Historical interpretations of Friderick Chopin works

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Alfred Grünfeld - biography


Alfred Grünfeld, a German pianist and composer (Austrian or Hungarian according to some sources), was born on 4 July 1852 in Prague, and died on 4 January 1924 in Vienna. Along with his brother Heinrich he had been prepared for being a musician since his early childhood. He studied under Josef Krejčí at the conservatory in Prague, and next at the Neue Akademie der Tonkunst in Berlin in the piano class under Theodor Kullak, a pupil of Carl Czerny, and in the composition class under Richard Wuerst, a pupil of Carl Rungenhagen and Felix Mendelssohn. He made his debut at the age of twelve. In 1873 he moved to Vienna, where he later mastered piano playing under Theodor Leschetizky. As he often performed at aristocratic houses, he soon became a renowned "Kammervirtuose". His bravura performances, full of glamour, elegance and imagination revealed both his virtuoso talent and musical intelligence. The Austrian writer and music critic Edward Hanslick gave the following review: “By his brilliant playing as well as his sweet expression and gay humor he understands to perfections the art of charming his listeners in Vienna.” Josef Hofmann said: “He possessed a velvet touch, yet he could play only lounge music well.” Grünfeld captivated audiences also with his talent for improvising, and his extraordinary ability to read music a prima vista. His repertoire included works by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Brahms, Grieg, as well as Schubert, Gounod, J. Strauss II, and Leschetizky, he often performed his own paraphrases of the pieces. Grünfeld was appointed court pianist to the German Emperor William I. From 1876 onwards he gave concerts across Europe, he played at the Warsaw Philharmonic Hall, and in America (1891). In Russia Tsar Alexander III presented him with the Order of St. Stanislav. He often performed with his brother Heinrich, a famous cellist. Grünfeld is regarded as one of the first greatest pianists to record their performances. His earliest recordings date back to 1899. He recorded also Chopin's works, inter alia: Mazurka in B minor op. 33 No. 4 for G&T company (1904), and Nocturne in C minor op. 48 No.1 on a Welte Mignon piano roll (about 1906). In the meantime he was an active pedagogue. In 1897 he started teaching at a conservatory, and in 1913 he received the position of a professor at the Akademie für Musik in Vienna. He composed mainly virtuoso piano pieces (inter alia: Barcarolle, octave etudes, Ungarische Fantasie, Impromptu, a Spanish Serenade), as well as transcriptions and concerto paraphrases, of which the most famous are Soirée de Vienne, Frühlingsstimmen (J. Strauss, the son), Faust (Gounod), Rosamunde (F. Schubert). His compositions also include an operetta and the comic opera Die Schönen von Fogaras (1907).

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