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Moriz Rosenthal in Word and Music

A Legacy of the Nineteenth Century

Edited and with an Introduction by Mark Mitchell and Allan Evans. Preface by Charles Rosen

Publication Year: 2006

As a pianist, Rosenthal was unparalleled: his legato touch came from Chopin through his pupil Mikuli; his awareness of composition was developed by Liszt; his Brahms interpretation shaped by the composer himself; and his ingeniously crafted piano-paraphrases memorialized his friendship with Johann Strauss II. Yet Rosenthal's pianistic abilities were married to a rare intellectual erudition -- a knowledge of literature, history, philology, science, philosophy, and society that few pianists have ever matched, let alone surpassed.

In these striking pieces, we see every facet of Rosenthal: memoirist, social critic, pedagogue, and virtuoso. He could write with gravity and pathos, yet his famous and sometimes devastating wit is legendary. This volume combines Rosenthal's writings with critical assessments of the pianist by such contemporaries as Eduard Hanslick, Edward Prime-Stevenson, and Hugo Wolf. It is rounded out with an illuminating preface by Charles Rosen, perhaps Rosenthal's most renowned pupil; a discography and concertography; and a CD featuring never-before-released Rosenthal recordings.

Published by: Indiana University Press


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xiv

When Moriz Rosenthal made most of his recordings in the 1920s and 1930s, the recording industry largely restricted its productions of piano music to short works lasting less than four and a half minutes,1 and consequently he was never to leave a permanent witness of his interpretations of the long Romantic masterpieces for which he was most famous like the...

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pp. xv

We would like to thank the following people for their help with this project: Paula Best, for providing copies of the programs from Rosenthal’s historical recitals at Wigmore Hall, London; Gino Francesconi, for providing a list of the repertoire Rosenthal played at Carnegie Hall, New York; Dr. Ingrid Fuchs, for providing access to Rosenthal’s writings in the archives of the Gesellschaft der...

Moriz Rosenthal: A Chronology

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pp. xvii-xx

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pp. 1-16

The sound he drew out of the piano was entirely his own; yet Moriz Rosenthal’s musicianship also amounted to a resume of nineteenth-century music history. His legato touch came from Chopin through his pupil Mikuli; his awareness of compositional elements was developed by Liszt; his Brahms (none of which, regrettably, he ever recorded) was shaped by an association with...

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1. Autobiography

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pp. 17-39

Again. And even a lot longer than yesterday,” answered my sister Rosa, who, being nine years older than I (I was seven), used to pick me up from our father’s school.2 “He walked along nicely until we got to the Frenelgasse, but a window was open on the second floor there, and we could hear someone playing a piano,...

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2. Review of a Concert by M. R .in Vienna

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pp. 40-41

In his weak, unprepossessing outward appearance Moriz Rosenthal recalls Tausig. Nor is that the end of the similarity. He also resembles Tausig in the extraordinary brilliance of his playing. Through many years of acquaintance with modern piano virtuosity I have almost forgotten what it is to be astonished,...

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3. Letter to Lilli Lehmann

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pp. 42-43

“I resolved to look at the rôle, and to learn it if it were possible. A piano score was not at hand, and had first to be borrowed from van Dyck, who lived nearby, a conductor had to be fetched, and then the work began. I knew much of the text, of course, and I had the music by ear, but as soon as I had to sing it accurately...

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4. Review of a Concert by M. R. in Manchester

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pp. 44

An exceedingly remarkable performance of Schumann’s Pianoforte Concerto was given by Mr. Rosenthal and the orchestra. In no other performance that we remember was the balance between orchestra and solo part so well preserved. Mr. Rosenthal played with his usual perfection of technical mastery; his phrasing...

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5. Rosenthaliana

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pp. 45-48

Probably nowhere is the deadening inactivity of the dog days felt more keenly than in the offices of a large daily newspaper. At least, so young Barthmann had just said, sitting at his desk in the reporters’ room of the Berlin Mittagblatt and tapping his nose rhythmically with a loose wrist and a long lead pencil....

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6. The Di

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pp. 49-50

The international [triennial] competition for the prize of four thousand gold francs, endowed by Professor Louis Di

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7. The Bane of Virtuosity (excerpt)

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pp. 51-52

It has long been more than a suspicion with many of us that our voracious New York musical public, which can approach with enthusiasm a season offering several hundred concerts and almost as many performances of opera, cares relatively little what music is offered for its consideration, but a great deal for the manner in which it is offered. It is, one means, largely a worshipper of...

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8. From Music, The Mystery and the Reality

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pp. 53

Even among those nearest to him, including some of his students, [Liszt] was often misunderstood. One of his disciples understood him profoundly; that was Moriz Rosenthal. We must give Rosenthal credit for having communicated, without keeping anything secret, his rich experiences to all those who had the pleasure of approaching him...

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9. On Liszt’s Don Juan Fantasie

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pp. 54-55

Beginning with Tirso de Molina, many of the greats of poetry and music haveengaged with the titanic revolt of Don Juan against moral law.1 To name but afew from the ranks of the poets: Corneille, Moli

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10. A Stroll with Ferruccio Busoni

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pp. 56-57

The evening approached. The count’s head chef in London did the noble family credit, even more so the “butler” who, with a sanctifying hand, poured red and blond alcoholic drinks into the glittering glasses. The conversation soon moved on from the initial mezzopiano to disembogue into a sonorous fortissimo. The red and violet flecks on the faces of the highly dignified guests, along with...

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11. Mahleriana

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pp. 58-60

Lunch at Prof. Julius Epstein’s, the doyen of the piano professors in Vienna, was very lively. Opposite me sat a man who was still young with sharply cut features and nervous, distracted gestures. Epstein introduced him: “Gustav Mahler, composer, conductor, and my piano pupil. He will play his [first] symphony for us after lunch.” I suddenly felt a mental jolt while two of Prof. Epstein’s colleagues...

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12. Czar Alexander II

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pp. 61-62

Often I have been asked by interviewers: “Before which sovereigns have you played during your career?” Then I always thought of the uncrowned kings of my acquaintance who honored me with their friendship or their friendly interest, like [Albert] Einstein, Liszt, Brahms, Anton Rubinstein, Turgenev.1 Afterward my memory would recall from stygian darkness the worldly crowned ones...

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13. Review of a Concert by M. R.

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pp. 63

We reached the Wigmore Hall on Saturday in time to catch Mr. Rosenthal maltreating Brahms’s Piano Sonata in F Minor [op. 5]. The sonata is an early work, badly written from the point of view of piano effect. Mr. Rosenthal does not make it more effective by playing fast and loose with the rhythm of the Scherzo...

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14. Letter to the Editor

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pp. 64-65

Sir,—Your highly esteemed musical critic asserts in your issue of December 5, commenting on my seventh recital of the historical series, that in performing the Paganini-Variations by Brahms I showed my “supreme disregard of the composer’s intentions.”...

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15. As Others See Us: H. C. C.’s Response to M. R.’s Letter to the Editor

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pp. 66-68

Mr. Rosenthal’s letter has shown his skill in defense and counter-attack with a good story for a weapon. I grudge him nothing but the weapon, the story of Matejko, the painter. That should have been in my hand, though I might not have wielded it as deftly as Mr. Rosenthal has. For what I set out to tell him was...

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16. The Korngold Scandal

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pp. 69-71

Herr Julius Korngold has responded to accusations of tactlessness and impropriety by trying to besmirch Richard Strauss with a “critique”; he has also assured us of his being a just father to his composer son and furthermore promised to ignore the “loutish behavior” directed against him.1 It is not our intention to examine which is the greater about him—the insolence with which he greets his...

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17. From Franz Liszt

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pp. 72-73

“You ask how [Liszt] played? As no one before him, and as no one probably will ever again. I remember when I first went to him as a boy—he was in Rome at the time—he used to play for me in the evening by the hour—nocturnes by Chopin, études of his own—all of a soft, dreamy nature that caused me to open my eyes in wonder at the marvellous delicacy and finish of his touch. The embellishments...

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18. The Old and the New School of Piano Playing

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pp. 74-77

By some musical writers of high rank I was most flatteringly alluded to as “one of the most distinguished” or even (in some instances) “the most distinguished” representative of the older school of piano playing. I began to meditate about the difference between the older and the new schools of pianism. The conclusions...

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19. Review of a Concert by M. R. [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 78-84

I know no great pianist of Rosenthal’s rank and importance who is more unsatisfactory, uneven and so curiously deficient. In the last Beethoven Sonata and the Chopin B Minor, one was irritated almost beyond endurance at the flabby shapelessness of his phrases, the floppy, sagging rhythm, the general looseness...

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20. Letter to Herbert Hughes

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pp. 85-89

I was very happy to receive your charming letter, which I will answer immediately in spite of being con

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21. Moriz Rosenthal–Emil Sauer: and Modern Pianism

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pp. 90-92

Mr. Moriz Rosenthal, unobtrusively confident of bearing, dégagé as ever, occupies local musical attention lately, to no small purport. Since Mr. Rosenthal’s previous pianistic campaign hereabouts, where has he roved, busily? Has he been touring not only the Far East, and Australia, but also Mars, Jupiter, the Solar System, the Great Nebula in Andromeda?—always being—probably—best (or...

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22. Schumann’s Carnaval

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pp. 93-96

We spoke of the worship of S chumann for Chopin, for Clara, and for Ernestine, who all three were implicated and celebrated in Carnaval. But there was one man, a colossus among poets, whom Schumann extolled to the stars, and whom he placed side by side with Ludwig van Beethoven, his hero among musicians. The name of this incomparable writer was Jean Paul Friedrich Richter (pen name, Jean Paul) who was born at Wunsiedel, 1763, and who died at

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23. Anton Rubinstein’s Concert in Pressburg

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pp. 97-103

In 1885, a memorable concert took place in a city that was not yet called Bratislava.1 It was still the historic Pressburg where Empress Maria Theresia, before her wars with Frederick the Great, appeared before the Hungarian parliament pleading for help, and where the valiant Hungarians, in exuberant enthusiasm, broke into the heroic shout: “We shall die for our Queen.” It was in Pressburg...

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24. My Memories of Johannes Brahms

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pp. 104-106

On January 7, 1884, I played in a concert in the Bösendorfersaal, alongside the “Appassionata,” a set of Chopin compositions; alongside Liszt’s Don Juan Fantasie, Brahms’s Paganini Variations, which in those days were very seldom performed in concert halls. Max Kalbeck told Brahms all about it.1 About two...

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25. Brahmsiana

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pp. 107-116

A delightful summer evening waned in the Vienna Woods, luring one irresistibly out of doors.1 But a great name was buzzing through the balmy summer air like a bass note: Johannes Brahms! I hastily left my apartment, at Wollzeile 25, which Brahms had blessed with several visits, to go to the restaurant of the...

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26. Brahms and Johann Strauss II

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pp. 117-118

During the Bad Ischl days a very popular story circulated in countless variations at tables in restaurants and coffee houses recounting the reciprocal appreciation, even admiration, which two masters of musical art held for each other: Johannes Brahms, the miracle worker from the north, and Johann Strauss, the “Second...

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27. Review of a Concert by M. R.

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pp. 119-120

Moriz Rosenthal’s second recital at Wigmore hall was unhappy. He began with Liszt’s transcription of the Bach Organ Prelude and Fugue in A Minor, and it was a performance uncomfortable in its technique and musically incoherent. The Schumann “Fantasie” (op. 17), which followed, was played without fervour or imagination, and with an almost grotesque exaggeration of every vulgarity...

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28. Letter to the Editor

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pp. 121-123

Sir,—When the criticism on my second London recital, initialed “G. C.” and dated March, 1934, reached me some time after its publication, I was too busy to devote myself to the answer it deserved, having been engaged for a very strenuous tour through South America. Having returned again to old Europe, I...

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29. Review of a Concert by M. R.

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pp. 124

Mr. Moriz Rosenthal brought to a triumphant conclusion on Saturday the series of seven historical programmes of piano music which have been in progress at Wigmore Hall during the last three weeks. They have been the most consistent feature of an otherwise desultory concert season, and not the least part of the triumph was that after six opportunities of hearing him Mr. Rosenthal could...

30. From Aphorisms

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pp. 125-126

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31. On the Question of Applause

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pp. 127-128

Applause follows the performance of a work as surely as thunder follows lightning. There are many reasons why it is wrong to suppress it. If there is no applause, the artist infers unconsciously that the audience is cold and disinterested. He becomes uneasy, uncertain, and his initial nervousness grows. Moreover, he...

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Appendix A. Rosenthal as Humorist

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pp. 129-132

Once Rosenthal gave a concert in a city in the state of Ohio. Because his concert piano, which always followed him when he was on tour, had not arrived in time, he had to make do with a wretched piano for the night. But after the first few notes of Liszt’s Don Juan Fantasie the badly screwed-in lyre, on which the pedals were hanging, fell...

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Appendix B. Annotated Concertography

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pp. 133-148

The following list of works played in concert by Moriz Rosenthal does not pretend to be exhaustive since programs from each of his estimated 3,500 concerts are not extant.1 Moreover, those that do exist often give imprecise information such as “five preludes” of Chopin or “sonata” of Scarlatti. This list is based upon the programs in the Archives of...

Appendix C. Discography

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pp. 149-155


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pp. 157-175


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pp. 177-184

E-ISBN-13: 9780253111661
E-ISBN-10: 0253111668
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253346605

Page Count: 208
Illustrations: 9 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2006