He was one of the most well-traveled pianists of all time, giving more than three-thousand recitals on every continent in the world. But this Great Chopinist’s lasting legacy may be the musical miniatures that he danced as a child in Poland – the Mazurka.
Nobody played a Chopin Mazurka quite like Ignaz Friedman, born in Poland in 1882. Critic Hyperion Knight describes it as "A special lilt, a slight rhythmic inflection, both original and wholly authentic.” Modern piano scholars find them almost unique – and almost incomprehensible: David Bar-Illan: “The greater the interpretation, the more impossible to figure it out. I don’t understand what he is doing.” Author David Dubal: “They speak a universal language that resides deep within the ancient dance form.”
A dance form that Ignaz Friedman actually knew as a child growing up in Krakow, before being packed off to Vienna at the age of 16 to study with Theodor Leschetizky, the most famous piano teacher of his time — Who promptly advised Friedman to give up the piano. Thus broken, Friedman rebuilt himself to become the Viennese master’s star pupil, from whom he learned the importance of mechanics. Friedman once said he practiced Chopin’s famously difficult “Etude in Thirds” (Op. 25 No. 6) five thousand times before playing it in public.
Despite his long career, Ignaz Friedman’s recorded output is slim. But to this day his 1930 recordings of Chopin’s Etudes and Mazurkas are prized by piano connoisseurs. “Flexible, imaginative, and original,” in the words of one critic. In Friedman’s? “Rhythm is the life of music, and color is its flesh and blood. Without either, all interpretive art is dead.” Ignaz Friedman: A Great Chopinist. - Joe Brant & Benjamin K. Roe