Stefan Askenase Plays Chopin (1964)

Do we hear the Chopin tradition or not?

Stefan Askenase Stefan Askenase (not to confuse with Vladimir Ashkenazy!) was born in Poland, got lessons from his mother (who had lessons from Carl Mikuli (1821-1897), a famous Chopin student). Later he would be formed by Theodor Kullak (1818-1912) and the also famous Liszt student Emil von Sauer (1862-1942).

Now is this way of playing a representation of Chopin’s playing? Who will tell. Personally I would say it reflects more the way this music was played around 1870. A lot changed around 1840, the musical taste developed (not strange seen the evolution of society) leaning more towards an “industrial” approach, more mechanically, rapidly, technically with muscles and strength.
But… whatever might be the case, this is a beautiful beautiful beautiful recording. Really it is. And whoever never heard Askenase play, you’ll not forget soon this first introduction to him. Promise!

Some biographical details (source:

Stefan Askenase, a Polish pianist, was born on 10 July 1896 in Lemberg (now L’viv), and died on 18 October 1985 in Bonn. At the age of five he began playing the piano with his mother, a pianist and pupil of Karol Mikuli. Carl MikuliTwo years later he commenced lessons with Ksawera Zacharyasiewicz, Franz Xaver Mozart’s pupil, and next with Theodor Pollak, a professor and director of the Ludwik Marek School of Music in Lemberg (L’viv). In 1913, he left for Vienna to continue his piano studies under Emil von Sauer,Emil von Sauer a pupil of Franz Liszt’s, and soon made his pianist debut there. In 1920 he debuted at the Warsaw Philharmonic Hall where on 1 February he played the Schumann Piano Concerto in A minor, and on 6 February he played the Brahms Concerto in B flat major and the Chopin Concerto in F minor. The performances were received with outstanding critical acclaim. One of the critics, Franciszek Brzeziński, wrote inter alia: “Flawless technique, unerring memory, the incredible sense of the piano tone, beautiful strike, and above all, extraordinary aptness and heartfelt interpretation – all of these factors immediately place the young pianist among the most important virtuosos ever, and enable us to foresee an exceptional career for him as a performer.” After his successes in Vienna and Warsaw, Askenase commenced concert touring in Austria, Germany and France. From 1922 to 1925 he lived in Cairo, where he worked as a piano professor at the conservatory. In 1927 he moved to Brussels taking up the position of a professor at the Conservatoire royal, where he taught for forty years. Apart from teaching, he continued to perform in almost all European countries, North America, Africa, and elsewhere. His first concert in Poland after World War II took place on 17 May 1946. In 1965, he founded The Arts und Musik Society, whose aim was to preserve the historical railway station in Rolandseck upon the river Rhine. After its restoration the building became a venue for the studios of such artists as Pierre Fournier, Henryk Szeryng, Salvador Dali and Askenase himself. Askenase also taught in summer master classes for pianists in Cologne and Bonn. He sat on the jury of the 1955 and 1960 International Chopin Competitions in Warsaw. In 1981, to celebrate his 85th birthday, he gave eighty-five performances in Europe. He was noted for his interpretations of Scarlatti, Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Brahms Schubert, Schumann and Albéniz. His pupils included Martha Argerich, Andrzej Czajkowski and Mitsuko Uchida.