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[furt-l] Nyiregyhazi/ Totentanz

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  • neil levenson
    I was a friend of Ervin Nyiregyhazi for the last ten years of his life & gave the eulogy at his funeral. While he was a free spirit, dedicated beyond doubt to
    Message 1 of 1 , May 1, 2001
      I was a friend of Ervin Nyiregyhazi for the last ten years of his life &
      gave the eulogy at his funeral.
      While he was a free spirit, dedicated beyond doubt to music (especially
      Liszt's), and could produce unique sonorities at the piano, I can understand
      lack of enthusiasm about the recordings he left. Aside from the Liszt
      Legendes (a poor-sounding live perf on IPA/Desmar), his recordings
      unfortunately demonstrate the result of gross neglect. He never practiced -
      because he was busy composing, had a remarkable tactile memory for music he
      had played even once decades in the past - and because he was massively
      insecure about being judged as a pianist. Plus he had a quite heavy
      reliance on alcohol.
      I wish he hadn't died neglected by the musical public. Despite many
      intriguing unreleased recordings (i.e. Schoenberg Op. 11/2), I can vouch
      that though John Kilgore did a fine job engineering the Ford Foundation
      sessions from which the (re-equalized) Columbia LPs were drawn.
      Nyiregyhazi's sonorities could not be captured by recording gear. After the
      Columbia LPs were withdrawn, the Ford Foundation material remaining in legal
      limbo, I arranged for Minnesota recording engineer Robert Fulton to bring
      his gear to Southern California to make further recordings with Nyiregyhazi.
      The first piece he intended to record was one I had suggested, Liszt's
      Funeral Prelude and March, but at the last minute Nyiregyhazi lost his
      nerve, asked to be driven back to his dilapidated residence, and the
      sessions never took place. Though he subsequently found a respectful
      audience in Japan, the recordings from his later concerts there are not on a
      par sonically or musically with the Kilgore sessions. By the way, "The
      Psychology of a Musical Prodigy," a standard work on the subject, was
      written about Ervin the child, before life's vicissitudes overcame him. As
      a youngster playing Busoni's Piano Concerto in the presence of royalty, I
      doubt there were as many wrong notes and awkward passages as later crept
      into his playing. Nyiregyhazi had been severely and repeatedly put-down by
      his mother, and from his twenties onward, tragically never recovered his
      confidence before the public.

      As for the Totentanz, my recommendation is the live perf with Arturo
      Benedetti Michelangeli and G. Gavazzeni - taped at the Vatican!

      Neil Levenson
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