, he was a finished pianist, capable of producing cascades of notes with his small hands (Steinway built a grand with slightly narrower keys just for him) as well as extraordinary effects of color and delicacy. His virtuosity was all the more hair-raising for its elegance and seeming effortlessness.
One gets a good idea of all that from this sampler of Romantic miniatures and encore pieces recorded between 1903 and 1923 (mainly 1916-23), in rather primitive but nonetheless revealing sound. Hofmann's unerring sense of line and pace are much in evidence, but so are his pronounced rubato and, in certain selections (like Rubinstein's Valse-caprice in E flat), more than a few slips and wrong notes--the price one paid for being engaged with the music and taking chances. --Ted Libbey
GREAT PIANISTS OF THE 20TH CENTURY is a celebration of great artistry; it is also the result of extensive and careful research on the part of all who have participated in its creation. We trust that it will bring joy as well as enlightenment to generations of music lovers to come in the new millennium.
1. Schubert: D. 733: Marche militaire No. 1 In D
2. Schubert: Erlkong
3. Mendelssohn: Lieder ohne Worte, Op. 19: 'Hunting Song'
4. Mendelssohn: Lieder ohne Worte, Op. 62: 'Spring Song'
5. Chopin: Polonaise in A, Op. 40 No. 1 'Military'
6. Rubinstein: Valse - Caprice In E flat
7. Schumann: Fantasiestucke, Op. 12 No. 3: Warum?
8. Liszt: Liebestraum No. 3 In A flat
9. Sternberg: Etude No. 3 In C Minor, Op. 120
10. Hormann: The Sanctuary
11. Grieg: Lyric Pieces, Op. 43: Butterfly
12. Mendelssohn: Lieder ohne Worte, Op. 67: The Bee's Wedding
13. Moszkowsi: Capriccio espagnole, Op. 37 (Abridged)
14. Paderewski: Minuet celebre In G, Op. 14 No. 1
15. Liszt: 'Annees de pelerinage': Tarantella
16. Chopin: Waltz In E Minor, Op. Posth.
17. Chopin: Waltz In A Flat, Op. 34 No. 1 'Valse brillante'
18.Mendelssohn: Rondo Capriccioso, Op. 14 (Abridged)
19. Moszkowski: La jongleuse, Op. 52 No. 4
1. Chopin: Fantasie - Impromptu In C Sharp Minor, Op. 66
2. Liszt: 6 Chants polonais de F. Chopin: The Maiden's Wish
3. Chopin: Berceuse In D Flat, Op. 57
4. Parker: Valse gracile
5. Dillon: Birds At Dawn, Op. 20 No. 2
6. Liszt: Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 In C Sharp Minor
7. Liszt: Etude de concert No. 1 : Waldesrauschen
8. Gluck/Brahms: Paride ed Elena: Gavotte In A
9. Polonaise No. 3 In A Op. 40 No. 1 'Military'
10. Pastorale e capriccio
11. Mignonettes: Nocturne
12. Waltz In C Sharp Minor, Op. 64 No. 2
13. Nocturne In F Sharp, Op. 15 No. 2
14. Prelude In C Sharp Minor, Op. 3 No. 2
15. Prelude In G Minor, Op. 23 No. 5
16. Melody In F, Op. 3 No. 1
17. Scherzo In B Minor, Op. 20 (Abridged)
18. Die Walkure: Magic Fire Music
19. 6 Chants polonais de F. Chopin: My Darling
20. 'Die Ruinen von Athen': Turkish March