A Medicine Man from Faulkner’s world.

Before a country like ours became standardized to death, before mass media linked and limited our goals and souls, our new world was a frontier rife with wanderers, enigmatic stragglers who embezzled, seduced and abandoned, purveyed mysteries, enlightenment seasoned with fraud wherever they set up alongside genuine visionaries, practitioners of traditional customs.


Master chronicler Huddie Ledbetter, a.k.a. Leadbelly, brings forth a character haunting the societal landscape bequeathed by Mark Twain and Faulkner: the Medicine Man. His identity was captured in a 1930s Library of Congress recording.

Before singing his first note, Leadbelly’s twelve-string Stella guitar projects its melody within a restless narrative accompaniment that opens onto an unstable world of sudden arrivals and longed-for departures. His divine perspective that gazes downward onto a populace recounts their stories before targeting a detailed description of their actions and then giving voice to the protagonist himself, all anchored by a unique rhythm that supports the momentum of lyrics and their suave delivery.


The Medicine Man

Oh the Medicine Man,    [the?] Ba’,

He’s traveling through the land

Oh the Medicine Man,    [a’] Ba’,

He’s traveling through the land


Got the grip in his hand,    Baby,

And he’s doing the best he can

Got the grip in his hand,    Baby,

And he’s doing the best he can


That was a Doctor who used to sell medicine

And got to be a blind man

And he’s sitting on side the road begging all he can

And everybody come on and seen him that knowed him

And you know that he was a good doctor

And everybody in the Black [sic?*] started to do something for the good doctor

And he had his old medicine case in his hand

And everyone invited people to come on and go on and let him know who he was


Oh the Blind Man,    oh Babe,

He’s sitting on the road again

Oh the Blind Man,    Baby,

Sitting on the road again


Got the grip in his hand,    Baby,

Got the grip in his hand

Got the grip in his hand,    Baby. . .


I’m the Medicine Man,    Baby,

And I’m on the road again

I’m the Medicine Man,    Baby,

On the road again


Oh I declare,    Baby

I’m setting on the road somewhere

Baby I declare,    Baby

I’m setting on the road somewhere


With a grip in my hand,    loaded,

I’m doing the best I can

Got my grip in my hand,   loaded . . .

*hard to discern this crucial word. . .


Could this song be an evocation of something Leadbelly had witnessed or heard about? Nearby Choctaw Indians had medicine men in their lives and ex-Slaves would have sought after them and anyone else for the health care that they and their descendants are still denied.

Or is this mythic narration a risque blend of truth that also opens onto an allegory for a hand-held grip residing in a Medicine Man’s trousers? Either way, he would have been in demand and this irresistible song from a remote time etches its mantra-like ritornello into you for good!

©Allan Evans 2016

A cellist summons the Mongols



When a cello plays you expect its low range to provide a buttress that stabilizes its highest singing registers that copy operatic and lieder singing. Before the mid-19th century cello works were infrequently composed, apart from Beethoven’s five sonatas, one by Chopin, as most composers shied away due to the difficulty in balancing it against other instruments that would invade and obliterate its tessitura. Bach alone fathomed its depths. He also wrote for viola da gamba (leg viola) but ventured far with an unaccompanied instrument to offer dance rhythms and polyphony. One wonders if he was aware of Marin de Marais. . .

Tibor de Machula (1912-1982) playing Bach came as a jolt. So many violinists have Hungarian pedigrees, as did a smattering of cellists who were of lesser interest to the music scene due to their smaller repertoire but de Machula’s approach has reshuffled the pecking order. Cello playing flourished mostly by apeing violin and vocal styles, something that negates any hidden and unique properties in its ties to earlier and distant instruments. All the mannerisms and limitations that burden older styles,the  sliding, egomaniacal display, publicly airing one’s nervous system, or regression into gelid remoteness like Heifetz’s, is now becoming a freeze-dried abstraction lacking healthier origins. The riddle of what lies within a cello comes through an instrument that spanned the Silk Route and was adapted into European versions: the morin huur, a two-stringed horse-headed Mongolian fiddle.


Although Hungary was repressed under Russian domination, one escape route came by their extensive UNESCO funded research into salvaging and publishing traditional music and uncovering their own origins beyond Transylvania. One team entered Mongolia in 1967 when it was closed to many non Soviet-bloc countries.


The Hungarian team located Dorzhdagva, a master of whom photos have yet to surface, who plays and sings to epically recount his instrument’s origins, imitating a horse’s sway and rhythm:


His fiddle richly emanates overtones, an integral part of their throat singing, with possible origins in Buddhist chant that inevitably grasps harmonics, prominent in Tibetan and Japanese monastic orders.

Csangos, the Hungarian settlers who remain on the far-eastern extremity of their European settlements transform a cello into a percussion instrument that they call the gardon, imitating the morin huur’s trot.

As Hungarians continue to name boys Attila, one wondered if something inaccessible or lost remained when playing classical music on the cello. De Machula had an early debut in Budapest and was welcomed at the Curtis Institute of Music in 1927 (age 15) where he studied cello with Felix Salmond for three years. Soon after returning to Europe he became principal cellist of the Berlin Philharmonic in 1936 (age 24), remaining there until he was offered to lead the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam in 1947. Aside from too few studio recordings, live performances were limited by his orchestra’s schedule and it is rare to hear him in action. De Machula’s daughter Barbara created a documentary film on her father (http://www.tibordemachula.com).

Tibor and Barbara de Machula


Barbara de Machula generously provides us with Bach’s Cello Suite in D major from a 1976 recital. We hear part of its opening Prelude:


I was stunned not only by de Machula’s playful polyphony, his courage to project low tones that are usually restrained under the sonic carpet, but a sound evoking the morin huur itself, one that arrived when Mongolians and nearby groups migrated West to the Danube. The lowest string envelops the music with an aura of overtones to project a colorful and captivating Bach. Like the Hungarian pianist Irén Marik, de Machula displays a uniqueness in Hungarian master musicians who grasp a work’s entirety, instantaneously, and then labors to have the body realize what they have intuited. De Machula’s bowing channels the morin hour’s soul with a rhythmic life of its own that creates a synthesis of instructed, genetic, and personal elements. The cello seemingly plays itself

There were fewer active instrumentalists when Pablo Casals (1876-1973) picked up his cello. They tended to accept predominant violin styles as a guiding model for approaching other string instruments.



Casals emerged from a narrow void to forge his own cello practice. He seemed reluctant to allow elements of traditional music to overlap with Bach, whereas flamenco and cante jondo were seized by Albeniz, Falla, and Debussy for their compositions. His cello viscerally rang out, expressing himself and his instrument in a Schumannesque-Brahmsian manner. A 1930s performance of the same Prelude is played by Casals:



Jack Bruce (1943-2014), a classically trained cellist, composer, bass player, and singer shared his love for an instrument that dominated before life made him into a rock star.



Arbiter is preparing to release performances by de Machula and his teacher Salmond that will bring to light their eclipsed traditions.

One explorer of Central Europe and Mongolia is the Berlin-based American composer Arnold Dreyblatt (http://dreyblatt.net), who absorbed Csangos and Mongolian idioms to create a musical language that expands into text and installations. Instruments have are excited, rewired to create layered overtones and circulate in a flurry above solid grounded pitches that release them.


These sublime roots continue to inspire a composer’s investigative wanderings.



Allan Evans ©2016


A visit with Robert Ashley

Ashley perfect blue

He would enter dressed like a CIA operative who tried to act inconspicuous while delivering internal espionage capers. Sunglasses shielded his eyes as he hypnotically intoned texts with precise metrics that supported his myths. Robert Ashley’s half-sung narrative practically breathed down the neck of his subjects, coming as closely as one ever could to their physical presence while suddenly leaping out into a divine perspective via altered states of phonemes and consciousness.

Ashley began composing dissonant academic music but that soon gave way to electronics and his gift for writing led to texts that place him as a Faulkner of the Corn Belt:

. His greatness as a writer rivals and often surpasses his musical ideas.

This in-and-out of mundane and divine regions was traversed at the breathtaking speed of a rapid voiced volley of overlapping cosmic ironies. To hear Ashley speak of his passion for reading financial journals in order to ferret out their hermetic language and how he could embed it in his works brings us within the workshop of his ingenious creations and how they and he acquired an identity.

As the Soviet Union was thawing in 1990, more individuals were able to travel outside the Iron Curtain for the first time. When I came there in 1987, the U.S. Embassy’s cultural attaché had a rolodex with phone numbers of the underground cultural protagonists. Artists were plied with Russian publications such as A-Ya, a magazine covering work of emigrées, defectors or busy away from the censors. Printing on heavy paper was essential as copies had to reach to hundreds of readers, hand to hand on the samizdat network that kept everyone informed of what the official media prohibited. According to Elizaveta Butakova of the Courtauld Institute of Art, London

“A-Ya was a tri-lingual magazine published in Paris from 1979 to 1986. Published in Rus- sian, French and English, it featured contemporary non-conformist Soviet art of the period and was edited by the unofficial sculptor Igor Chelkovski, who had emigrated to Paris in 1976. A-Ya featured some of the most important Russian artists of this period, including Ilya Kabakov, Eric Bulatov, Oleg Vassiliev and Komar and Melamid, and yet its importance has been understated.”


Our diplomats paved way to collectors, underground musicians, jazz fanatics, a classical musician banned from playing in major cities but cosy with a housekeeper whom he impatiently kvetched at to hurry up with our tea, and pianist Sviatoslav Richter’s sexy assistant (Georgian-Ukrainian) who received me in his apartment on Bol’shaya Bronnaya Street while he away in Germany.

Dmitry Ukhov spoke faultless English and was as up to date as anyone in the US on the Jazz scene, an avid listener to and familiar with Indian raga scales, classical music old and new and more. On the morning of a lecture scheduled to introduce Russian composers to Ashley, David Borden, Steve Reich, Arnold Dreyblatt, La Monte Young, and John Zorn at the House of Composers, an early phone call informed that I was not to present any new music but instead bring over the guitar and cover American Blues and the music by Reverend Gary Davis. It was a genre rife with anti-authoritarian messages that the older male caryatids couldn’t detect. Suspecting this to be a power-ploy cooked up by their malignant cultural tsar Tikhon Khrennikov, a Stalin-era apparatchik-composer assigned to serve as Shostakovich’s official antagonist, Dmitry and I first stopped down the street near Dom Kompository to pick up two elderly sisters. Ukhov kindly shlepped my guitar while I hooked one sister onto each arm in dry, invigorating zero-degree weather. The composer nomenklatura did not seem particularly happy when recognizing that Scriabin’s two daughters were smilingly accompanying the American. These were the people who purged many of their friends. A photo album had many faces cut, for to have them recognized after their deportations would have risked the sisters’ lives.

Elena Scriabina Sofronitskaya had been Vladimir Sofronitsky’s wife and is seen in a documentary of Vladimir Horowitz’s return to Moscow, the memory of which was still shuddered over by the US embassy’s staff, recalling how the maestro’s windows had to be covered with mylar to prevent any light from entering his bedroom at Spasso House, the Ambassador’s residence and how his mandatory Dover sole had to be flown in fresh, daily from Helsinki, whisked through their diplomatic pouches and rushed over by an embassy driver to the main kitchen.

Ukhov’s New York arrival was timely as Phil Niblock’s Experimental Intermedia Foundation was hosting the debut of clarinetist-composer Roberto Paci Dalò from Rimini, Italy. In the audience were John Cage, Leroy Jenkins, and several other composers and performers that Ukhov had only heard on clandestine recordings. After a slight nudge he approached several and appointments were eagerly made as his presence was a novelty at that time. I tagged along and one visit yielded a few inspiring hours with Robert Ashley at his Tribeca loft, a time when that area was industrial and largely uninhabited. Here’s the conversation that ensued on a December day in 1990:

Part I:

Part II:


A book that keeps Ashley close by:

Outside of Time

Allan Evans ©2016  with gratitude to Dmitry Ukhov.





How an unknown family saga inspired a Tolstoy classic.

A pity if scholars and researchers directly aim for a target while overlooking its neighborhood! If you want to enter a building, isn’t it best to become aware of what lies nearby and how they fit together? History’s like this and the crucial leads surface whenever the search goes astray. My recent biography of Ignaz Friedman


gathered significant leads on the most disparate paths. Anyone merely content with uncovering Ignaz Friedman’s Berlin Pariserstrasse address might have overlooked Max Beckmann (self portrait), an artist two years younger than Friedman, who lived down the block. As they probably breathed in the same night vapors I wondered if any interaction happened between Friedman, a late Romantic musician who dwelled in the golden decay of the 19th century, and forerunners such as the young Beckmann who were labelled as “expressionist.”


Alfred Döblin, another major writer in Berlin who echoes Beckmann’s aesthetic in prose kept a diary that offers his reaction to a Friedman piano recital, illustrating how the 20th century’s primary goal was to destroy the previous one’s aesthetics: their opposition helping me diagnose the motives behind later performers and critics who sought to suppress an earlier pianist by reviling a style had become alien to them and their supporters. Döblin writes:


I began to listen to Chopin, or rather, to Herr Ignaz Friedman. In my Kalypso one can re-read in detail about the composer’s contribution to the carrying out of a work. The singer sings because she has a voice, not because she is Mozart. Mozart represents the primary source and Art consists of its dematerialization through a posterior spiritualism.

And so I continued listening to Chopin dancing on wobbly stilts, passing in front of me. Together with him, Friedman played with involvement and willingly: he projected quite well on the stage. Often he made spellbinding leaps in front of him, almost in a more refined way than Chopin, succeeding well in highlighting the delight, lightness, and superficiality, aware of the delicate. But when it comes to Chopin, Herr Friedman puffs himself up into an edema and his cheeks swell in ardor. After the effort, he was leaning back flirtatiously and smiled in affectation up to the point of being saccharine. Well, well, in this way I was able for a moment to take in a whiff of the “sweet” spirit of Chopin.

{Excerpt from Evans. Ignaz Friedman, Romantic Master Pianist.]

One of the greatest musical losses came when three biographies of Vladimir Horowitz overlooked Wanda Toscanini Horowitz, the pianist’s wife.


Just from having grown up in the Toscanini home, a central musical force in Milano, would have placed her recollections as uniquely invaluable social documents, but as Horowitz learned English, he grasped it as a business language and was surrounded by the perfunctory brown-nosing sycophants festering in “high-end” music’s commerce and acted the clown to keep them at a distance from his inner world. Posthumously uploaded videos show a couple of  disparate souls who adored each other and how Wanda must have inherited a discerning ear from her father, the conductor Arturo Toscanini as her comments on what Horowitz should play reveals her role in as life as a safe harbor, one that grounds him from going astray. Imagine what she could have offered about the close people in their lives such as Rachmaninoff and Toscanini, the entire musical scene of half a century, all lost unless interviews or hypothetical diaries magically appear. Their experiences in Europe were entirely overlooked by monoglot authors who didn’t dare across over the Atlantic to chart foreign sources, such as Carlo Zecchi who knew the pre-war Horowitz and lived until 1984. Views of Horowitz’s art and life will remain incomplete until recollections of and by Wanda turn up. David Dubal told me that at Horowitz’s funeral, he asked Wanda why did Horowitz suffer so much anxiety and depression for most of his life: “Pogrom.”

Locating Friedman’s family made one curious about his wife Manya, a tall devout Russian-Orthodox noble who accepted a short atheist Jew in her life –Friedman. He would goad her on returning from church: “So, how was the turnout today?”


Manya passed way in 1969, some twenty-one years after Friedman. She too was hardly questioned about Friedman but luckily her family’s history involves contacts with the writers Lermontov and Tolstoy, the latter a relative by marriage. Manya’s mother Vera Schabelsky Schidlowsky

Manya's mother Vera in Paris

lived in Petersburg and spent time in southern Voronezh at the family’s Gobtarovka estate which she depicted in miniature paintings (circa 1880s, author’s collection):


The family often spent time with the Tolstoys but made sure that impressionable young Manya would not overhear any of his heretical pronouncements. She came to know his daughters and was close to Tanya Albertini, a grand-daughter.

Tanya aided refugees in Italy during World War II. When I met her in 1983 she was all excited as her daughter had an upcoming wedding. “I married Albertini, an Italian, and now she is about to marry a man from Spain. Look how mixed we are and will become! This is the best way – when everyone mixes it becomes harder to hate!” She and a remote relative in Recanati, hometown of the poet-philosopher Giacomo Leopardi, offered other clues to their family, including some allusions to Friedman.

A remarkable event in Vera’s life came when her wishes to marry the Tsar’s brother were quashed by having a lower rank and she married his assistant “on the rebound” and had Manya with him (one assumes her husband was the father, although Manya’s face slightly resembles Vera’s beloved Grand Duke).


In the biography, several events lead us to a close-up of a character used by Dostoyevsky and a work of Tolstoy’s. From the Friedman biography we enter a remote corner in 19th century Russia that reaches further than one could anticipate, one in which the source of a Tolstoy novelette was exposed:

Again Vera’s marriage began to disintegrate. The couple embarked with two-year-old Manya on a journey to consult a living legend, a doctor of souls sought after by multitudes of pilgrims: farmers concerned about changing weather patterns and their crops, the sick and injured seeking cures or miracles, and those tormented by a crisis of faith. Some had made their journey barefoot, in the fervent hope that Father Ambrose would provide the answers to their woes. In the desert town of Optina- Pustyn, the family entered the grounds of the celebrated monastery where Father Ambrose had received Leo Tolstoy, before their meeting ended abruptly after a clash of views. Dostoyevsky also visited the monk’s cell, and left with a burning image of the believers’ ardor and the holy man’s perspicacity. He later shaped Ambrose into Father Zossima in The Brothers Karamazov:

It was said by many people about the elder Zossima that, by permitting everyone for so many years to come to bare their hearts and beg his advice and healing words, he had absorbed so many secrets, sorrows, and avowals into his soul that he could tell at the first glance from the face of a stranger what he came for, what he wanted, and what kind of torment racked his conscience. Indeed, he sometimes frightened his visitor by this knowledge of his secret before he had even time to utter a word.

When Vera and Boris Schidlowsky [Vera’s husband and Manya’s father] presented themselves, the holy man first blessed Maria, who presented him with a rabbit. Ambrose turned to the parents before they could utter a word, declaring, “You are not meant to be married. Part from one another and devote your lives to the church.” The family returned to Voronezh with Ambrose’s photo.


Boris entered a monastery, but after six months, Tsar Alexander III approved his petition to leave the church: “I’ve heard of officers wishing to become monks, but never a monk wanting to become a hussar.” Boris soon rejoined his old regiment.


                                                        (Vera became Abbess Valentina)

Russian society learned of the event, as did Vera’s second cousin Sophie Behrs, Tolstoy’s wife. Three years later, Tolstoy began crafting a short story, Father Sergius:

Father Sergius is a 1917 Russian silent film directed by Yakov Protazanov

(Father Sergius: 1917 Russian silent film directed by Yakov Protazanov)

concerning an aide-de-camp to Tsar Nicholas who, a month before his marriage to a beautiful lady in waiting, suddenly cancels their wedding, disposes of his worldly possessions, and becomes a monk. “Prince Kasatsky” has finally realized that his fiancée is the tsar’s mistress, a fact known to everyone but him. He retires to a monastery as a disciple of its abbot, a pupil of Father Ambrose.

These many elements of inter-related cultures and ethnicities open a window onto the culture embodied in Ignaz Friedman’s playing. This Chopin recording

set me on a journey that grew from hearing the shellac aired in 1972 to a book that started in 1981, published in 2009, ending up with the author even more enamored with the playing of his pupil Ignace Tiegerman. I wish to express utmost gratitude to Henri Barda, a master musician based in Paris and musical heir to Friedman and Tiegerman by continuing their energy and way of channeling music, for his suggesting that Wanda Horowitz receive some much needed attention.

Friedman’s uncharted life was solved and some unreleased recordings by him and Tiegerman were restored with others for this edition:

Masters of Chopin

:There is more to be found and the search will never cease.

Allan Evans ©2016








Breaking the time barrier in Denmark


(photo: Carl Nielsen, Emil Telmanyi (1892-1988), Frida Møller and Hans Børge Nielsen depart for Frankfurt in 1927)

You find a classical musician from long ago whose sounds are more convincing than anyone around. What do you do when you stumble onto a lost culture? Were there more like him and why was it inaccessible? Take some suppression and obtusity, add a dash of mayo, and you have the recipe for an undernourished music scene with inadequate nutrition in which all sounded prefabricated. I had to hunt for Ignaz Friedman but found no resources available.

One highly-touted professor of bibliography was running a coolie-labor sweatshop by having grad students input data into something known as RILM. Lured by requirements or the need to know how knowledge is labelled and sorted, it held out hopes that anything relevant to classical music resources would be codified. Instead it proved to be SLIM and is still useless as it lacked anything relevant to Friedman. “How did you not take Barry’s class?” his book-editor widow inquired when I presented her a proposal. “I knew better!” was my tacit reply as she turned down the manuscript on unpublished writings of a Liszt-Brahms pupil.

The only road is the lone road, of empirical serendipity, desultorily leading to what the trail of musicological writings cannot access as the vivid sources are alive or preserved in sound. Having been taken in as family by Rev. Gary Davis and his wife Annie,


I entered their private world and was exposed to what lay behind a master musician’s art. A month after Davis’s death I first heard the long gone Friedman on a recording, who had the same energy as Davis, proving that a higher echelon spanned all genres of music. As Friedman had performed throughout the world, it seemed likely that anyone of a certain age could have heard him or even known him and so began a journey to over thirty countries over two decades. A methodology arose of entering a new city, getting maps, finding libraries and archives, contacting any older musician and something or someone always turned up, from Iceland to South Africa and Singapore.

Friedman had a rocky marriage and left his wife and daughter behind in Berlin to ride out what turned into World War I in the safety of Copenhagen. His career was enlivened by contact with members of cultured societies and diplomats who allowed him to have supplies sent back to deprived war-torn Berlin through their diplomatic pouches. Many interviews turned up in Danish archives and one day in the August of 1983 an intriguing lead appeared. Danacord, a record label based there had just released recordings of a Hungarian violinist who had premiered the Carl Nielsen violin concerto. Its liner notes mentioned how Emil Telmanyi was brought to Denmark by Friedman in 1910 where he soon married Nielsen’s daughter and became their foremost violinist. He experimented with a bow-maker to create a curved device able to play Bach’s Chaconne with unbroken chords and recorded all the unaccompanied works.




Albert Schweitzer showed interest and is mentioned in Telmanyi’s autobiography.


i called the label at once to learn from by Jesper Buhl, their guiding light, that Telmanyi was not only alive but actively conducting a local orchestra and lived nearby.  I soon caught a commuter rail up to their northern town of Holte, chugging past Norreport’s bricks and breweries, heading into greener countryside. Not too far away, a soothing walk along woody curving streets led to the Telmanyi house. His wife Annette and daughter Ilona provided a warm welcome. Annette and Emil married after marriage with Nielsen’s flapper daughter flopped. Annette was a pianist and string player and their three daughters formed a family chamber ensemble. Telmanyi was in his ninety-first year and was curious about why I was looking into Friedman. It seemed no one had asked much about his earlier life and he encouraged me: “What you’re doing is important!”

He brought over scrapbooks of chronologically organized program books, knowingly flipping through some 1909 recitals. one had a Frigyes Reiner as his accompanist, later known as Fritz, a formidable tyrant of the Chicago Symphony. He related his meeting Friedman in Berlin when he gave the continental premiere of Elgar’s Violin Concerto in 1909 and Friedman caught him backstage.

Telmanyi’s hands were arthritic, his eyesight failing, but he lovingly caressed his violin: an Amati. “Imagine, this instrument was already an antique in Mozart’s time!” His music study had an overheard projector to enlarge music scores so that he could see enormously magnified lines to learn new works for each season. He was engaged in absorbing Mozart’s First Symphony, going through it part by part.

We sat down and Telmanyi began answering. One aims to dive deep into a subject but the ground his talk broke opened an entire musical universe lived in by a still active protagonist whose fresh mind and sharp memory vividly brought to life events from the 1890s and on. Luckily he left an autobiography, written in Danish. Our first encounter was recorded and includes surprises about Friedman, Busoni, Bartók, conveyed with an infectiously sympathetic spirit.

The cassette recorder’s battery died and left a mouse-like chatter rising into subsonic frequencies before it bit the dust but only now could most of it be saved through software. It breaks off in the sound track when Telmanyi went full steam into musical examples.



A month after meeting Telmanyi I was introduced to the Budapest-based harpsichordist János Sebestyén, a living historical treasury who opened doors to Antal Molnar, then two years older than Telmanyi (and would be gone within months after he received me), who was not only the violist in the Waldbauer-Kerpely string quartet that took part in Debussy’s appearance as a pianist on his 1910 Budapest visit. Molnar reached high up, aided by a stool to pull down a hefty book, one among many red identical volumes on crowded shelves and sang a melody that he had found and transcribed when accompanying Bartók and Kodaly into the field before World War I, delighting in a work that still overwhelmed him after having gone as a Third Man to capture folk songs. János’s weekly radio program were themed to review what had happened in Budapest decades ago on varying anniversary dates of his show, allowing pre-totalitarian life to return in full under the guise of nostalgia. One who offered advice to archivists who began restoring x-ray plates containing radio broadcasts of Bartók at the piano, he managed to get a copy of Telmanyi with the composer Erno Dohnanyi playing Schumann’s D minor violin sonata, broadcasted in Budapest c. 1939-1940.


The Soviet-controlled regime has fizzled out and János is no more, but a website conveys his style and society. It’s time to share the performance, warts and all (notes were lost whenever a new disc was set up on the recording turntable). The duo had given numerous sonata recitals over two decades and we are fortunate to hear them in the act, as Dohnanyi soon declined, in part from his loathing to practice and both came more to life in concerts than within the pressures and limits of a recording studio.


Although I approached Telmanyi with one question, I ended up leaving with more open doors than I can ever count. We had two more meetings over the years. He passed away in 1988 in his ninety-sixth year. At our last get-together, the image still remains as he and Annette held hands, seated on their couch as we were taking leave, both breaking in to advise Beatrice Muzi and me (whom I would soon marry) to see how their happy marriage came from getting each other to laugh and, eyeing one another, an erotic attraction.

–Allan Evans ©2016

Bartók’s summoning of living and dead composers.


When one overlooks the norm of current performances to seek Bartók himself performing his own works, contact with his unique approach will alter your judgment of all other interpreters. Disappointed by being bested by the younger Wilhelm Backhaus


at a piano competition, the world was luckier for the lack of a stellar career of touring would have limited the time he spent in collecting folk music, a bold and unprecedented crossing of class lines that led him to create a musical language of his own.


Bartók transcribing a field recording cylinder.

Bartók taught piano, not composition, but explained music from a creator’s perspective. Even live performances in works by other composers offer details, extremely crucial ones, that will open up a composition’s inner life. Most people will not associate Bartók with Beethoven, aside from a previous dimly-restored performance of the Kreutzer Sonata (Op. 47) with his sonata partner Joseph Szigeti (seen here with clarinetist Benny Goodman while recording Bartók’s Contrasts.)


and a fragment preserved on an x-ray plate used to record his Budapest radio broadcasts on demand by poetess Sophie Török, an admirer whose personal intervention rescued several hours of his legacy.


When I first heard Irén Marik playing Liszt on a discarded vinyl lacking any cover or info, a vision arose of a young lady seated with impeccably correct posture at the piano,


Bartók standing nearby, advising. After a rare discovery that led to tracing her in the California desert she verified that Bartók had been her teacher. “Did you study his music with him?” “I first played something of his and he said ‘I see you understand it so let’s go on to Beethoven and Mozart.'” Marik was the closest to the composer’s own playing but what did he convey in other composers?

A clue was detected in the opening of Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata. The violin’s first phrase has arpeggiated chords that cover several strings. One can play then in a constricted manner within their allotted time or spread them out. An insignificant detail? Two recordings from the 1920s to examine: Isolde Menges with Liszt-pupil Arthur de Greef at the piano, followed by Jacques Thibaud with pianist Alfred Cortot:


Both violinists phrase a taut opening, matched by pianists that keep their hands together. Bartók and Szigeti are different:


Many scholars and the puritanic would dislike the way Bartók breaks the chords, written as solid sounds by Beethoven himself. Yet by subtly copying Szigeti’s arpeggiated attacks we are exposed to an irregularity within a pattern, the basis of chaos theory. Dr. Henry Burnett uncovered similar actions that involved opening gambits through chromatic notes that comprise a new theory of tonality spanning from the late Renaissance to early Schoenberg, a penetration that leaves Schenker in the shade. Beethoven will unfold a rhythmic interplay throughout his sonata that developed out of what is considered to be incorrect, a  trivial gesture. That integral detail has a subliminal DNA role that comes to light elsewhere, especially in this later passage that otherwise sounds like a flippant rhythmic interlude unless one is aware of its origins. Beethoven augments and shortens the arpeggi into rhythmic gestures that evoke origins in the piece’s opening (again Szigeti and Bartók), a way to ensure identity and continuity:


What kind of Bach did Marik from Bartók? His performance of the Fifth Partita in G survives on x-ray plate decelith discs with some gaps occurring whenever a new three-minute side was mounted (the record store owner who provided this service eventually bought a second machine to overlap while changing discs.)


The opening Preambulum is complete, newly restored:


Bartók kept company with Robert and Etelka, familiars of Brahms. How could their connections with this recently deceased composer not have been taken up by Bartók? An x-ray contains has Bartók’s performance of the Capriccio in B minor, Op. 76, no. 2:


With his wife Ditta Pasztory, a piano duo started up, around the time he composed his Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion. They continued as long as his health endured, playing contemporary works such as Colin McPhee’s Balinese Ceremonial Music.


Those familiar with his Mikrokosmos will recall From the Isle of Bali. I asked Bartók’s son Peter, author of a splendid family memoir, if his father had Balinese recordings from 1928, the only pre-war session. “He had the Music of the Orient set [1930],” referred to by Percy Grainger as his introduction to gamelan. They played Debussy’s En blanc et noir which adds to our experience of Bartók and Debussy as he and Szigeti included the Violin Sonata in their recital. Part of the first movement is heard. One can pick up many traces of Javanese music in Debussy.


The entire first movement of the Beethoven Kreutzer sonata should be listened to, know that you have a better grasp of Bartók’s pianism and creator’s mindset.


Second to Bartók’s pioneering exploration of folk music was Zoltan Kodaly.

Bartók’s first studio recordings comprised folk-song settings of Kodaly’s and his own. Two examples by Kodaly are sung by the contralto Maria Basilides accompanied by Bartók


A rossz feleség (The Heartless Wife) opens as a dirge with a child urging her mother to come home as the father is dying, only to be put off.


A children’s song Kitrákotty mese (Cockricoo) concludes with the tale of someone heading to a fair to buy animals with half a coin, imitating their unique sounds:


The unending charm and sparkle in Bartók’s playing resonates the love and insights gained from leaving society to seek music from the peasants, a period he considered to have been the happiest days of his life.

–Allan Evans ©2016












Grieg up close

In 1993 a celebration of Edvard Grieg’s 150th birthday was being organized at a conservatory where I was teaching. Young Norwegian musicians were to be flown in to New York and perform his works and the organizer, a trombone teacher, was taking care of the details. At that time I located a record collector willing to share his own copies of recordings made by Grieg himself in a Paris studio one day in 1903. Their rarity is such that some exist in one known copy, a pathetic oversight when considering how many of Grieg’s recordings by others flood the market and airwaves to leave his own playing unknown and inaccessible. I proposed playing them with some words, a half hour at most, unpaid. “It’s not relevant to the occasion” was his professional way of saying “Get lost!”

grieg & bro

Grieg was probably ill at ease when he and his brother (taller, on right) left their town of Bergen to arrive in the imposing prestigious university city of Leipzig, where Schumann’s colleagues were still about and teaching, imprinting the influence of their colleague who had passed away nearly a decade earlier onto a budding composer from the far North who was to perfect a classical training that nourished an ongoing empirical contact with his country’s folk music, a trait not lost on later pioneers of ethnomusicology such as Bartók.

Bartók collecting

While some one or two hundred in the 1993 audience heard what they were permitted to hear, we can now bypass their shortcomings by offering Grieg’s complete piano recordings made on discs – not gimmicky inaccurate piano rolls –  for listening by anyone daring to click below. These nine works were mostly composed decades earlier and still reveal an enthusiasm that evokes the joy of inspiration by making a sonic objet trouvée or folk-based tune into a solid masterpiece miniature. Here is his legacy in sound, arranged via the playlist:

  1. Alla Menuetto, from Sonata in E Minor, op. 7
  2. Finale (Molto Allegro), from Sonata in E Minor, op. 7 (abridged)
  3. Humoreske in G-sharp Minor, op. 6, no. 2
  4. Norwegian Bridal Procession, op. 19, no. 2
  5. Lyric Pieces: Butterfly, op. 43, no. 1
  6. Lyric Pieces: To Spring, op. 43, no. 6
  7. Lyric Pieces: Gangar (Norwegian Peasants’ March), op. 54, no. 2
  8. Lyric Pieces: Wedding-Day at Troldhaugen, op. 65, no. 6 (abridged)
  9. Lyric Pieces: Remembrances, op. 71, no. 7

recorded in Paris, 2 May 1903 on an upright piano.


The pianist-composer and his singer-spouse Nina, at home in Bergen, Norway:

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During a two-decade-plus  Ignaz Friedman hunt, I spent several days in Oslo unearthing interviews, programs before sailing back  to Copenhagen with a thick folder. Friedman stuck out First World War there, using diplomats to smuggle supplies to his wife and daughter back in Berlin via unchecked diplomatic pouches. Copenhagen’s numerous archives sprung up leads almost daily. One of the Norwegian clippings mentioned that the pianist Ingebjørg Gresvik had spent a summer with Friedman studying at his home in Siusi, above Bolzano, Italy in the Dolomites. She was listed in the Bergen phone book and after our chat I sailed at once back to Oslo and grabbed a night train to cross Norway and reach its western shore. As soon as Gresvik opened her door there was absolutely no way that any time could be spent elsewhere in Bergen: adieu to seeking the Grieg house, museums, their old town. Her warmth and enthusiasm in having been sought after brought out a spontaneous camaraderie that had to eliminate all else. I ended up staying as her guest for two days.

Gresvik 1908-2000

Gresvik was then 76 years old and once inside she opened onto many worlds. I left a tape recorder running finds her describing the Friedman she knew in 1935. Although she had been out of practice for over a decade, her soulful witty playing won me over as did her memory and modest insight. (photo: Gresvik in traditional dress)


Her words were casually taped in May of 1985 and much off-mic comments were noted, especially her closeness to the composer Sinding. By starting with her portraying Friedman as the first well-known touring pianist to annually tour Norway and become a national favorite, many doors opened as Gresvik recounted  Ibsen’s daughter, a Berliner friend who was a relative of Walter Rathenau, and her studies with pianist Edwin Fischer in Potsdam.


She spoke lovingly of  Istvan Ipolyi, her great musical mentor. He had been a founding member of the Budapest String Quartet, an ensemble originating with Hungarians and becoming entirely Russian-Lithuanian. Ipolyi, their violist, left the group in 1927 to settle in Oslo where he formed a string quartet and taught chamber music to Gresvik.

Budapest Hauser Emil Ipolyi Istvá Harry Son Pogány Imre

Ipoly – second from left, with Emil Hauser, and on the right, Harry Son and Imre Pogany.

Unlike the familiar sounds of the non-Hungarian Budapest ensemble we get an idea of a far different approach from the primary group’s 1927 recording of the first movement in Beethoven’s String Quartet in F, Op. 18, No. 1:


Gresvik was horrified at the threats and deprivations the Jewish Ipolyi suffered once the Nazis invaded Norway. A biography of the quartet states: “Violist Istvan lpolyi settled in Norway, where the Budapest had spent many summers rehearsing before each concert season. During the German occupation of that country, he was arrested and placed in a detention prison, awaiting deportation to a Nazi prison. It was a nightmarish experience. “Every night, going to bed,” Ipolyi later said, “I am remembering the horrible feelings I had on the evenings in the concentration camp, never knowing what the next day will bring. Through the personal intervention of Count Bernadotte, head of the International Red Cross, lpolyi was freed. He fled to Sweden and remained there for the duration of the war. On his re­turn to Norway, he became a Norwegian citizen, mentor of a quartet in Bergen, and a professor. He and his wife lived what he called “a rather secluded life.” He loved teaching, he wrote Sasha [Alexander Schneider), who sent him food packages after the war-“I feel drunken when working with my favourites. And particularly with the quartet.” Mischa saw to it that he received the royalties due him from record sales. Ipolyi wrote several books, claiming to Sasha that he had “found an entirely new theory of the origin of music.” He died in Bergen on January 2, 1955, at the age of sixty-eight.”

Gresvik passed away in 2000 at the age of 92 and when I located her one descendant, a daughter in Oslo, she was about to be hospitalized for intensive therapy and excused herself from being able to help find and preserve her mother’s archive. Once you hear Gresvik in 1948 playing Grieg’s Ballade, Op. 24, a variation on a folk song, you will sense how urgent it is to rescue whatever is left of her legacy and bring to light any of her radio recordings from their silent tombs.


–Allan Evans ©2016




Hooked on Fried



Fried was everywhere, at the crucial moments of music’s inner life. Dining with Ravel, Stravinsky, Nijinsky in Paris the night before he joined them for the Rite of Spring’s premiere. He was the first to conduct for the young Horowitz after he managed to get out of the Soviet Union, the first one backstage when Bartók premiered in Berlin, with Prokofiev for their last concert in Berlin soon before the Nazis took over. Lenin met his train when he came as the first foreign artist invited to the new Russia, joining a nude dance of Josephine Baker at his count friend’s Paris pad.

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Fried hid his tracks with sparse yet sharp-edged interviews, probably due to side activity like the Bolshevik espionage most likely detailed in a forgotten NKVD dossier awaiting rescue after someone gets bribed in Moscow. His death was reported as if it had been a staged event: cursing the overhead German planes from a hospital death bed during the week when Stalin cleaned out all remaining Germans from the capitol, even though Fried took on Russian citizenship some years earlier. No one knows where and if he was buried.  Alexander Gurdon, a German scholar, crafted a dissertation on Fried that awaits publication and translation.

As a musician, Fried grasps and projects the essence of each work he takes on. Tchaikovsky reaches us through this Nutcracker Suite’s Arabian Dance with the Berlin State Opera Orchestra. We’re hypnotically lured into a sonic tent:


While Tchaikovsky may charm, it’s Fried’s association with Mahler that draws the composer’s numerous admirers like moths to light in order to pick Fried up for a momentary glimpse based on one major piece of recorded evidence. As someone unable to endure Mahler’s undermining expressive moments with kitsch, it seems that devotees of his music abuse it as a soundtrack for onanistic reveries. As a once would-be biographer I would have been compromised by my reluctance to explore Fried’s association with the composer as it would have incurred over-exposure to his music. Fried sits on the right at the Mahler family’s summertime lunch:


Fried’s main concern to the Mahlerians was his achieving the  first recording ever of a complete Mahler symphony, the Second with the Berlin Staatsoper in 1924. It is accepted as a relic of their profound relationship although all previous attempts to restore it obscured most of the details, therefore making it even more eligible for their mental vagaries and anything but a palpable musical experience. I dragged its opening through the depths of my sonic depth technology and came up with this result:


Of course even an improvement over a reduced symphony orchestra stuffed into a tiny space to pour out their soundings into a lone recording acoustical horn will also be compromised, as their need to stop every four minutes for a new wax to be loaded and record the next section limits continuity and a full capture of its timbres.

The British Library turned up a collection of UK home recordings made in the 1930s and one had been mislabelled in their catalog as conducted by Iskar Fried. It contained a movement from Das Lied von der Erde, broadcasted by the BBC in 1936 with an alto soloist pouring out its text in English. Taken from a real life event with full orchestra, captured by microphone and with a complete absence of any time constraints, we clearly hear Fried’s projection of Mahler’s orchestra. Nothing metronomic about it as the song flows before landing into an explosion. The full performance is published on our Oskar Fried CD:

Oskar Fried: Mahler’s disciple

but here is the opening of An die Schönheit with Astra Desmond, alto. :


Yet with all the Mahler studies, conferences, texts, media attention, this unique performance has been uniformly ignored, perhaps by its threat to the security of Mahlerian dreamers reluctant to allow any new evidence to upset the pecking order.

Fried was a witness and interpreter of Stravinsky’s new music, being a pioneer when he and the Berliners recording the Firebird Suite. Who would have had the guts to be the first German conductor invited back to Paris after World War I and offer the riot-provoking Le Sacre paired with Beethoven’s Ninth? He luckily was recorded with the Berlin Philharmonic in Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade in 1928. One’s expectation and craving intensifies with each phrase:


Fried lived with his dachshund in a house outside of central Berlin, aside a lake. One reporter espied him at home (left, holding an axe):



Fried often programmed Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Berlin tradition was to perform the work on New Years’ Eve in a hall and over the radio. The Berlin Philharmonic left us a version that he recorded in 1928. Hearing the entire work goes beyond merely attending a performance or playing a recording as its opening of the Scherzo illustrates:


This way of making music interrupt the mundane by opening onto a higher plane of existence distinguishes Fried as a force who offers us musical epiphanies that can only result from one who remained an individual without succumbing to musical trends and societal pressure that try pressuring the arts to “make nice.”

Fried 7 1927 outdoors

William Faulkner stressed the urgency in safeguarding individuality, a necessary  reminder in our time of how easily it is lost through standardization and society being controlled by the media and corporations.




©Allan Evans 2016














Publish or Perish?

As a great deal of unknown recordings keep emerging by William Kapell,


one work risks being presented out of context and without  the objections it aroused in the pianist’s wife Dr. Anna Lou DeHavenon.

anna lou

DeHavenon had studied piano with Tarnowsky, Vladimir Horowitz’s teacher. Once we attended a concert of Indian ragas performed by the singer Pandit Jasraj and sitar-surbaharist Imrat Khan. Never in my life had I seen someone listen so intently, deeply immersing herself into every tone. I asked her afterwards if she ever had advised Kapell and she demurred, saying that she would mention details. They first met when she came backstage to congratulate him after a performance of Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto and made a few observations about his playing that turned him inside-out, struck by her acute perception and beauty. A good idea of her musical insight can be gleaned from an interview with her in 1995:


Once you knew DeHavenon, you could never have enough time with her and luckily an interview about her work as an urban anthropologist may be seen:

Soon after their marriage, Kapell was ordered by the martinet conductor Fritz Reiner


to prepare Richard Strauss’ Burlesque for piano and orchestra. Not knowing the work and confident that his own choice of concerto would be accepted as a replacement, he ignored the request until receiving a phone call from Reiner, confirming their 1947 date with the Pittsburgh Symphony a week later. Realizing that Reiner meant business and there was no way out of playing the work, Kapell spent a traumatic week forcing himself to learn a work that was not in sync with his aims. After a Russian-heavy focus imposed on him by his teacher Olga Samaroff, Kapell sought to spend more time with Bach, Beethoven, Schubert, and others. Reiner knew the composer and often performed his works, making him a good ally for the piece but having to play it without the laborious preparations he usually devoted to all details in every work he programmed, the stress made it into a career nightmare.

Dr DeHavenon witnessed and tried to manage her husband’s anguish during a week of musical misery. The performance was recorded onto two discs: one was donated by the family along with his archive to IPAM (Interational Piano Archive, University of Maryland), but only half the performance seemed to have survived. One day while searching her Kapell papers, DeHavenon phoned to say that the missing disc had turned up and I was welcome to it. Eager to hear this one-time experience, warts and all, IPAM loaned their second disc and luckily it coincided at a time when Arbiter’s Sonic Depth Technology had been developed to rescue and liberate the sounds embedded within mediocre privately pressed broadcast discs. As this restoration is exclusive to us, we think best to offer the entire performance in this format, as most engineers favor a quiet vinyl-like playback that evirates the sound’s fullness.


When playing in the best of circumstances, with a simpatico collaborator like Maria Stader,


Kapell breathes his musical grandeur. He and Stader offered six Schubert songs at the 1953 Prades Festival organized by Pablo Casals. This blossoming of his art makes it all the more tragic as belonging to his last year, one in which he planned more absorption with the classics and his concern to pioneer new music. We hear them in Schubert’s Im Frühling D.882 (In Spring), taken from the spring of Kapell’s life.


©Allan Evans 2016



Russian dreams lead to Debussy.


Whenever we try to snare Debussy his seductive oneiric sounds allow him to keep safely away. How subtle of him to compose and publish pieces that only reveal their titles after the last note expires, in parens, as if ashamed that his ether has imposed expectations.


Debussy absinthed his soul with Mallarmé and Baudelaire, hung out with the writer Huysmans


and other Decadents at the bookseller Bailly’s that lured many such as the Symbolist painter Gustave Moreau


and his pupil Redon.


Their verbal interactions can only be dreamed of until their paths cross in one another’s works.

One primal Blues-era song projects American nostalgia for a lost mythical haunt: Jim Canaan’s saloon, a mecca in St. Louis immortalized by Robert Wilkins before his ordination proscribed earlier sinful singing.

Robert Wilkins


Keep to his French influences and you’ll only get so far as Debussy’s life changer struck in 1889 when Paris hosted its global Exposition. On the musical front came Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (painted by Repin) from St. Petersburg to conduct new Russian music.


Rimsky-Korsakov introduced works that would influence his future pupil Stravinsky, who would become acquainted with and influence Debussy. Rimsky’s spirit possessed musicians in Paris in works such as King Dodon on the Battlefield (from Le Coq d’Or Suite, conducted here by Dobrowen & the Philharmonia Orchestra.)


One of the pieces performed was the Polovetsian Dances (Bilibin: Justice of the Kievan Rus) by his colleague Borodin who sought to evoke pagan rites.


An early performance was captured in a Berlin studio with the local Staatsoper Orchestra led by Issay Dobrowen, c. 1928.



His name is no longer familiar as is a great admirer during Dobrowen’s Stockholm exile – a young stage assistant of Dobrowen’s who took part in their Mozart operas: Ingmar Bergmann (photo: Irving Penn)


Debussy heard two orchestral concerts that Rimsky-Korsakov presented and one can detect more than traces of the Borodin in his own Fêtes, an orchestral nocturne directed by Gabriel Pierné, a conductor he esteemed (Orchestre Colonne in 1929 on 78rpm shellac)



The greatest impact on Debussy was his discovery of Musorgsky (by Repin; portrait detail),

Mussorgsky by Repin.det

and one song in particular, By the River (played & transcribed by Vladimir Horowitz, 1947)


This overlooked work became a seed for his masterpiece The Engulfed Cathedral, played by Jacques Fevrier (seated), who knew Mme. Debussy and was in close contact with Ravel (standing).


fevrier ravel

Leaving behind the tangible reality for mythic and oneiric quests, Debussy composed a glimpse of the water nymph Ondine (played by Eduard Erdmann in Berlin, 1928).



The dream of Oenone,  a mountain nymph was to be part of the soundtrack to Antonioni’s film Zabriskie Point.


The Pink Floyd’s organist and guitarist offered their subsumation of Debussy’s elusive Ondine.


Debussy also encountered Javanese music and dance at the East Indies pavilion in 1889 but that’s another trail to haunt and Rev. Wilkins’ legacy would later appear in the transformed modernist Debussy’s Minstrels and Golliwog’s Cakewalk.

Allan Evans ©2016