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Nyíregyházi plays St. Francis of Paola Walking on the Waters

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Published on Jun 28, 2011

The legendary 1973 performance of Liszt's "Legende Nº 2, St. François de Paule, marchant sur les flots"...

"All your waves and breakers have swept over me"

Ervin Nyíregyházi (1903, Budapest - 1987, Los Angeles) at his "comeback" recital in San Francisco, crossing the Strait of Messina with his companions following in the boat*... I regard this one of his most gigantic performances, capturing the spirit of the work, despite the wrong notes.**

Nyiregyházi made some Ampico piano rolls in the 1920s, but no recordings when he was in his prime. Still, the recordings he made in the 1970s, despite his deteriorated technique, reveal a pianist with a rich singing tone, an unparalleled dynamic range, an "orchestral" approach to texture, a very flexible sense of rhythm, and (most controversially) a free, creative, improvisatory approach to interpretation. He was a genuine Romantic adrift in the modern age; even when he was a child, critics referred to his style as "old-fashioned." In fact, his playing was said to resemble that of Liszt, according to former Liszt pupils who heard him play. He was a ferociously individual artist—his heroes were Liszt and Wilde—and his deeply personal musical interpretations scandalized many. Yet, he may be considered a sort of "missing link" to a bygone species of Romanticism that existed before the recording era. His eccentricities and the faddish nature of his rediscovery notwithstanding, he was musician of considerable historical importance.

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* "Saint Francis of Paola (1416-1507) was an Italian mendicant friar and the founder of the Roman Catholic Order of the Minims ... According to a famous story, in the year 1464, he was refused passage by a boatman while trying to cross the Strait of Messina to Sicily. He reportedly laid his cloak on the water, tied one end to his staff as a sail, and sailed across the strait with his companions following in the boat."
From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_...

** There are fistfuls of wrong notes, at times the piano is simply being banged, the sustaining pedal is almost constantly held down. While fascinating to hear, it can be rather like crossing the Strait of Messina to Sicily...

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