DORFMANN Mendelssohn: Songs Without Words (1956/1953) - PAKM069

DORFMANN Mendelssohn: Songs Without Words (1956/1953) - PAKM069

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MENDELSSOHN  Songs Without Words (complete)
MENDELSSOHN  Andante and Rondo Capriccioso
Studio recordings, 1956 & 1953
Total duration: 2hr 12:21

Ania Dorfmann, piano


Ania Dorfmann's complete Mendelssohn Song's Without Words

"Dorfmann conceives the "songs" as salon pieces and, of course, in many cases this is the right approach. She presents the music in a dainty, delicate framework and has been well recorded" - The Gramophone, 1957

It is unfortunate that Ania Dorfmann is remembered today almost exclusively for being the soloist in Arturo Toscanini’s only studio recording of a Beethoven piano concerto.  Her career extended far beyond the Maestro’s orbit, as the present reissue demonstrates.

Dorfmann was born in Odessa in 1899 to a merchant’s family.  Recognized early on as a prodigy, she played her first recital at the age of eleven.  Around this time, she also gave a joint concert with the even-younger Jascha Heifetz.  Plans were made for her to go to Paris to study with Isidor Phillip at the Conservatoire, but the death of her father postponed the trip for several years.  She had been in Paris for less than a year when revolution broke out in Russia.  After a visit home, she was only able to return to France with some difficulty.

She made her début at Liège in 1920, and concertized throughout Europe over the next fifteen years, appearing with such conductors as Mengelberg, Beecham and Wood.  During this period, she made a number of recordings for English Columbia, including the Mendelssohn First Piano Concerto with Walter Goehr.

In 1936, she made her American debut at Town Hall in New York, where critics praised the “rapidity and clarity” of her technique.  Horowitz introduced her to his father-in-law, Toscanini, and she soon became an intimate of the family.  (A letter written by Toscanini in Milan in April, 1937 mentions “Ania, that friend of Volodya’s (she’s a Russian pianist).  She’s here all the time, morning and evening.”)  She was later to collaborate with the conductor on four occasions, all in works of Beethoven:  the Choral Fantasy (1939); the Triple Concerto (1942); a broadcast of the First Piano Concerto with the Reineke cadenza (1944) followed by a studio recording of the work with one of Beethoven’s own cadenzas (1945).  All of these have been available on CD.

Dorfmann settled in America and joined the faculty at the Juilliard School.  She continued to concertize and made a number of recordings for RCA Victor during the 1940s and ‘50s, including the Beethoven “Moonlight” and “Pathétique” Sonatas, the complete Chopin Waltzes, the Albums for the Young of both Schumann and Tchaikovsky, the Grieg Piano Concerto and Mendelssohn Concerto No. 1 with Erich Leinsdorf and the Robin Hood Dell Orchestra of Philadelphia (on Pristine PAKM 066), Schumann’s Carnaval and Fantasiestücke (the former also on the same Pristine release), and a recital disc featuring works by Liszt, Ravel and Menotti among others.  While her English Columbia 78s have been well covered in CDs from Pearl and Dutton, her RCA recordings have remained largely unreissued.

Mendelssohn remained something of a Dorfmann specialty throughout her career.  After her early recording of the First Concerto, she included two of the Songs without Words along with the Andante and Rondo Capriccioso in a 1953 recital album for RCA.  She later re-recorded the two Songs along with the other 47 for a three-LP set, which became only the second complete recording of the work, following Ginette Doyen’s for Westminster.  Critic Jonathan Summers wrote that Dorfmann’s set “shows much sensitivity and fine tonal playing.”

Dorfmann continued to teach until a year before her death in 1984, having retired from the concert stage several years earlier.  Now, with the reissue of her later recordings such as the ones presented here, a fuller appreciation of her considerable artistry becomes possible.

Mark Obert-Thorn

  • MENDELSSOHN  Songs Without Words Opp. 19, 30, 38, 53, 62, 67, 85, 102
    Recorded 19/20 & 27 October, 15/16 November & 20 December 1955 + 28 & 30 August 1956 in Webster Hall, New York.
    First issued on RCA Victor LM-6128

  • MENDELSSOHN  Andante and Rondo Capriccioso, Op. 14
    Recorded 12-13 January 1953 in Town Hall, New York.  First issued on RCA Victor LM-1758

Ania Dorfmann,

Another large-scale piano set, this one from Victor, is in three more discs and features Ania Dorfmann in all of Mendelssohn's Songs Without Words. The playing is agreeable. Dorfmann conceives the "songs" as salon pieces and, of course, in many cases this is the right approach. She presents the music in a dainty, delicate framework and has been well recorded.

- Harold Schonberg, Letter from America, The Gramophone, April 1957

Pristine's Review