Russian pianist of the Soviet era

I must say that while I had heard the very occasional recording by Grigory Ginzburg and rarely found him wanting, it was not until this endeavor and had the opportunity to hear performance after performance that my full and proper appreciation of this magnificent pianist blossomed. It is rare that we have the opportunity to hear so many performances by one the greats of the first half of the 20th century in which each one is as fabulous as the next.  All of my gods, until now, disappointed from time to time with an interpretation that did not quite resonate, or merely due to their having had an off day. Not so with Grigory Ginzburg.

The following quotes from interviews Grigory Ginzburg gave in 1946, 1947 and 1949 will givee you with an insight into the pianist. Thanks to a YouTuber who identifies himself as xper2exper for posting these quotes:

"I can say only one thing: I hated practicing, never played the piano more than three hours a day. And even now, though for different reasons, I am unable to practice for more than three hours: I simply get too tired. But early on I did not play longer because three hours were enough to do whatever I had to and that was that. Living with Alexander Borisovich Goldenweiser was very exciting. Musicians would often gather in his apartment in the evening. Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, Medtner would come, and though I was too young and did not participate, I was still able to listen and hear, digest it all and develop. Alexander Borisovich himself practiced a lot and I could not help but hear all that he played. I was very fortunate in that respect."

"I played all kinds of scales with all possible stresses, rhythmic and articulation variations. I really knew all sixty Hanon numbers in all tonalities and could play any of them when prompted with absolute precision. We spent a lot of time daily on these exercises and their mastery was polished to absolute perfection. This military training stopped only after entering the Conservatory.." 

"An earth-shaking event regarding the sound was Egon Petris visit. I was quite mature at the time I was already eighteen. I remember that Petri gave his first recital in the Beethoven Hall of the Bolshoi Theatre. The impression he made on me with his sound mastery was incomparable it was unreal. (...)
Later, as I was older, I started to listen carefully to the piano sound, and Konstantin Nikolayevich Igumnov became a God for me. I started listening, looking at what he was doing and, indeed, learned a lot from him."

"By the time of my graduation from the conservatory I was absolutely confident in myself, confident in my limitless abilities, and then literally in a year I felt that I knew nothing. That was a terrible time. I saw that my technique was unstable, that everything was coming out imprecise, that I did not possess a sound, that I had more intuition that understanding. Suddenly, I looked at my playing from the outside and an astonishing self-adulation grew into a total dissatisfaction with myself."

"If you look carefully at what happens to performing musicians when they leave school and start to mature, you will notice how much of what was happening subconsciously, intuitively, what made a charming expression that made their fame as a wunderkind, with time becomes, either gradually or suddenly, empty and boring. While intuition lasts, everything is perfect, but when the time comes to replace or support intuition with thinking, heart, understanding, maturity, experience, it turns out that these are missing, and there is nothing to replace the intuition. This may also happen gradually, not in the transition period but it will certainly play a role eventually, unless a conscious, thinking component is sufficiently developed. Pay close attention to such great performers as Borowsky, Orlov, Backhaus, and you will see that even their creativity diminishes. Very rarely someone manages to maintain mastery, wisdom and creativity to the end. Typically, during this second critical period, at the age of forty to fifty, there comes a time when an artist feels that he has nothing to say. Only the greatest preserve their artistic abilities to the very end." 

"A performer is often asked: Why do you not play such-and-such piece?. Rachmaninov for some reason never played Medtner. He played just a single Skazka. Rachmaninov played Schumanns Piano Concerto and they say it was the best of all he played. But, he did not play, for instance, Kreisleriana. I think this is not because he was unable to understand Kreisleriana. I think that he did not feel the necessary unity with the piece, with the instrument when performing Kreisleriana. He remained by himself, and Kreisleriana was by itself." 

"This is how I am trying to explain to myself why many performers restrict their repertoire to certain authors and pieces. Who could possibly have a better technique than Rachmaninov but he played not a single Chopin etude. He played mazurki, the sonata but not the etudes. I think that this is a question of technical suitability which gives a great joy to a performer and whose lack is torturing for an artist."

Grigory Ginzburg's teacher from the age of ten. At 13 he was accepted at the Moscow Conservatoire from which he graduated in 1923 with a gold medal. He became Alexander Goldenwieser's teaching assistant as a graduate student, and in 1927 won 4th prize as the First International Chopin Competition in Warsaw. Many of the judges thought he deserved the first prize. He was a professor at the Moscow Conservatory .from 1935 to 1959. Among his most prominent students were Gleb Axelrod, Sergei Dorensky, Alexei Skavronsky and Daniel Pollack.

Among the most interesting and entertaining, and expertly performed, recordings are the transcriptions by Grigory Ginzburg of the Largo al Factotum (Rossini) - one of my favorite operas, if anyone's keeping track.

Please also visit the following pages which contain more performances by thisgreat pianist: Ginzburg plays Liszt, Ginzburg plays Chopin and Ginzburg plays Concerti and chamber music.

Rameau-Godowsky  Menuet in A minor

Rameau-Godowsky  Rigaudon

Bach-Busoni  Prelude and Fugue in D major, BWV 532

Recorded live in the Grand Hall of the Moscow Conservatoire in 1957

Bach-Busoni  Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565

recorded in Moscow ca1953

Bach-Busoni  Choral Prelude "Ich ruf' zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ" BWV 639

Recorded live in the Grand Hall of the Moscow Conservatoire in 1957

Bach-Busoni  Chaconne in D minor, BWV 1004

Recorded live in the Grand Hall of the Moscow Conservatoire in 1957

Bach-Galston  Siciliana from BWV 1031

Recorded live in the Grand Hall of the Moscow Conservatoire in 1957

Mozart  Piano Sonata 8 in A minor, K 310

i Allegro maestoso
05:41  ii Andante cantabile con espressione
13:05  iii Presto

Mozart  Piano Sonata 11 in A major, K 331

i Tema con variazioni - Andante grazioso
10:55  ii Menuetto
14:52  iii Rondo alla Turca - Allegretto

recorded live in Moscow in 1954

Mozart  Fantasia in C minor, K 475

recorded live in 1954

Beethoven  Piano Sonata 23 in F minor, Op 57

i Allegro assai
09:29  ii Andante con moto
15:20  iii Allegro ma non troppo. Presto

Beethoven-Rubinstein  Turkish March from the Ruins of Athens

recorded in 1936

Beethoven  Rondo à Capriccio in G major, Op 129 "Rage Over a Lost Penny"

recorded in Moscow in 1951

von Weber-Godowsky  Perpetuum Mobile

recorded in the 1950s

von Weber  Rondo brillante in E major "La gaité"

recorded in 1951

Rossini-Ginzburg  Largo al Factotum from The Barber of Seville

recorded in 1951

Mendelssohn  Venetian Gondola Song, Op 19~6

recorded in the late 1940s

Schumann  ABEGG Variations, Op 1

recorded in 1952

Schumann  Etudes after Paganini, Op 3

1 in A minor (after caprice 5)
03:23  2 in E major "La caccia" (after caprice 9)

recorded in 1948

4 in B major (after caprice 13)

recorded in the early 1950s

Schumann  Toccata, Op 7

recorded in 1949

Schumann  Carnaval, Op 9

1 Preambule - 2 Pierrot - 3 Arlequin - 4 Valse noble - 5 Eusebius - 6 Florestan - 7 Coquette
8 Replique - 9 Sphinxes - 10 Papillons - 11 A.S.C.H.-S.C.H.A. (Lettres dansantes)
12 Chiarina - 13 Chopin - 14 Estrella - 15 Reconnaisance - 16 Patanlon e Colombine
17 Valse Allemande (Intermezzo: Paganini) - 18 Aveu - 19 Promenade
20 Pause - 21 Marche des "Davidsbündler" contre le Philistins

recorded live in 1954

Schumann  Intermezzo from Faschingsschwank aus Wien, Op 26

J Strauss II  "Voices of Spring" Waltz, Op 410

Alfred Grünfeld (rec 1905)
03:59  Grigory Ginzburg (rec ca1950)

j Strauss II-Tausig  Valse-caprice 2 from "5 Nouvelles soirées de Vienne"
"Man lebt nur einmal" 

recorded ca1950s

Anton Rubinstein  2 Allegro in C major "Staccato Etude" from 6 Etudes, Op 23

recorded in 1949

Balakirev  "Islamey, an oriental fantasy"

Tchaikovsky  Grand Sonata in G major, Op 37 for piano

i Moderato e risoluto (beginning)

i Moderato e risoluto (conclusion)

ii Andante non troppo quasi moderato

iii Scherzo - Allegro giocoso

iv Finale - Allegro vivace

Grieg  Piano Sonata in E minor, Op 7

i Allegro moderato
04:54  ii Andante molto
09:45  iii Alla Menuetto, ma poco più lento
12:40  iv Finale - Molto allegro

recorded in 1949

Adolf Schulz-Evler (1852-1905)  Arabesques on the Blue Danube Waltz (J Strauss)

recorded in 1950

Paul Pabst (1854-1897)  Concert Paraphrase on Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin

recorded in Moscow in 1948 

Scriabin  Etudes, Op 8

1 in F major
01:27  7 in B minor
03:28  11 in B minor
07:58  12 in D minor

recorded live in Moscow in 1957

2 in F minor (rec live in Moscow in 1957)

6 in A major
01:54  3 in B minor

recorded in 1959

Ravel  Sonatine

i Modéré
ii Mouvement de menuet
iii Animé

recorded live in 1952

Medtner  Piano Sonata 10 in A minor "Reminiscenza", Op 38~1 from Forgotten melodies

recorded in Moscow in 1957

Nikolai Myaskovsky (1881-1950)  Prelude in B minor, Op 58 "Song and Rhapsody"

"Song" - Andante cantabie
04:46  "Rhapsody - Allegro assai

recorded in 1947-1948


Ignaz Friedman (1882-1948)  2 Vivo e sciotto from 6 Viennese Dances
[ transcribed for piano by Eduard Gärtner ]

recorded in the 1950s

Ludomir Rozycki (1884-1953)  Waltz from Casanova, Op. 47
[ arr. G. Ginzburg for piano ]

Prokofiev  Piano Sonata 3 in A minor, Op 28

recorded live in 1957

Gershwin  Three Preludes

1 in B major
01:44  2 in C♯ minor
05:05  3 in E♭ minor

recorded live in 1957

For those of you who enjoy murder mysteries, here is my first with a strong musical polemic as background

Murder in the House of the Muse

which is also available as an audiobook.

And this is the more recently published second mystery in the series:

Murder Follows the Muse

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