made her debut in Vienna in the great and famous Musikvereinssaal
performing the Piano Concerto in A Op. 16 of Edward Grieg. That was
Throughout her career she made extensive concert tours in Germany,
Italy, Portugal, Canada, USA, and she even traveled to Mozambique.
Her vast repertory extends far beyond the great works of the classic
and romantic periods.
Brahms' 2nd Concerto with conductor Volkmar Andreae in the Grosse
Musikvereinssaal in Vienna
Valenzi was born on May 15, 1910 in Vienna. She studied at the "Viennese
State Academy for Music and Dramatic Art", theory with composer
Joseph Marx and cellist/composer Franz Schmidt, and piano with Walter
Kerschbaumer and Friedrich Wührer.
Already in the years before the 2nd World War she was a teacher
herself at that same academy and resumed teaching in 1950 (meanwhile
the institute's name had been changed to simply "Academy for Music
and Dramatic Art", currently 'Universität für Musik und
Valenzi early in her career. (Photo by Fayer, Vienna).
First she taught
in the conducting class next to Hans Swarowsky. In 1959 she received
the title of professor and from 1970 on she taught concert performing.
This position she held until 1980 when she officially became a pensioner.
However she continued to work for another 2 years but had to stop
when she had a stroke which paralyzed her at one side and made it
impossible to continue teaching and performing.
from 1964 until 1972, Mrs. Valenzi conducted courses in interpretation
in the "Centre Culturel du Luxembourg" in Saint Hubert en Ardennes
in Belgium. She judicated in many competitions like the "Concours
de Genève" and the "Leipziger Bachwettbewerb".
As a pianist
she always had a strong affinity for the works of the modern composers
and her list of performances of the contemporary piano literature
is enormous. Young students may find names and works which may rise
their curiosity and inspire them to explore more modern composers.
The real meaning of Frieda Valenzi's art does not solely stem from
her Remington recordings - though fortunately they are there to witness
her insights in the performance of important compositions from the
piano literature - but lies merely in the fact that she brought a
great variety of new music to the many audiences that came to listen
to her concerts and recitals, or listened to her many radio recordings
for ORF in Vienna:
Piano concerto Op. 30;
Bela Bartok: Sonatine for piano on peasant themes;
Friedrich Bayer: Piano concerto;
Alban Berg: Chamber Concerto for Violin, Piano and
13 wind instruments, Piano sonata Op. 1;
Boris Blacher: Variations on a Theme of Muzio Clementi;
Arthur Bornschein: Arabesques for piano and orchestra;
Johannes Brahms: Piano sonata No. 3, Piano concerto
No. 2, Piano pieces Op. 118;
Thomas Christian David: Piano concerto;
Claude Debussy: 12 Etudes Book I, 12 Etudes Book II;
Antonin Dvorak: Six silhouettes for piano Op. 8 Book
Werner Egk: Piano sonata;
Lukas Foss: Concerto No. 2;
Jean Françaix: Cinq portraits de jeunes filles;
César Franck: Prélude, chorale et fugue;
Enrique Granados: Goyescas, Suite No. 1;
Hans Hagen: Concerto piccolo for piano, orchestra and
jazz band, Scherzo for piano and orchestra, Toccata ciocosa
for piano and orchestra;
Christobal Halffter: Portuguese Rhapsody for piano
Karl Amadeus Hartmann: Concerto for Wind Instruments,
Piano and Percussion;
Paul Hindemith: Kammermusik No. 2;
Wilhelm Hübner: Piano concerto No. 1;
Ernst Krenek: Piano Concerto No. 2;
Witold (Witold) Lutoslawski: 5 Dance-preludes;
Bruno Maderna: Concerto;
Frank Martin: Ballade (1939), Concerto (1933-4);
Marx: Castelli Romani;
Karl Franz Müller: Concerto en miniature No. 1;
Alois Pachernegg: Concertino for piano and strings,
Prologue for piano and orchestra;
Hans Pfitzner: Pieces Op. 47;
Sergei Prokofiev: Concerto No. 3; Five melodies;
Albert Roussel: Piano Concerto;
Arnold Schönberg: Piano Concerto Op. 42, Three
pieces Op. 11, Six small pieces Op. 19, Five pieces Op. 23,
Suite for piano Op. 25;
Robert Schumann: Fantasy;
Alexander Scriabin: Preludes Op. 11;
Dimitri Shostakovich: 24 Preludes and fugues;
Oscar Strauss: Piano concerto;
Igor Stravinksy: Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments;
Peter Tchaikovsky: Andante and finale for piano and
orchestra Op. 7, The Seasons Op. 37a;
Erich Urbanner: Piano Concerto;
Francesco Valdambrini: Dialogues for Piano and Sections
of the Orchestra;
Roger Vuatas: Piano concerto Op. 112; Wolf-Ferrari:
Sonatine in E, Sonatine in c;
Heinz Walberg: "Konzert für die Einzige" for piano
from the new piano literature had their first performance by Frieda
Valenzi. Many composers dedicated compositions to her. Her performance
of the Complete Piano Compositions of the Viennese School are
considered stylistically as exemplary.
She also recorded
for radio broadcasts with RAI in Rome. Regrettably she did not make
many LP recordings. The recordings for the Remington label were made
There is an LP recording of Müller's "Concerto en miniature
No.1" which dates from the nineteen seventies in which she is
the soloist. The conductor is Christoph Michael. (Preiser 9907).
Frieda Valenzi in 1960 with Portuguese conductor Joaquim da Silva
was above all a soloist and loved to concertize. She performed with
international acclaimed conductors, but her favorite conductor was
Joaquim da Silva from Portugal. When she was asked she also accompanied
other instrumentalists. The Sonata for Violin and Piano of César
Franck always was one of her favorites.
In 1968 Mrs.
Valenzi was honored with the "Austrian Cross of Honor for Science
and Art" and in 1981 she received the "Gold Cross of Honor for merits
on behalf of the Republic of Austria".
She had several outstanding students. Among those French pianist
Alain Balageas and Austrian Alexis Hauser now a conductor.
Alexis Hauser remembers
Mrs. Frieda Valenzi:
one of the greatest teachers I have ever had, and the only
one who significantly helped me on the piano. If I only would
have had her marvelous instructions sooner in my musical upbringing.
It is now more than thirty years ago, but I remember her class
as if it were yesterday. She was definitely a born pedagogue
because she knew exactly how to bring the best out in her
At one time,
conductor Mrs. Roswitha Heintze, once also a pupil of Frieda Valenzi,
had the honor to conduct when Frieda Valenzi was the soloist in Rachmaninoff's
2nd Concerto. Before the intermission "The Moldau" was on the program.
Just before the concert was to start the triangle player had been
reported ill. Mrs. Valenzi replaced him, however with great problems
because of the long silences in the score for the triangle. So she
just played it by ear! Mrs. Heintze said: "We still laugh about this
event today and were very happy when we read in Richard Strauss's
"Memories" about a similar happening when in the "Academische
Festouverture" Richard Strauss was to play the drum and Hans von Bülow
the cymbal all to the honor of Johannes Brahms. But time after time
both lost measure and had to ask the trumpet player to redirect them
in the score."
To the occasion
of Frieda Valenzi's 90th birthday on May 15, 2000, Richard Strauss's
Sonata, Brahms's Sonata in F and "Goyoh" ("Stillness") by Hae-Sung
Lee in its first performance were played at the "University for Music
and the Performing Arts" (as the institute is called nowadays) by
cellist Alexander Baillie (a pupil of Jaqueline du Pre) and
Roswitha Heintze at the piano.
Despite her handicap, Frieda Valenzi is in close contact with music
and performance. She attends as often as possible classes and performances
at the University in Vienna.
recordings of Frieda Valenzi:
Maurice Ravel: Le tombeau de Couperin (released early 1951).
Enrique Granados: Goyescas. Don Gabor released Frieda Valenzi's
'Goyescas' recording on his Etude label in 1952 with reference
E-701 before it was issued on Remington R-199-116 in 1953.
César Franck: Variations symphoniques (coupled with Debussy:
Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faun) with conductor
Jean Moreau (released in March 1952). Recorded Saturday, January
26, 1952 in the Brahms-Saal.
of the four pieces from "Goyescas" by Frieda Valenzi on Remington
was recorded in 1951 and was for a long time the only recording available
until 1954 when the recordings of José Falgarona (VOX)
and the following year the recordings of Cuban pianist José Echaniz
(Westminster) and Nikita Magaloff (London, released on English
Decca a year earlier) became available, followed in 1956 by Amparo
Iturbi's set (RCA/HMV).
Mrs. Valenzi's edition suffered from an inferior recording and manufacturing
technique and there was no time for making more than one take, so
there was no splicing facility. The recording could have been done
on any Monday afternoon.)*
Although the performance of Eduardo del Pueyo (himself from
Spain and of course a compatriot of Granados) was released much later
on the Philips label and received acclaim, it was Alicia de Larrocha's
first recording from 1956 released in the US on American Decca (Brunswick
in Great Britain) that more or less set the standard.
once said in an interview that, if you have seen a painting, it is
easier to paint a picture yourself and you may even emulate the original.
But starting from scratch is an entirely different enterprise.
Of course talent is needed. And since we all remember Alicia de
Larrocha's second recording on Erato/Hispavox from the nineteen
sixties, followed by her Decca and RCA recordings, and the subsequent
recordings by Thomas Rajna (CRD) and Rena Kyriakou (VOX/Turnabout),
it is easy to find faults in the recordings made in the early nineteen
It is true, in olden days many works had to be pioneered by performing
artists when there were -except for the works of Bach, Beethoven,
Brahms, Schumann, and the like- hardly examples available on record
of those works which did not belong to the so-called "iron repertory".
"Goyescas" is a perfect example of this fact as most pianists have
difficulty finding the interpretation as indicated by the composer
It was financially very attractive to make recordings in Europe right
after World War II and many artists were happy to earn a living right
after the war in devastated Europe. They sometimes did not care much
about the recording's qualities and irregularities at the time.
Hearing Valenzi's performance in this perspective, the nature of her
interpretation has more sense and although it leans at times slightly
towards the classics, there are some poetical and moving moments in
the Remington recording.
There is also another aspect which is easily forgotten and that is
the significance of the equalization curve which was used by the cutting
engineer. In 1951 the RIAA curve was not the standard. Only equipment
used at the time or high quality playback equipment of today do reveal
the inner core of many an old recording. Those who have equipment
with adjustable equalization will experience the full impact of such
old recordings. Compared to both del Pueyo's and Valenzi's, the interpretation
of Jose Echaniz on Westminster (who recorded a complete set of pieces)
has somewhat less passion and fire, and it lacks structure.)*
There is also
a recording of Schumann's "Fantasie" coupled with Brahms' "Schumann
Variations" played by Frieda Valenzi and released on Merit Records,
reference number M200-28. The back of the cover says: Copyright
1952 and on the front cover mentions the performer as being "v. frieda,
pianist". Many collectors and dealers wrongly attributed these performances
The Plymouth release of these same performances has reference
There exists no release of Frieda Valenzi's Schumann and Brahms performances
on Remington. Edward Kilenyi played the same works for the Remington
label, the recording by Frieda Valenzi was only released on Merit
and Plymouth. The same goes for the Ravel disc with 'Le tombeau de
As Don Gabor
mostly just bought the recorded performances, many artists did not
know of his existence and never met him.