Friday, 26 November 2010

Edward Cahill (1885-1975) - the brilliant but forgotten Australian pianist - plays Chopin


The brilliant but now forgotten Australian concert pianist Edward Cahill (1885-1975)


Edward Cahill seated in the front row on the left of Princess Alice at a private Mayfair piano recital at the home of the Dowager Lady Swathling 1934 (click to enlarge)

A few of Edward Cahill's ('Uncle Eddie') private recordings of Chopin made in 1935 miraculously survived his glamorous career of travel and royal engagements. They also somehow survived a disastrous fire at his home in 1932.

I have recently had them all sensitively re-mastered by Selene records in Poland who specialise in this type of thing for all the great Polish Chopin pianists of the past - Michalowski, Koczalski, Turczynski, Zurawlew.....

You will realise on hearing these remarkable interpretations that Cahill lies on the cusp of the the great nineteenth century Chopin pianistic 'individualistic' tradition of de Pachmann, Friedman, Lehvinne, Godowsky and Rosenthal and the advent of the more 'modern' less overtly 'personality' based approach of say ArturRubinstein. 

Please consult the numerous posts on Edward Cahill on this blog to fill in the gaps if you are interested further in this astonishing story and have not already done so.

Free download of two of a number of Edward Cahill's Chopin recordings (Chopin's Etude in A major Op. 25 No.1 and the Scherzo in B-flat minor Op.31) made privately in 1935 on a Grotrian-Steinweg concert instrument - his favourite piano.

These recordings were made in one take without editing. Our modern 'perfectionist' practice of pasting together the 'best bits'  is vastly different to those days. His recordings preserve a conceptual completeness, tonal variety and intense drama lost in the standardised banality of so much of today's obsession with digital immaculateness and accuracy.

http://www.box.net/shared/s4xakeg578

Also a superb performance of La Campanella by Liszt of similar date at:

http://www.box.net/shared/59e773yxjq



Saturday, 20 November 2010

VIII International Paderewski Piano Competition Bydgoszcz, Poland

It is the 150th anniversay of the birth of Ignacy Paderewski - a very remarkable man indeed. The historian Adam Zamoyski wrote an excellent biography of the man entitled  Paderewski (London 1982) as well as his most recent brilliant biography of Chopin: Chopin: Prince of the Romantics (London 2010)


Paderewski in the 1890s

Not as much as I expected seems to be happening in Poland concerning this 150th anniversary which surprises me. All I can do at present is to refer you to the official competition website and radio link as there is little publicity concerning the event in Poland.

Perhaps people are suffering a musical hangover after the marathon International Chopin Competition. This is a rather different type of event with chamber music sections and a variety of piano concertos the competitors can choose from - pianists are able to display a more rounded talent than the narrow focus on a sole composer Chopin.

This is an interesting Polish Radio 2 (Dwojka) link of  interviews with the jury and prizewinners after the competition - but only in Polish language.



Official competition website:


http://www.konkurspaderewskiego.pl/en,AKT:2,index.html


VIII International Paderewski Piano Competition


Bydgoszcz, Poland


November 7th - 21st, 2010




FINAL

November 19th – 20th, 2010


5 participants


November 19th, 2010


1. Redkin Sergey                             F. Chopin - Concerto No. 1 in E minor op. 11


2. Evstyukhin Denis                        F. Chopin - Concerto No. 1 in E minor op. 11


3. Szymanowski Michał                  S. Prokofiew - Concerto No. 3 in C major op. 26


November 20th, 2010


1. Kunz Eduard P.                 Tchaikovsky - Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor op. 23


2. Kim Hyun Jung                 L. van Beethoven - Concerto No. 5 in E flat major op. 73


RESULTS




Concert of Laureates      SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 21st, 2010, 18.00




CONCERT of LAUREATES


FILHARMONIA POMORSKA IM. I. J. PADEREWSKIEGO, UL. A. SZWALBEGO 4




Honourable mention - Denis Evstyukhin


F. Chopin Impromptu in F-sharp major op. 36


Impromptu in G-flat major op. 51


III prize (ex aequo) - Sergey Redkin


I. Stravinsky Petrouchka


Danse russe


Chez Pétrouchka


La semaine grasse


III prize (ex aequo) - Michał Szymanowski


I. J. Paderewski Legend op. 16 No. 1


Polonaise in B major op. 9 No. 6


K. Szymanowski Variations in B-flat minor op. 3


                                                                 Intermission


II prize - Hyun Jung Kim


M. Ravel Oiseaux tristes (Miroirs)


S. Prokofiev Suggestion diabolique op. 4 No. 4


C. Saint-Saëns - F. Liszt Danse Macabre


I prize - Eduard Kunz


C. Debussy Clair de lune (Suite bergamasque)


M. Ravel Gaspard de la Nuit


Ondine


Le gibet


Scarbo


Thursday, 18 November 2010

The Fragility of Fame - Edward Cahill and the sculptor Felix de Weldon (Felix Weiss)


Bust of the Australian pianist Edward Cahill (1885-1975) dated 1936
by Felix Weiss (born Felix Weiss de Weldon 1907-2003)
For many years I have had a bust of the pianist Edward Cahill in my study (my current biographical project - see multiple postings).

The bust is in plaster painted to appear like bronze. It has suffered many vicissitudes over the last 75 years. The fragile bust had an interesting history as it survived the bombing of Central London during World War II in a hatbox under the bed of 'a certain  lady'. Her house was severely damaged, almost completely destroyed, but the head survived. Eddie always referred to it as 'The Royal Head'. It is rather a beautiful and artistic production but the name of the sculptor inscribed on the base - Felix Weiss 1936 (1907-2003) - meant little to me.


Felix Weiss sculpting the head of Edward Cahill, London 1935.
Photograph taken from The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933-1954), Wednesday 20 March 1935, page 13
National Library of Australia
As a result of my ongoing researches I discovered that his full name was Felix Weiss de Weldon and was considered in his day to be  'the Michelangelo of American sculpture'. Quite an appellation. On a journey to Rome he was inspired by this immortal sculptor. Despite this fame he is now relatively forgotten (even neglected) and has not become a household name. In this regard he continues to share my grand-uncle's destiny.


Copy of Michelangelo's Pieta by Felix Weiss

A remarkably famous sculptor in the 1930s and beyond, he was commissioned to sculpt many famous figures of the period.  He was commissioned by governments, presidents, royalty, artists and religious leaders. He would only sculpt figures he considered outstanding in their fields. He created more than 1,200 public monuments and is the only artist in the world with a masterpiece on all seven continents. (A de Weldon monument of Richard Byrd is even at McMurdo Sound, in Antarctica).

Felix Weiss with his sculpture of President John F. Kennedy 1964
De Weldon was born in Vienna, Austria on 12 April 1907. He received his early education at St. Egichins Grammar School. In 1925, he earned an A.B. from Marchetti College, a Preparatory College. From the University of Vienna’s Academy of Creative Arts and School of Architecture, he earned his M.A. and M.S. degrees in 1927 and his Ph.D. in 1929.

He first received notice as a sculptor at the age of 17, with his statue of Austrian educator and diplomat Professor Ludo Hartman. In the 1920s, he joined artist’s communes in France, Italy and Spain.

De Weldon eventually moved to England where he studied archaeology at Oxford. In London  he gained a number of commissions, among them the Silver Jubilee Bust of King George V, which commemorated the twenty-fifth year of his reign. And then in December, `35, the National Portrait Gallery placed it in the National Portrait Gallery (UK).


Bust of King George V by Felix Weiss, National Portrait Gallery, London

Following this de Weldon was commissioned to sculpt the bust of Edward VIII to commemorate the Coronation but under a commission which said, “Felix de Weldon is commanded to do the official coronation bust of His Majesty, the King.” However, this only led to doing two Coronation busts, because shortly thereafter when Edward abdicated, De Weldon was commissioned to do the Coronation bust for King George VI as well.

A consequential trip to Canada to sculpt Prime Minister Mackenzie King brought de Weldon to North America, and he decided to settle in the United States. De Weldon enlisted in the U.S. Navy during the World War II. He became an American citizen in 1945.

At the conclusion of the war, the Congress of the United States commissioned de Weldon to construct the statue for the Iwo Jima Memorial in the realist tradition, based upon the famous photograph of Joe Rosenthal, of the Associated Press Agency, taken on 23 February 1945. De Weldon made sculptures from life of three of the six men raising the American flag. The other three, who had died in action later, were sculpted from photographs. De Weldon took nine years to make the memorial, and was assisted by hundreds of other sculptors. The result is the 100-ton bronze statue which is on display in Washington, D.C. It was dedicated in 1954 by Vice-President Richard Nixon, who called it, “a symbol of the hopes and dreams of all Americans”.


The Iwo Jima Monument by Felix Weiss de Weldon

 De Weldon also created Malaysia’s Tugu Negara (National Monument) when the country’s first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, saw the Marine Corps War Memorial statue in his visit to America in October 1960 and personally commissioned him to design the monument. De Weldon was later conferred with the title Tan Sri, the Malaysian equivalent of a high-ranking knighthood.

Felix de Weldon died on June 2, 2003 at age 96 in Woodstock, Virginia. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Partial list of Felix de Weldon Monuments:

The Flag Raising on Iwo Jima, Arlington, VA

Discus Thrower, New York, NY

Cross of the Millennium, U.S. Naval Academy, St. Nicholas Church, MD

President John F. Kennedy, John F. Kennedy Library, Boston, MA

Astronaut Statue, Richmond, KY

National Monument for Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Simon Bolivar, Washington, DC

Admiral Richard E. Byrd, McMurdo Station, Antarctica

Elvis Presley, Nashville, TN

Belleau Wood Monument, Belleau Wood, France

Waving Girl, Savannah, GA

General George Rogers Clark, Louisville, KY

Mother Joseph, Washington, DC

Revolutionary War Memorial, Philadelphia, PA, USA

President Monroe, Fredericksburg, VA, USA

Mackenzie King(former Prime Minister) Canada

Harry S. Truman, Athens, Greece

King George VI, London, UK

Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Annapolis, MD., USA

National Guard Monument, Washington, DC, USA

Sergeant York, Nashville, Tennessee, USA

George Washington, Canberra, Australia

King Edward VIII (late Duke of Windsor), London, UK

King George V, National Portrait Gallery, London, UK

Abraham Lincoln, Mexico City

Civil War Monument, Fredericksburg, VA, USA

International AIDS Memorial, HOPE, Atlanta, GA, USA

Red Cross Monument, Washington, DC, USA

General Andrew Jackson, Columbia, South Carolina, USA

Benjamin Franklin, Louisville Kentucky, USA

George Bannerman Dealey, Dallas, TX, USA

Hiroshima A-Bomb Memorial, Hiroshima, JP

Edward Cahill, concert pianist, Beenleigh - Queensland,  Australia



                                                                                *


Free download of Edward Cahill playing Liszt's La Campanella in 1936 during his London concert season at:

http://www.box.net/shared/59e773yxjq



                                                                                  *



[Felix Weiss biographical information and Iwo Jima Monument photograph from:

http://www.thewarmuseum.com/2009/10/19/original-iwo-jima-monument/

Here you will find material from a fascinating chapter on this monument and of the brevity and fragility of fame - adulation followed by inexplicable neglect - from the forthcoming book by Rodney Hilton Brown entitled:


“The IWO JIMA SCULPTOR: FELIX DE WELDON – The Man and His Monuments”



Copyright © 2009 by Rodney Hilton Brown. All rights reserved.


WHAT HAPPENED TO THE ORIGINAL IWO JIMA MONUMENT?]




Friday, 12 November 2010

Polish Independence Day, Paderewski's 150th Anniversary and Kevin Kenner

Bernado Bellotto, called Canaletto - View of Warsaw from the Praga district, 1770






A wonderful concert tonight in Bialystok. Kevin Kenner at his very best.


The Orchestra of the Podlasie Opera and Philharmonic


Marcin Nałęcz-Niesiołowski – conductor


Kevin Kenner – piano (Great Britain)


Programme:


I.J. Paderewski – „Polish Fantasy on Original Themes”  for piano and orchestra, Op. 19


* * *


I.J. Paderewski – Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 17



Paderewski cartoon - his hair was a gift to satirical draughtsmen

November 11 is a day of profound symbolic significance in Poland rather than the actual date when independence was formally declared - modern Polish history evolves over time rather than happens in discrete events - if you see what I mean. Six 'minor' wars were fought concurrently following that day but this is not the place nor am I the person to examine this - consult your Norman Davies or Adam Zamoyski.

Many people consider the emergence of the present independent sovereign state of Poland within the EU community as a type of 'miracle'. I am among them. Certainly if one is familiar with the fraught history of the country over hundreds of years one cannot help but consider metaphysical forces at work or at the very least the triumph of insane hope in the face of dire adversity.

Many consider the key symbolic date to be 11 November 1918 and the formation of what is known as the Second Republic. Jozef Pilsudski had been released from prison by the defeated Germans and arrived in Warsaw on 10 November. The population of the capital were wildly enthusiastic. On 11 November, amid great rejoicing, Polish troops were demobbed and a general disarmament of the hated German occupiers took place throughout towns and cities across the country. The Regency Government was appointed with Pilsudski as Commander-in-Chief of the Polish Forces. Three days later Pilsudski was given complete civil control. 'Independence' at last!  He would soon ask Paderewski to form a new government. At the Paris Peace Conference, the French statesman Clemenceau met Paderewski in the lobby of a glamorous hotel and aked him what he was doing there - giving a concert in Paris perhaps? Paderewski answered with some pride that he was attending the peace conference as Prime Minister of his country. Clemenceau exclaimed with rather grim irony 'Ah! What a come-down!'

It is in this powerful patriotic spirit that some Polish composers wrote magnificent piano concertos in the late nineteenth century. Most are seldom performed outside of the country which is a great loss to those of us who love such gigantic orchestral piano works with 'big tunes'. They are often works of tumultuous virtuosity that stir the blood with powerful nationalistic feelings, the heroic solo instrument being inescapably symbolic of the struggling Polish heart.  As a  pianist-composer the (to me) mysteriously maligned Paderewski imbues this concerto (1888) and the Polish Fantasy on Original Themes (1893) with such stirring emotions. More to the point this year is the 150th anniversary of his birth on 6 November 1860 in the village of Kurilovka in present day Ukraine.

Bialystok in the far north-east near the border with Belarus is a city of formidable cultural diversity. It is peculiarly suited to a concert celebrating a coming together of diverse peoples as an independent nation. In the brilliant American virtuoso pianist Kevin Kenner (fresh from his gruelling duties as a jurist in the International Chopin Competition) there could not have been a more apposite choice of artist. He wholly understands complex Polish patriotic emotions from his profound studies and searching performances of Chopin.

As a composer Paderewski is no Chopin but then Chopin was no statesman and politician, making overt political capital through his compositions.  Paderewski was arguably a man of far more geopolitical and practical significance for Poland (pace the English poet Shelley who once wrote: 'Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world').

Paderewski wrote the the Polish Fantasy while on a particularly happy family holiday in Normandy. This emotionally uncomplicated and entertaining work has remained popular ever since and is steeped in folk melodies and self-confidence. Kenner performed the work with great elan, joy and bravura befitting the national occasion, his tone, touch and phrasing as impeccable as ever.

I am particularly fond of the A minor Concerto Op.17 for very personal reasons. My life in Poland has not been  continuously accompanied by the music of our dear Fryderyk despite appearances to the contrary. The Paderewski concerto accompanied me on many of my early excursions around Poland, tentatively piloting the old Royce on the deserted roads of the early 1990s. This was a time when the country seemed fixed in an ancient time warp and long before the current exponential changes. 

As the landscape unrolled, the music never failed to elevate my mood and force me to reflect on history as I passed farmers working their fields, their magnificent horses straining at the plough. Listening to Chopin mazurkas whist driving through Mazovia had a similar effect or hearing Elgar while motoring in the Malvern Hills. This concerto was playing whilst I was driving through Mazury, those beautiful northern lakes, leaf green and calm in summer heat;  while negotiating the frozen High Tatras with glimpses of Niedzica Castle through dark pine forests labouring under snow; was playing when I was touched by the spiritual calm of the orthodox wooden churches of the Bieszczady region of the deep south-east , masterpieces of religious architecture, perfumed with incense, creosote and pine resin. This concerto accompanied me during my many first discoveries of Poland, its people and landscape. Then of course that unashamedly sentimental, haunting yet lyrical second movement, the background to so very many romantic trysts with Zosia which accompanied not the rising of an insurrection but of a Polish love affair.

Kevin Kenner gave one of the finest, most heartfelt performances of this difficult concerto I have heard for a very long time. The orchestra and their conductor were tremendously committed to the music, to marking the patriotic significance of these anniversaries. They played with a passion that I wish was more common among Polish orchestral ensembles.

The great pedagogue Theodore Leschetitzky, Paderewski's teacher who arranged the premiere in Vienna in 1888 with the Russian pianist Annette Essipoff, would have certainly approved Kevin Kenner as a soloist. To bring off the first movement successfully one has to have complete technical command of the instrument, a golden carrying tone and a close relationship with the orchestra. Virtuosic waves of embellished melody sweep across the keyboard like the wind across the vast plains of ripening wheat of Paderewski's childhood Ukraine, panoramic and almost excessively elaborate. A movement not tortured by a metaphysical angst or elegant conceits that make serious demands upon the listener, but fervent music that appeals to everyone. Paris adored the work. 

The poetic second movement would move a stone. I was flooded with romantic memories of fleeting landscapes past, remembered moments of  tender feminine beauty, anguished partings and joyful reunions.   Kenner was beautifully poised in this movement, never succumbing to the temptation of sugared sentiment - a lifetime of Chopin playing has taught him the power of emotional restraint in such affecting music. The final movement cannot help but arouse the healthiest of patriotic spirits. Kenner gave it all the styl brilliant treatment it deserves and roused the audience to their feet.  

They really ought to record this work together. It was such a spirited performance, Polish in essence and full of understanding of the those joyful and sentimental aspects of the Polish psyche not afflicted with the lacerating darker notions of national martydom.