Friday 26 April 2013

Preserving the memory of Felicja Blumental

Felicja Blumental at the piano
Felicja Blumental
Polish/Brazilian pianist Felicja Blumental (1908 - 1991) is perhaps best remembered for her Chopin interpretations, her recordings of the Mazurkas are particularly notable. Born in Poland, she first performed in public at the age of ten, and studied at the Warsaw Conservatory even though two years under the minimum age. She and her husband, Markus Mizne, emigrated to Brazil in 1938 to escape anti-semitism. Always adventurous in her programming, Blumental championed the music of her adopted country. Villa Lobos dedicated his Fifth Piano Concerto to her,  Lutoslawski orchestrated his Variations on a theme of Paganini for her, and Penderecki dedicated his Partita for Harpsichord and Orchestra. Blumenthal died whilst visiting Israel in 1991 and in 1999, TelAviv Museum of Art named its International Music Festival after her. Also keeping Blumental's memory alive is Brana Reords which is dedicated to restoring Blumenthal's recordings to the catalogue.

John Malkovich in 'The Infernal Comedy'. Credit: Olga Matchitch
John Malkovich in
The Infernal Comedy.
Credit: Olga Matchitch
The Felicja Blumental Festival runs from 29 April to 4 May 2013 at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. This year the festival is celebrating its 15th anniversary. The music programme includes a wide variety of artists including John Malkovitch (in a musical drama The Infernal Comedy: Confessions of a Serial Killer with Orchester Wiener Akademie conducted by Martin Haselbock), the Leipzig Quartet (in a curious programme with the Tal Grotehuysen piano duo which includes Mendelssohn's Octet performed by piano four hands and string quartet), the Israel Chamber Orchestra (in a programme of Mozart concertos and arias which concludes with the Bach Concerto for Four Harpsichords) in a packed programme with three or four events per day.

Over at Brana Records, they are busily making Blumental's recordings available. Recordings include a three CD collection of the Beethoven Piano Concertos which Blumental made with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, conductor Robert Wagner, including the incomplete Piano Concerto in E flat by the teenage Beethoven. And there is a live recording of Villa Lobos' Fifth Piano Concerto played by Blumental, with Villa Lobos conducting the Vienna Symphony Orchestra. The concerto was recorded live in 1955 the year of its premiere. The disc also includes Blumental playing a number of other works by Villa Lobos.  Many of the discs have covers featuring the prints of Blumental's husband, Markus Mizne.

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