Russian-American Pianist

Though perhaps not what one might consider a great composer, Ossip Gabrilowitsch was one of the supreme pianists of the Golden Age.

He had a dream education attending the St, Petersburg Conservatory where he studied piano, composition and conducting. His teachers included Anton Rubinstein, Nikolai Medtner, Alexander Glazunov, and Anatoly Lyadov. And as if working under the tutelage of pianistic giants like Rubinstein and Medtner were not enough, he went to Vienna after graduating from the conservatory to study with the greatest pupil of Carl Czerny, Theodor Leschetizky.

Gabrilowitsch came to America after World War One where, in addition to maintaining a career as a concert pianist, he became the first conductor of the newly established Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

As we have come to expect of students of Anton Rubinstein, his style is clean and clear with a strong sense of the underlying rhythm. His technique is impeccable and his playing effortless. Would that he had recorded more, great pianist that he was.

Gabrilowitsch Caprice, Op 3
Recorded in 1925

Gabrilowitsch Mélodie in E minor, Op 8~1

Bach/Saint-Saens Bouree from Violin Partita in B minor
Recorded in 1925

Gluck/Brahms "Gavotte"

Schubert Moment Musical, Op 94~2
Hupfeld piano roll recorded in 1918

Mendelssohn "Spinning Song", Op 67~4
from a piano roll

Chopin Mazurka in B minor, Op 33~4
1905 Welte piano roll

Schumann Novelette
9 from Bunte Blatter, Op.99
recorded in 1924

Leschetizky Octave Etude
Duo Arte piano roll

Delibes Passepied from "Le Roi s'Amuse"
Grainger Shepherd's Hey
recorded in 1925

Dvořák "Humoreske"
Hupfeld piano roll recorded in 1922

Arensky "Près de la mer" from Six Esquisses for piano, Op 52~4
recorded in 1925

Glazunov Gavotte, Op 49~3

Sapelnikoff "Elfentanz", Op 3
from a piano roll

Rachmaninoff Prelude in C♯ minor, Op 3~2 "The Bells of Moscow"
1916 Duo-Art piano roll

Moszkowski "En Automne", Op 36~4
recorded in 1924

Ossip Gabrilowitsch recorded Robert Schumann's Piano Quintet in E flat Major, Opus 44 in the 1920s with the world famous Flonzaley Quartet. The quintet is scored for piano and traditional string quartet (two violins, viola and cello). This is ensemble playing at its best.

He also performed two-piano works to great acclaim with Harold Bauer, the wonderful English pianist. It is impossible to tell which one is playing what, but these are examples of the finest duo piano playing I have ever heard.

Schumann Piano Quintet in E♭ major, Op 44
recorded in 1927

i Allegro Brillante

ii In Modo d'Une Marcia: Un Poco Largamente -- Agitato

iii Scherzo: Molto vivace

iv Allegro ma non troppo

Haydn Menuetto from "Military" Symphony
with Harold Bauer
from a piano roll

Schuett Rococo-Minuet for two pianos
with Harold Bauer
recorded in 1928

Arensky Waltz from Suite 1, Op 15 for two pianos
with Harold Bauer
recorded in 1929

Ossip Gabrilowitsch the conductor must also be accorded a hearing. He must have acquired quite a reputation as conductor of the Munich Philharmonic (originally the Munich Konzertverein) for he was offered the post of conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, a post he turned down and for which he recommended Rachmaninoff in his stead. Instead he accepted the position as founding director of the newly formed Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the fourth oldest orchestra in the USA. As a condition for accepting the position in Detroit, he insisted that a new concert hall be built. The acoustical marvel that was Orchestra Hall was the result.

Below we hear him conduct the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in a performance of the Brahms Academic Festival Overture (their first recording on April 16, 1928), an outstanding performance of Chabrier's España, and Russian Sailor's Song by Altschuler, both also recorded in 1928. In all three can be discerned the same clarity one finds in his playing.

Brahms Academic Festival Overture, Op 80
recorded in 1928

Chabrier "España"
recorded in 1928

Altshuler "Russian Sailor's Song"
recorded in 1928

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