Erick Friedman

8.99 €

Erick Friedman had made a sensation with Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole in New York at age fourteen. His playing was always splendidly assured and goes far to explain why Heifetz placed such high hopes in his future. The Lalo piece and Bruch’s 1st violin concerto are new to his discography. Both performances have never been published before and are characterized by Friedman’s intensity and extraordinary facility.

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ERICK FRIEDMAN plays Bruch and Lalo

1-3. BRUCH: Violin Concerto No.1 in G minor, Op.26 [23:26]
Recorded · 13 January 1964 · Paris · Théâtre des Champs Elysées · Office de Radiodiffusion-Télévision Française · Live Recording
Erick Friedman · violin
Orchestre National de France
Georges Prêtre · conductor

4-7. LALO: Symphonie espagnole in D minor, Op.21 [28:49]
Recorded · 01 March 1964 · Paris · Théâtre des Champs Elysées · Office de Radiodiffusion-Télévision Française · Live Recording
Erick Friedman · violin
Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire
Georges Prêtre · conductor

Additional Information

Article number: MC 2008
Release date:02 May 2014
UPC barcode: 0791154050309
Total time: 52:15

Producer and Audio Restoration: Lynn Ludwig
Booklet Notes: Michael Waiblinger
Design: Alessia Issara
Photographs: Peter Ziegler collection
With special thanks to Nate Robinson and Peter Ziegler
From the Original Masters · © 2014 Meloclassic

Eric(k) Friedman was born in Newark, NJ, on August 14, 1939. His father was a practising dentist, but was also an accomplished amateur violinist. Soon Friedman was requesting to listen to classical recordings and before long it was discovered that he had perfect pitch. His parents were delighted at his obvious musical aptitude and encouraged him, preferring to let the boy’s own inclinations develop whatever talents he might have. At his own request, Friedman was given a three-quarter-size violin fiddle and started on lessons at the age of 6 with Applebaum until he was ten years old. His progress was rapid that within two years he made the first New York appearance, selected through auditions sponsored by the Music Teachers League of New York.

“My father was a dentist. I come from a family of medical practitioners, which partially explains, I suppose, my interest in the physiology of violin playing. As a matter of fact, my brother is a neurosurgeon. When he was younger, though, he was an athlete. I learned through him that the muscles have one active motion: contraction. In fact, there’s a strong muscular association between the hands. When the left-hand muscles are squeezed and pressed, the right hand tends to react in the same way, and vice versa. My parents were dedicated to my training. My father played the violin but as an amateur. And he was determined to grant me the finest musical education that money could buy. He’d take copious notes at every lesson. I studied first with a patient of his who happened to be none other than Samuel Applebaum. My mother was good friends with Michael Rabin’s mother. Michael was offered management at an early age, so she, a nice lady, got me signed under contract too.”

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He then studied for eight years with Ivan Galamian and had worked also with Nathan Milstein. Not long after his first appearance in Town Hall, he played over radio station WNJR as the winner of a talent contest. He made his orchestral debut at 10 as soloist with the Center Symphony of Newark and was soon winning appearances with major orchestras. With the New York Philharmonic under Wilfrid Pelletier, he played the Saint‑Saëns Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso when he was 12. As winner of the Music Education League Auditions, he was presented as soloist under Thomas Scherman in Town Hall. Of this performance of the Lalo Symphonie Espagnole, the New York Herald Tribune wrote: “Mr. Friedman’s performance was thoroughly remarkable. It became even more so upon learning he is 14 years of age, for the immaturity one would except of the age was utterly absent.” He had also performed over the radio stations WNYC and WQXR, and on the Arthur Godfrey television show. His Carnegie Hall debut was in 1956. When he signed with Arthur Judson, dean of the American concert managers, his concert activities had expanded to include recitals and appearances with orchestra from US coast to coast.

By 1957 Friedman was regarded as one of the most promising and talented young American violinists. Instead, he became a student of Jascha Heifetz, against the advice of his manager Arthur Judson and put his immediate career on hold for three years. Judson felt that a career could not be stopped and restarted successfully. This meant drastically curtailing Friedman’s 80-concert-per-year schedule. Heifetz heard him in California and asked him to study with him in Los Angeles, thus becoming one of three pupils who formed the initial nucleus of Heifetz’s new pedagogical career.

During those years, Friedman practiced nine hours a day and he said that if Heifetz did not think you were trying hard enough as a student, one day, at the end of your lesson, you would hear, “That’s very good. I’m not pleased with the progress you’ve been making. Don’t come back next week.” Friedman said that he realized he was not working hard enough himself, and was afraid that he could be dropped by Heifetz. So, he sat in an unfurnished apartment for months perfecting his technique, until he got it right. When he returned to New York in 1960 Friedman found out several, rather painful truths. The first one was about Judson’s truism that “a career could not be stopped and restarted successfully”. Second, that being a Heifetz pupil was, against all apparent common sense or logic, a liability rather than an asset. “People who identified me with Heifetz would be upset by this. I couldn’t win. If I played like Heifetz, I was a carbon copy; a clone; if I didn’t play like him, I was less. I recorded the First Paganini concerto, which Heifetz never did. I even wrote my own cadenza for it. When Irving Kolodin reviewed it in The Saturday Review, he wrote that I played it “like Heifetz would have played it”, as if that was somehow a fault. But how could he have known? Heifetz didn’t play it as an adult!”

In 1962 Heifetz chose Friedman to record the Bach Double Violin concerto in London, a disc released shortly afterwards by RCA. To understand the momentous, unusual event, it should be recalled that Heifetz had never shared the concert stage with another violinist, live or on record, in his entire career. Heifetz, the ever superstitious man, told Friedman to add an extra “k” to his first name, such that the letters of his full name would add up to 13 – the same as Heifetz’s and Kreisler’s. Friedman duly obliged and thereafter his name read Erick Friedman. In 1963 he took a sabbatical leave and decided to go back to college to see what he had missed. At Princeton, he sang bass with an an a cappella singing group known as the “Footnotes”, and journeyed with the members one spring vacation to Florida. Each night they would sing a few sets of songs at various places and in exchange, the management would give them meals.

For a couple or so years his career seemed to reaffirm itself, several successful recordings followed – particularly Prokofiev’s First violin concerto with Erich Leinsdorf. But by 1965 Friedman had seemingly reached an impasse. Some of it had to do with music agencies and some alleged misunderstanding. Sol Hurok is said to have promised to sign up Friedman on condition that he severs his ties with CAMI. Having obtain a release from CAMI, not without some residue of animosity, he proceeded to contact Hurok who all but seemed to have disappeared – suddenly he refused to receive calls or meet Friedman. The young man was left hanging in limbo and nowhere to turn to. As if by chance, he started being encouraged by David Oistrakh to go to Russia and take part in the Tchaikovsky Competition. Against the wishes of Heifetz, Friedman entered the Moscow-based Competition in 1966 and finished tied for sixth. He later admitted: “I should have heeded his advice and not entered the Tchaikovsky Competition. Heifetz called me up, middle of the night, in that cryptic manner of his, and emphatically advised me not to go: “Erick, you’ll see what will happen there. I’m warning you”.

But I went to Moscow anyway at the insistence of David Oistrakh. I figured since Oistrakh was head of the jury and a friend. Heifetz suspected that I was being set up by his detractors; after all, he was anti-Soviet, and they were anti-Heifetz. I was rather naive back then in the 1960’s. After the competition Heifetz phoned me. “You see, Erick. I told you this would happen. You have no respect for me.” An ashamed Joseph Szigeti sitting in the jury, later assured Heifetz that he scored highest on his marking list for Friedman. Unfortunately, the competition had also taken a toll on the teacher-pupil relationship. Heifetz had sensed, probably correctly, that the Russians would discredit his former student as a means to indirectly discredit his own standing. Friedman concluded that “My relationship with Jascha was never the same after that.”

Friedman continued to concertise. He collaborated with such celebrated conductors as Herbert von Karajan, Leopold Stokowski, William Steinberg, Erich Leinsdorf, André Previn and Seiji Ozawa. Friedman continued to face obstacles to his career from the New York music establishment and his former pupil Talvi recalls that “he had shared his conviction that violinist Isaac Stern, president of Carnegie Hall, was on a mission to destroy his solo career with an agenda to belittle Heifetz’s teaching. Erick Friedman was collateral damage; a victim of Heifetz’s foes, real or perceived. But one thing was for certain. Stern could make or break a career. He’d regularly travel to Israel and listen to young talented violinists. With glasses perched on top of his head, in an avuncular manner, he’d point and say, “You and you. Come to America.” Those who were chosen became soloists; the ones left behind, and not chosen, would eventually become orchestra musicians”. Friedman described in no uncertain terms that “if the Stern Mafia could silence me-. Yes, that’s right. Isaac Stern. If he had his way, I’d no longer be concertizing.”

An automobile accident on a Texas highway in the 1986 halted his concert career. His car was rear-ended by a truck and the crash spared Friedman’s bow arm, but it left with compression injuries in his neck, left shoulder and arm and tissue damage from a fracture in his left thumb. He could no longer practise as much as he used to, and playing was always painful. Physical therapy was a daily necessity. He made his return to the concert stage in 1992 and began teaching violin at Yale in 1989, and taught until his death. He had also taught at Southern Methodist University, the North Carolina School of the Arts and at the Manhattan School of Music.

Friedman passed away on March 30, 2004 in New Haven from cancer, at the age of 64.

© Michael Waiblinger 2014

Audiophile Audition Classical Review November 2014

Published on November 1, 2014

The gifted Heifetz protégé Erick Friedman makes lovely and electric sparks in two Romantic staples performed in Paris, 1964.

American violin virtuoso and pedagogue Erick Friedman (1939-2004) and I met at the Round Top Festival in Texas, where he served as artist-in-residence and performed periodically with the student orchestra. Of course, between conversations about repertory – particularly about the big three concertos by Mozart – Friedman and I would discuss Jascha Heifetz and the many influences, for good or evil, that great master generated for Friedman’s career. Friedman confessed that the shadow of Heifetz could repel as well as attract possible adherents and contracts. “If I played like Heifetz, I became a mere clone or puppet. If I played more “individually,” it was because I could not equal the Master.” Isaac Stern, too, raised his ruthless specter in our conversations, since Friedman, like Aaron Rosand, had been slated by Stern for musical oblivion. Happily, Friedman remains a phenomenon entirely true to himself, and these revived 1964 concerts from the French Radio-Television service remind us how penetrating and lovely a Friedman performance could be.

The 1866 Bruch G Minor Concerto (13 January 1964) resonates cleanly and decisively in the first movement, with strong melodic support from Pretre. Friedman’s top line proves luxuriously sweet and cleanly defined, moving with suave grace back into the palpitatingmain theme over the tympani. The tempo of the Allegro moderato remains rather brisk, in the manner of Friedman’s other mighty teacher, Nathan Milstein. The quasi-cadenzapassages that serve as transitions to the Larghetto maintain an incisive, gypsy flavor, and Pretre adds a lushness to the string line quite infectious. There is a poor edit to the slow movement, which should follow attacca. Bu Friedman approaches the Larghetto as the heart of the Concerto, and the effect gains a melancholy nostalgia as sincerely breathed as it is rarified. The Finale: Allegro energico enjoys the pungent flavor of incisive attacks and sizzling bow work. Much like Bustabo had with Mengelberg, Friedman digs into the chords with vibrant relish, while the French National strings and tympani deliver their heated response to his electrified figures. In their da capo repetition of the inflamed rondo theme, Friedman’s bouncing bow, spiccato, achieves even more throaty resonance. The coda blazes to a stunning peroration.

While we might lament Freidman’s decision to perform the old-fashioned, four-movement version of Lalo’s 1874 Symphonie espagnole, the reading has its definite merits, marked by the thorough communication between the principals. Friedman had made a sensation with this piece in New York at age fourteen. We may find much in common with the Ruggiero Ricci inscriptions of this piece, naturally responsive to the gypsy flourish and flamboyant sense of Iberian color. The second movement Scherzando: Allegro moltooffers Friedman an excellent bravura vehicle in the form of a fine serenade, a seguidilla in startling panoply surrounded by guitar-effects, highlighted by Pretre’s pert attention to jarring entries and punctuated rhythmic cells. The lovely Andante remains the least “Spanish” movement of the work, rather a dark-hued chorale that “softens” into a folk song whose soaring lyricism Friedman immortalizes. The ever-playful Rondo: Allegrothrives on virtuoso wit and spectacular colors. A palpable affability permeates this collaboration from 1 March 1964, and the Paris audience seizes the opportunity to express their gratitude.

© Gary Lemco

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