Heinrich Neuhaus Web Site

A note to the text

By Valerij Voskobojnikov

visitors since October, 16th, 2000

The text you can read here is an excerpt from the Review "Sovetskaja muzyka", 1939, #3. More detailed opinions by Neuhaus about Godowsky can be read in his book "The art of piano playing", in some letter Neuhaus wrote to his parents, and also in the lecture "Recollection of Leopold Godowsky", that Neuhaus held in march 13th 1964 during a workshop on the history of the performance. This lesson was held by appointment of the "Scientific Society of Students" (NSO) of the Moscow Conservatory, and is partially reproduced below. It was also published in the book "The pianists are telling …" (Moscow, "Sovetskij kompozitor", 1979 pp. 28-43, Michail Sokolov editor). Here Neuhaus tells the audience about his studies with Godowsky, that he made several times: during 1905 in Berlin, following the warm recommendation of his uncle Blumenfeld and of the composer Glazunov; during 1912 at the Wien Meisterschule.

"An example about how much some Russian composer greatly valued Godowsky, can be considered the Rachmaninoff’s "Polka", which is dedicated to him. This composition exactly reproduces the way of thinking and the style of Godowsky's transcriptions. I used to make a joke about this matter, answering to people which was asking me about what Godowsky transcription I liked more: 'The Rachmaninoff Polka, so much is similar …'. "

Neuhaus’ recollections about Godowsky as a composer and as a teacher were quite clashing, while his opinions about the Godowsky as a pianist were fully enthusiastic – as you can see in the above paper.

Neuhaus was particularly puzzled about the transcriptions of the Chopin studies that Godowsky made. They are astonishingly difficult, so that only a pianist of the caliber of Godowsky could afford them. Neuhaus believed they were quite unuseful. Also the collection "Renaissance" make him quite doubtful. It collects some elaboration - in a modern fashion – of excerpts of ancient music.

On the contrary, his collection of waltzes – 24 excerpts in ¾ - is an example of mastery, logic and perspicacity. The full title is: "Walzenmasken 24 Tonfantasien im Dreiniertestakt für Klavier von Leopold Godowsky" ("Masks’ waltzes: 24 musical fantasies in ternary time for piano by L.G."). Some of the excerpts are dedicated to the composers that are imitated along the collection, which is composed "in a brilliant style". In Neuhaus’ opinion, studying and performing this collection can be very useful for the young pianists. Neuhaus criticise instead the Godowsky transcriptions of the J.Strauss’ waltzes. He consider as very overdone the way in which the simple structure of the Wiener waltz is altered combining indeed up to four themes, thus adding a further fifth thematic bass line. Neuhaus studied one of these waltzes and analysed its very astonishing compositional structure. He however confessed that such a lot of counterpoint and polyphony can hardly be related to a simple and gay waltz!

The Godowsky’s Sonata was long and prolix. There were plenty of themes, intricacies, imitations of Beethoven, Chopin, etc. The composer was aware of that, when he told Neuhaus during 1935: "Maybe I’m a incurable scribbler, and maybe for this reasons I normally write so much!"

The Sonata was once performed by a young pupil which was not so gifted. The Maestro was very disappointed, and said: "You are making my Sonata even more boring of what it already is!" The personal relationships between Godowsky and Neuhaus were based upon a warm friendship. The Maestro evidently liked the musical gift, the sensitiveness and the cleverness of the young Neuhaus. J.Milstein quotes, in one of his notes, a letter by Godowsky to H. Neuhaus in July 28th 1932, in which the polish pianist wrote: "I’m often recollecting You and Your uncle Blumenfeld. He was a great artist and a beautiful person. I liked him very much, and I valued him in an extraordinary way. Furthermore, I can recollect the far past, the Meisterschule period, the epoch of travels and performances, the hard work of teaching. You were one of my more beloved pupil. You were very gifted and talented, rich in sensitiveness. You were a clever, good, earnest and nice person."