Arbiter Records 116

Ignace Tiegerman: The Lost Legend of Cairo

  • 2 cd set. Reissued and newly restored with additional material on Arbiter 158. Its unique liner notes are reproduced below:
  • Released Apr 14, 1999
  • On iTunes

Disc 1

  1. Brahms: Capriccio In B Minor, Op. 76, No. 2
  2. Brahms: Intermezzo In B-Flat Minor, Op. 117, No. 2
  3. Saint-Saëns: Piano Concerto No. 5, Op. 103: I. Allegro animato
  4. Saint-Saëns: Piano Concerto No. 5, Op. 103: II. Andante
  5. Saint-Saëns: Piano Concerto No. 5, Op. 103: III. Molto allegro
  6. Franck: Variations Symphoniques
  7. Brahms: Romanza In F, Op. 118, No. 5
  8. Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 2 In E-Flat, Op. 83: I. Allegro non troppo
  9. Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 2 In E-Flat, Op. 83: II. Allegro appassionato

Disc 2

  1. Field: Nocturne No. 1 In E-Flat
  2. Field: Nocturne No. 13 In D Minor
  3. Chopin: Prelude In A, Op. 28, No. 7
  4. Chopin: Prelude In F-Sharp Minor, Op. 28, No. 8
  5. Chopin: Nocturne In B, Op. 9, No. 3
  6. Chopin: Scherzo In B Minor, Op. 20
  7. Chopin: Ballade In F Minor, Op. 52
  8. Chopin: Barcarolle, Op. 60
  9. Chopin: Etude In A Flat, Op. 10/10
  10. Chopin: Etude In G-Sharp Minor, Op. 25, No. 6
  11. Chopin: Sonata No. 3 In B Minor, Op. 58: Allegro Maestoso
  12. Chopin: Sonata No. 3 In B Minor, Op. 58: Scherzo. Molto Vivace
  13. Chopin: Sonata No. 3 In B Minor, Op. 58: Largo
  14. Chopin: Sonata No. 3 In B Minor, Op. 58: Finale. Presto, Non Tanto
  15. Fauré: Nocturne In E Flat, Op. 36
  16. Tiegerman: Meditation, Henri Barda: Piano
  17. Leschetizky Speaks
  18. Tiegerman Speaks

Cultural artifacts of the utmost significance often hang by a delicate thread, a random word, a trick of destiny. The recordings presented here had as much chance of survival as the treasure of an Egyptian tomb. This legacy of the artistry of Ignace Tiegerman (1893-1968) exists solely through accidental discoveries and the dedication of a few individuals who understood the pianist’s importance.

The reclamation of this nearly lost artist began by chance in 1980, when I was commencing work on a biography of the legendary pianist Ignaz Friedman. Information was meagre: One biographical pamphlet from the 1920’s (later proven to have been authored by Friedman himself) included a photo of his daughter Lydia. During the summer of 1980, the pianist Nikita Magaloff gave a Chopin recital in Rome, outdoors at the Capitoline, playing over the traffic’s din. On the hunt and following a sudden impulse, I sent a note of inquiry to Magaloff backstage — did he know the whereabouts of Ignaz Friedman’s daughter? After the concert, almost miraculously, he provided the crucial information that led me straight to Mme. Lydia Walder who, with her family, spent summers in her father’s villa in Siusi, a village in the Italian Dolomites high above Bolzano. At our first meeting, Mme. Walder said, “Do you know Tiegerman? He was a pupil of Papà’s — a Polish Jew who lived in Cairo. Papà said he was the greatest talent he ever worked with.” Fifteen successive years of research indicate that Papà had never again accorded such praise to another pianist.

No commercial recordings existed of Tiegerman and his name went unmentioned in memoirs and music reference works. Concert reviews in German music journals from 1908 until the late 1920’s referred to a “young-blooded Pole, student of Friedman’s” whose technical perfection was coupled with a certain “emotional violence.” Walter Niemann, a noted Leipzig critic who reviewed a 1913 recital, drew attention to Tiegerman’s “deep personality, passion and imagination,” calling him “the pianistic hope of the recent generation, perhaps the most shining.” If Friedman and the critics were correct, a master musician had vanished. Would his pianism ever be heard again? What could be learned of his art and his life?

Writing in an April 1987 article for the magazine House and Garden on his youth in Cairo, author and literary scholar Edward Said recalled Ignace Tiegerman, his piano teacher and friend. In private, Said mentioned that despite later musical studies with five eminent pedagogues at The Juilliard School and in Boston, “all rolled into one [they] didn’t equal Tiegerman’s pinkie.” Said would reappear years later to play a role in our saga not unlike the Rosetta Stone.

While searching Australia in 1988 for surviving pupils of Friedman’s, I learned of a Tiegerman pupil living near New York — Nevine Miller, daughter of King Farouk’s prime minister. She describes Tiegerman as a consummate musician gifted with uncanny insight. Miller left Egypt in 1948 to study in Paris with Marguerite Long, the esteemed French pianist who had premiered Ravel’s Concerto in G and coached with Debussy and Fauré. After Tiegerman, she said, Long was disappointing.

In 1993, Edward Said unexpectedly phones with news that he had located a tape of Tiegerman on a recent trip to Egypt, but Said soon falls ill and is unable to copy the recording. Meanwhile, as this writer was preparing a CD of Friedman’s colleague Severin Eisenberger, his daughter Agnes Eisenberger locates a cache of manuscripts that had been given to her father. It contains the Reverie viennoise by Tiegerman, dedicated to Eisenberger during Tiegerman’s 1928 visit to New York as accompanist to the violinist Zlatko Balokovic (a time coinciding with Vladimir Horowitz’s debut recitals.)

Milan, summer of 1995: Marco Contini, archivist and record producer, recalls the exceptional musicians who fled Egypt in 1956 for Italy, especially the conductor Oreste Campisi, who had recently passed away. Campisi once gave Contini a tape recording from his Cairo years, marked “Brahms Second Concerto” in pencil. “Wouldn’t it be something if Tiegerman were the soloist,” I muse. In French, a radio announcer soon states that he was.

Only the first two movements survive, but they reveal Tiegerman’s playing as transcending interpretation, rather seeking a rebirth of the work. Campisi’s masterly conducting is attuned to the soloist’s conception. It became imperative to locate whatever remained of Tiegerman’s art.

How to grasp Tiegerman’s aesthetics? Perhaps a clue would emerge from Polish literature and poetry. It is known, for example, that Friedman adored The Peasants by the Nobel laureate novelist Wladislaw Reymont. After the eclipse of late Romantic poets such as Konopnicka or Tetmayer, whose texts Friedman set to music, Polish literature became transformed by the Skamander group, by Bruno Schulz, Witold Gombrowicz, and Stanislaw Witkiewicz. Schulz, a native of Drohobycz, Poland, wrote with layers of imagery and overwhelming expression, the final gasp of pre-war Poland before its destruction. Was Tiegerman influenced too by these phases of Polish culture? At this time, an obsession took hold: Where in Poland did Tiegerman come from? For some reason, this missing detail seemed an essential clue to understand him.

Genoa, August 1995: Bice Costa has found letters written by her late husband Mieczyslaw Horszowski’s mother in Vienna to his father in Lwow. One, dated June 15, 1903, mentions a student recital at Leschetizky’s: “Tiegermann has also made a lot of progress and is studying with Friedman [then Leschetizky’s assistant].”

New York, September 1995: Edward Said mentions an upcoming concert by Henri Barda, a Parisian pianist whom he singles out as Tiegerman’s finest pupil. Barda plays the Chopin Barcarolle with a grandeur and monumentality emanating from a heightened sense of narrative. This brilliant pianist had recorded the three Chopin Sonatas for Calliope, a CD which won a prestigious prize for Chopin interpretation from the Chopin Association of Warsaw, an honor which would have given his teacher great satisfaction. Afterwards, Barda acknowledges Tiegerman as having given him his musical language. At the concert, Said motions towards a nearby man: “He’s the one who gave me the Tiegerman tape; go talk to him.” Selim Sednaoui, from Cairo, offers to find the original tapes which were recorded by a fellow Tiegerman pupil who is “either in Egypt or Kuwait.” (The tape turns out to be of Tiegerman’s last appearance in public and of several solos played on another occasion. The Saint-Saëns 5th Concerto is incomplete, the tape ending in the middle of the second movement.)

Barda had photographed Tiegerman in Kitzbuhel, where his teacher rested at his summer cottage. Indicating one photo (reproduced on our booklet cover), Barda noted “his eyes, they would go right through you like knives!” He recalled Tiegerman’s tyrannical rages when a pupil was less than prepared at a lesson: Often his studio door would swing open, the music would fly out, soon followed by the student.

Newton, Massachusetts, June 1996: At Barda’s suggestion, I meet Nini Perlo, a pupil of Tiegerman who knew him for over twenty years. She is visibly shaken by the memory of her teacher. Perlo believes a niece of Tiegerman’s might be still living. In her eighties, Perlo actively teaches — surgeons request her lessons at dawn so that they may later operate alertly and with inner calm.

Paris, July 1996: Barda provides a copy of Tiegerman’s Egyptian tape which Said had originally mentioned. It is as important as the Brahms concerto performance. One year later, Ramzi Yassa, a pianist from Cairo based in Paris, provides a copy one step nearer to the missing original recording, containing the entire Saint-Saëns concerto.

Geneva, November 1996: Nina Walder, Ignaz Friedman’s grand-daughter, uncovers a Tiegerman photo and letter to her mother signed “Tiger.” She recalls visiting Cairo with her mother in 1960, and the roaring laughter of Tiegerman and Lydia. It was to be their last meeting.

Corsham Court, England, December 1996: James Methuen-Campbell, author of Chopin Playing, From the Composer to the Present Day, mentions a Dr. Zygmunt Herschdoerfer, living outside London, who had spoken of Tiegerman nearly a decade ago. As the doctor is said to be somewhat shy, he urges that I write first.

London, December 1996: I phone Dr. Herschdoerfer’s home. A woman answers and informs me that her husband died three years earlier:

“What is it that you want?”
“Oh, I knew Tiegerman a little, he came from my town. I am from Drohobycz. Have you heard of it?”
“Did you know Bruno Schulz?”
“He was a relative by marriage. I worked in the Judenrat in the Drohobycz ghetto. One day a man came running in to warn us not to go outside, that something terrible was about to happen. We heard a shot and I looked out the window. Schulz lay dead on the street.”

Tiegerman was one year younger than Schulz. Did they know one another? Their link to Drohobycz helps explain an enigmatic quality both shared, a visionary use of expressivity which gave their work a quality of revelation and completeness.

Mrs. Herschdoerfer adds, “I know two of Tiegerman’s cousins in Paris.”

Baltimore, Spring 1997: Dr. Stephen Papastephanou, another of Tiegermn’s pupils, is located. His retentive, factual memory allows him to recall Tiegerman’s advice verbatim. Many details of his pedagogy emerge.

Paris, June 1997: Celine Tirst, Tiegerman’s octogenarian first cousin, offers invaluable information on their family. Tirst and her elder sister also knew Schulz, who had been their drawing teacher.

Cairo, August 1997: Meetings with Prince Hassan Aziz Hassan, Tiegerman’s pupil and close friend. He once uncovered a canceled passport, the only extant document containing Tiegerman’s date of birth. Egyptian radio, he reports, erased all of the pianist’s broadcast tapes. Uncatalogued material may exist alongside politically sensitive tapes but access is forbidden. Through the invaluable assistance of Barda, Sednaoui, and the Cairo-based journalist Samir Raafat, other contacts are located in London, Paris, Lausanne, Kuwait, and elsewhere.

Connecticut, Fall 1997: Pauline Hungerford and Thomas Stamback grant access to Bruce Hungerford’s photo archive and papers. Letters and slides of Tiegerman emerge.

Kuwait, October 1998: Dr. Samir Kamel, who had recorded Tiegerman’s 1963 farewell recital, returns to Cairo and locates the reel in an unheated storage room. He consigns it, along with two unmarked tapes, to Selim Sednaoui, who carries them to Paris from where they are mailed. One tape contains an hour of Chopin — the playing is otherworldly. Friedman was right.

At the time of Tiegerman’s birth on February 24, 1893, Drohobycz, a town of 35,000 belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Tiegermans lived on Mickiewicz Street. In the late 19th century, nearby oil fields resulted in the disproportionate activities of over one-hundred local attorneys as the streets grew rife with speculators, imposing onto this cultured, sedate Polish city the stirrings of a frontier town now sprouting lively cafés and stock exchanges. Concerts were held at Sokol (Falcon) Hall: the pianists Alfred Hoehn, Paul Wittgenstein, and Alexander Michalowski appeared there before the Second World War.

Marek Tiegerman, Ignace’s father, a lawyer, was one of 12 children. His first cousin, Maurycy Gottlieb (1856-1879), was a painter whose few canvases survive in Polish and Israeli museums; dark portraits and biblical themes in oil allude to Caravaggio and Rembrandt. His death from poisoning at age 23 was allegedly carried out by his teacher Jan Matejko, a nationalistic Polish painter who was said to have acted out of jealousy. Maurycy’s brother Leopold, who gained recognition as a painter, settled in Paris and kept a studio in Montparnasse.

Tiegerman began to play the piano at age four. His perfect pitch was revealed as the boy screamed whenever his older brother Leopold hit wrong notes while practicing. Henryk Szalit, Drohobycz’s foremost piano teacher, may have had a role in developing Tiegerman’s youthful talent: At age 8 the boy played Bach for a visiting eminent pianist, who tapped him on the head exclaiming, “You’ll be a great pianist one day.” In his tenth year he auditioned for Leschetizky in Vienna and was accepted.

Tiegerman completed more than four years of study with Leschetizky and his young assistant Friedman and a formal debut took place on October 31, 1908, at the Bösendorfer Hall. The 15-year-old Tiegerman later repeated the program at his Berlin debut [program reproduced in this text]. In 1909, he followed Friedman to Berlin and enrolled at a local university to study philosophy; he also perfected his culinary skills, later receiving the Cordon Bleu. Once when Tiegerman heard Busoni play a Chopin recital, the modernistic approach and pulling apart of the score was so disconcerting to Tiegerman’s sense of aesthetics that he hissed and walked out of the hall. Tiegerman concertized in Germany and occasionally performed in Austria, Poland, Spain, and Scandinavia. Friedman dedicated to him his own arrangement of Gluck’s Ballet des ombres heureuses.

During his 1928 visit to New York the crowded streets so unnerved him that Tiegerman once hid inside a phone booth until rush hour had subsided. Vladimir Horowitz, his Berlin friend, who was then making his American debut, confided to several friends of Tiegerman’s that he considered Tiegerman to have been his greatest rival in Berlin — the only one who could have eclipsed him.

As the European climate worsened Tiegerman’s chronic bronchial asthma, which limited his performing activities, he considered moving to the United States, or, at Friedman’s suggestion, to Egypt. The American way of life impressed him as alien. He once told a pupil, “They expected me to pay in order to play concerts.” The Berggrun Conservatory of Cairo was failing: Friedman urged Tiegerman to convert it into his own school. In 1931, he departed for Cairo.

The Tiegerman Conservatoire was established at No. 5, Rue Champollion (now a parking lot near the Egyptian Museum). Seven professors were engaged to teach violin, piano, harmony, and solfege. Tiegerman moved to Helwan, a southern suburb known for its mineral spa and Japanese gardens (now a town polluted by cement factories). North of Helwan lies the suburb of Ma’adi, where the architect Hassan Fathy built a villa along the Nile and gathered the artistic and intellectual elite of Cairo. His wife Aziza Hassanein always invited Tiegerman, who gave in to demands that he play; in the domed rooms, a silence and ecstasy would descend on listeners as Tiegerman shed his modesty and played for hours. When addressed as “Maestro” after concerts, he would protest: “Don’t call me that — I am only a pianist!” He said his only aim in life since childhood was “to play the piano well.”

Fathy’s niece, Jaida Hassanein, also coaxed Tiegerman to play for her. After lessons, she would complain, “I’m tired, Mr. Tiegerman. Would you please play something?” to which he replied, “You had that in mind from the beginning, you naughty girl.” As a teacher, “he was ferocious. He wanted to get everything out of you. He hated banging or showing off technically. It would make him go wild.” When one student returned from studies abroad and showed off her newfound velocity, he sarcastically commented: “Look at that! That’s what she learned in Italy!” Hassanein recalled that “Tiegerman always demonstrated. He was severe with himself.” One pupil considered him to be a classicist, rather than a romantic. Tiegerman advised, “You should develop your own romantic elements as you grow in maturity rather than imitate anyone.” Like Friedman, he taught primarily by demonstrating. His studio had two pianos: Students were heard on a Steinweg which had been a reproducing piano, whereas his own Steinway remained off limits.

Prince Hassan speaks of his teacher’s approach: “Tiegerman explained every movement. He had a way of making everything easy. Everything he did was the logical consequence of the physical.” Tiegerman remarked to Dr. Stephen Papastephanou at his first lesson: “Let me teach you the tricks on how to play the piano.” Papastephanou sums up his four years of studies: “One did not understand what music was all about until he met ‘Monsieur.’ After a few lessons, if you were lucky to be accepted as his student, you entered a new universe, the universe of music. You started understanding why Chopin wrote the way he did, why Beethoven put a pause after this note, what is legato, and so on. There was no discussion with Tiegerman. He was always right. He demonstrated to you how the piece you were preparing should sound, and if you dared argue, all he had to do is show you the score and the notations by the composer, and that was that. Monsieur’s demonstrations were beyond belief. When he played the piece for you, it sounded so beautiful that you almost became convinced that you could not play it. With some coaching, however, you started gradually making a decent sound, and you hoped that maybe you could play the piano after all. Tiegerman was full of encouragement, but no praise. What was amazing was how he treated you, as if you were a seasoned pianist, with an occasional sarcastic comment such as ‘vous n’avez pas besoin de composer, pendant que vous jouez ce morceau.’ [You don’t need to compose when you play that piece.] That, when you played wrong notes.”

Nicolas Constantinidis, a pupil, once brought to a lesson Cortot’s annotated edition of Chopin’s Etudes in which Cortot’s suggested exercises are more difficult than Chopin’s works. Tiegerman expressed admiration for Cortot’s musicianship but questioned his technique: “Don’t waste your time on this thing.” Constantinidis suggested “Maybe I need them?” to which Tiegerman replied, “Cortot wrote them because he needs them!” He would imitate Friedman for his students to illustrate how his teacher had played certain works. Tiegerman brought examiners from the Warsaw Conservatory and London’s Royal College of Music each year to Cairo to grade his pupils. Both institutions recognized the Tiegerman Conservatoire as being on a par with their own schools.

As the Nazi General Rommel’s troops neared Egypt in 1941, faculty members of the American University of Cairo and some Jewish Cairenes chartered a ship to sail up the Nile to Khartoum. Tiegerman left with the group, remaining in the Sudan for one year and becoming the first pianist to give a recital there. At this very time, the Drohobycz ghetto in Poland was being liquidated, and Bruno Schulz was murdered on the street by a Gestapo officer. On a trip to Cyprus after the war, Tiegerman was to learn that his parents had been rounded up onto a transport bound for Auschwitz. Henryka, his mother, hurled herself from a German train car, preferring to die by her own hand. Tiegerman’s father and brother perished at the train’s destination — Auschwitz’s gas chambers.

Richard Capell, music critic for the Times of London, was based in Cairo during World War II. He considered Tiegerman the finest interpreter of Brahms and Schumann in his experience. Capell published a review of Tiegerman’s first appearance after exile in the Sudan [Egyptian Gazette; March 25, 1943]: “Ignace Tiegerman, pianist, gave a recital of famous compositions by Brahms, Schumann and Chopin on Wednesday evening at ‘Music for All.’ The audience was appreciative, but it is possible that among those present were some who did not realize how exceptionally fine was this artist’s playing of Schumann. He had chosen the beautiful Fantasia in C major . . . To this music Mr. Tiegerman brought an understanding and style that rendered the performance distinguished by any standards. His close-knit legato, his fine gradations and singing tone went with high-strung alertness of movement. It was the playing of a true stylist. Schumann has here at Cairo an interpreter of the right technical school with intimate appreciation of the music[‘s] emotional contents. It was a pleasure to feel as one did in all the phrases such sensitively articulate fingers.”

In the 1950’s, President Nasser appointed Dr. Sarwat Okasha as Minister of Culture. Okasha brought to Cairo a professional tape recorder purchased on a European trip. Although he was one of the few to have such technology available privately, he unfortunately did not record radio programs, yet he discreetly arranged for Tiegerman’s bureaucratic problems to be promptly settled. One Arabic pupil spoke of the tolerance and harmony among the various nationalities living in Cairo before the 1952 Revolution:
“No one gave any importance to religion. It was a different spirit. My cousin knocked [at the Conservatory’s kitchen door] while he ate:
“Tiegerman, you’re eating pork. You’re a bad Jew!’
– ‘You’re right! Won’t you join me?. . . and now you’re a bad Moslem!'”

His students, who were Moslem, Coptic and Jewish Egyptians, Greek, Italian, French, Armenian, Syrian, and Lebanese often met at the villas of pupils and friends, where Tiegerman would offer full recital programs for his circle; as Tiegerman was a bachelor, they became his extended family. Once, a student had bought an upright piano and asked Tiegerman to try it out. Dr. Samir Kamel was present with a tape recorder and taped him playing two Chopin Etudes, Brahms’s Romanza, part of the Brahms Handel Variations, a Beethoven sonata fragment, and his Reverie viennoise. When he played the Romanza (heard on this CD), Constantinidis recalled: “We went insane with the beautiful sounds he made.”

The pleasant life in Cairo for many non-Arab residents ended as they fled Egypt in 1956 when firms were nationalized and hostilities against non-Arab citizens increased in the aftermath of the Suez crisis and war with Israel. Tiegerman had once performed there, where he was invited to teach. Edward Said writes: “Although he kept his Polish passport, he was subject to Egyptian residency laws, taxes, and the miscellaneous rigors of Nasser’s regime. He chafed under the restrictions but refused to consider moving to Israel. ‘Why should I go there?’ he said rhetorically. ‘Here I am unique; there, many people are like me. Besides, I love Cairo.’ ”

Tiegerman’s final concert took place on June 1, 1963. He appeared with a ragged-sounding Cairo Symphony, playing the Franck Variations symphoniques, Saint-Saëns’s “Egyptian” Concerto and, as an encore, the Chopin Nocturne in B, Op. 9, no.3. Fortunately, Dr. Kamel taped this program. Prince Hassan recalled the Nocturne’s unusually slow tempo as Tiegerman lingered over his final statement. He wondered why Tiegerman chose the Saint-Saëns instead of a more “profound” work: “Weeks after his death, it seemed to me that it was his way of thanking and bidding farewell to Egypt.”

In 1966, the late Australian pianist Bruce Hungerford arrived in Cairo to concertize and photograph antiquities, as he was also an eminent Egyptologist. He wrote home of dining at the Estoril, a restaurant evoking the sets in the film Casablanca:


“Just as we had finished eating, a little elderly man, with something of the bird-like build of Carl Friedberg [a Brahms pupil and Hungerford’s teacher] got up from a table across the room and asked me if I were Mr. Hungerford. He said he was a musician, but his name I didn’t catch and he told me he had enjoyed the concert the night before very much. He said he was coming to the last concert on Saturday and could he come back and speak with me in the interval? I put the squash on this straight away as I told him I can never see anyone during the interval of a concert. It suddenly occurred to me that as he was a musician he might perhaps know something about Ignaz Friedman’s best pupil, Ignace Tiegerman, whom I knew had gone to Egypt in the 1930’s and founded a school of music. I heard Friedman mention him once and Mrs. Shute in Utica, who had studied with Friedman in Berlin, used to talk about Tiegerman as being Ignaz’s very best pupil.

“So I said to the old chap, ‘Do you by any chance know Ignace Tiegerman?’ and he said ‘Zat is myself!’ I told him I also had been with Friedman and believe me his eyes lit up. The waiter brought his (T’s) dinner over to our table and we sat and talked for half an hour. His home is at Helwan, about 20 miles south of Cairo, where there are ancient mineral springs, and he comes in to Cairo 6 days a week to teach, starting at noon. He told me he was a child prodigy and his mother took him to Leschetizky in Vienna when he was 10. Leschetizky put him with Friedman, then 21, who had just made his debut in Vienna with the Tchaikovsky Concerto and had the city at his feet.

“Mr. Tiegerman told me that as the years went on Friedman became always more and more bored with playing the piano and did less and less practicing so that by the 1930’s his playing had begun to go downhill. Even in the 1920’s in Berlin, T. said that Friedman would do his practicing while reading the newspaper propped up on the music rack.

“Mr. Tiegerman came to the last concert, on Saturday, and the Naffs said he was wildly excited as I was playing the Chopin Sonata. Joan said they could see him across the aisle and he was standing up in his seat some of the time, gesticulating to 2 of his pupils who were sitting next to him. He was very excited too when he came back to see me afterwards. “

A friendship grew between Hungerford and Tiegerman, and Hungerford was invited to dine and practice at the conservatory. When Hungerford left Egypt to perform in Europe, a letter from Tiegerman arrived:

Helwan, 15 XII. 66

Dear Bruce,
I am ashamed to tell you, that shortly after arriving here, I contracted again a bad flu & I am obliged to stay in Helwan now since 2 weeks. This may explain you why I didn’t thank you sooner for your letter & the pictures.

I was very happy to receive such good news & it makes me a particular pleasure to hear that your concerts have been so successful. The Gewandhaus Concerts are probably now as important as they used to be longtime before. At the time it was considered as a great honour to play as soloist there.

Friedman must have been feeling so in 1916, when he played [Chopin’s] Andante Spianato & Polonaise [orchestrated by Scharwenka, along with Palmgren’s ‘Der Fluß’ Concerto] under Arthur Nikisch’s direction. I remember that he asked me to accompany him to Leipzig for this occasion. Mrs. F. who was naturally there too insisted I should come to the artist room to congratulate F. But I refused it being too shy to be presented to Nikisch.

. . . I have not much to say about my life here. I have all kind of unpleasant things to settle. A lot of disorder due to my complete ignorance in these matters. As Christmas is approaching I am sending you, my dear friend, all my warmest wishes & a Happy successful New Year!

Cordially yours,


Hungerford’s visit to Egypt in 1967 was interrupted by the outbreak of the war with Israel. Tiegerman continued to teach and cope with asthma and failing health. With “a strange look in his eyes,” he told a pupil in 1968 that he would die that year. In May he was operated on for a prostate tumor, but his surgeons hadn’t mastered a new technique which they tried on Tiegerman, causing his rapid decline. Laila Orabi, a pupil, arrived at the hospital every morning, staying at his side until Prince Hassan would appear and remain with Tiegerman into the night, feeding him by hand grapes and apple slices. His two most devoted friends, both Moslems, sat with him until death came one week after the surgery.

Hassan and other pupils sought from the government a gesture of recognition or concern to the dying artist who had taught nearly one thousand pianists and had established for over thirty years a school on a par with Europe’s foremost conservatories. Hassan recalls how Dr. Okasha’s office dispatched “an unimportant man, a low-level functionary who was an Egyptian Moslem and who knew absolutely nothing whatsoever about Tiegerman. He came into the hospital room, and upon seeing Tiegerman, immediately fell to his knees and, kneeling at his bedside, kissed his hand. In an instant, he understood who Tiegerman was.” And death came on May 31, 1968.

A niece, originally named Vyszia Rosenthal, arrived from Brno (Czechoslovakia) and settled Tiegerman’s estate. Since her husband was an official under the Communist regime, it is believed that he had changed their family name: perhaps she may still be located, as she may have her uncle’s music, letters, and possibly other recordings by him. Some claim that his cook Beshir had either inherited or had taken his possessions. He was buried in the Bassatine Jewish cemetery, but refugees from the Sinai Peninsula who came to Cairo after the 1967 war moved into the cemeteries near Ma’adi, often overturning or demolishing the stones, and the whereabouts of Tiegerman’s grave and personal papers remain a mystery.

The recordings:

Four of Tiegerman’s recordings were made by Oreste Campisi in an Italian studio some two years before his death (Brahms; Field). The remaining performances were recorded off the air or in private by Dr. Samir Kamel and Oreste Campisi. Other radio recordings by Tiegerman were frequently broadcast yet remain lost: Rachmaninoff’s 2nd Concerto, the entire Brahms B-flat concerto, Chopin’s E-minor concerto, Saint-Saëns’s 2nd Concerto, and Bach’s Partita in B flat.

Henri Barda recorded Tiegerman’s Meditation especially for this publication. After Tiegerman, Barda worked with Lazare Levy in Paris, and later with Beveridge Webster in New York. Barda has taught in Japan and now lives in Paris, where he is currently on the faculty of the Paris Conservatoire.

At the beginning of the 20th century, a Viennese archive acquired an Edison cylinder machine and recorded Brahms’s acquaintances; they were requested only to speak, but for some reason, having them play or sing was not considered. Tiegerman’s teacher, Theodor Leschetizky (1830-1915), recited his artistic credo in stanzas:

Kein Leben ohne Kunst,
keine Kunst ohne Leben.
[There is no life without art, no art without life.]

Man gewinnt nicht der Menschen Herzen
[One doesn’t win people’s hearts]
Nur mit skaleläufen und schnellen Terzen,
[only with scales and fast thirds,]
Wohl aber mit edler Gesangweise,
[but with noble singing,]
Hell und kräftig, und sanft und leise.
[clear and strong, softly and piano.]

Nicht mit Skalen und Terzen
[Not with scales and thirds]
Gewinnt man der Menschen Herzen,
[does one win people’s hearts,]
Wohl aber mit schönem Sang,
[but with beautiful song,]
Tiefem Sinn und edlem Klang.
[deep feeling, and noble tone.]
– Allan Evans © 1999

The following excerpt is drawn from Royal Days in Egypt: 1804-1952. A Family Memoir. This unpublished manuscript is reproduced here through the kind permission of its author, Prince Hassan Aziz Hassan.

I was privileged to come into contact with a person whose personal merits remain for me a wonder of human realization. Ignace Tiegerman, I write his name with music in my ears, was of poor health and because of this and his fondness for the country, he settled down in Cairo where he created with other gifted musicians a musical academy, the Conservatoire Tiegerman. A small frail man with an astonishing resemblance to Horowitz, he had an indomitable spirit and enormous pride and dignity. It was extraordinary to hear all the different emotions that came pouring out of his superb piano playing, but which were always tempered by his perfect sense of style and taste. In everyday life he showed the same critical criterions in the choice of an oriental prayer rug, an early painting by Macrese, or an old Arab chest. He would sometimes invite me to share his lunch and by adding something quite simple to a very ordinary dish, he would turn it into a new and interesting piece of cuisine. His sense of humour was always present, mordant, sardonic, but also delightful. Once when I had played a rather tricky passage of Chopin’s to his liking, he turned to me and said: “Vous avez joué ça comme le fils naturel de Cortot!” [You have played that like the true son of Cortot!] Real compliments were few and far between and his temper when roused was equally memorable and scathing; he was renowned for it and everybody stood a bit in awe of him. One day when I arrived obviously unprepared for a lesson, he just said quite loudly as if talking to himself: “Really, I am a most unfortunate person never to have had a gifted pupil!” I think music to him was sacred and to arrive unprepared at a lesson was admitting a kind of lack of faith. He died in Cairo of a painful illness that he bore with fortitude but it was pitiful to watch that already frail body shrink on the last day almost to the size of a child.

To those that have known him he has become something of a cult, and when they meet they feel a bond in common like people who have undergone a great experience together.

Had it not been for the assistance provided by the following pupils, friends and admirers of Tiegerman’s art, his legacy would have disappeared. Grateful thanks to the following individuals who helped rescue his recordings for posterity:
Effi Markesini, pupil (Salonika, Greece); Teresa Sterne (New York); Samir Raafat (Cairo); Maria Luisa Muzi Mondin (S. Elpidio a Mare, Italy); Henri Barda, pupil (Paris); Paul Batlan (Oakland, California); Selim Sednaoui, pupil (Cairo, Paris); Dr, Stephan Papastephanou, pupil (Lutherville, Maryland); Elsa Dadrian Garibian, pupil (Cairo, Geneva); Renée Hamad, pupil (Paris); Nicolas Constantinides, pupil (Akron, Ohio); Nevine Miller, pupil (Boca Raton, Florida); Nini Perlo, pupil (West Newton, Massachusetts,); Nanice Wassef, pupil (London).

Our utmost gratitude to Dr. Samir Kamel, Prince Hassan Aziz Hassan, Ramzi Yassa, Jaida Hassanein Mahmoud, Laila Orabi, David Contini, Marco Contini, Michele Selvini, Raimondo Campisi, Belinda Frost, Thomas Stanback, Pauline Hungerford, Edward Said, Dr.Terry Walz and Mrs. Amira Khattab of the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE), André Aciman, Alex Marianos, Linette Tamim Ghery, Moushira Issa, Celine Tirst, George Blitas, Jim Leff, Nina Walder, Donald Manildi, Merrick Brodsky, and Nicholas Milroy for their recollections and help in the research.

Allan Evans © 1999.