On sale!

Alexander Brailowsky

8.99 € 6.75 €

Alexander Brailowsky (1896-1976) acquired a sort of collar around his neck with the name ‘Chopin specialist’. That label was wrong, as this present CD testifies as well as many other recordings. This is an exceptionally rare CD which made their first appearance ever and presents the great Russian pianist at his best supported by flawless technique, great musicianship, clarity and above all tremendous involvement.


Buy 20 or more in CD and get a 20% cart discount
Buy 10 to 19 in CD and get a 15% cart discount
Buy 5 to 9 in CD and get a 10% cart discount

ALEXANDER BRAILOWSKY plays Mussorgsky, Borodin, Debussy and Chopin – The Paris recital 1949

1. MUSSORGSKY: Pictures at an Exhibition [30:45]
2. BORODIN: Scherzo in A-flat Major [03:24]
3. DEBUSSY: Image No.1 ‘Reflets dans l’eau’, Livre I [04:42]
4-7. CHOPIN: Piano Sonata No.2 in B-flat minor, Op.35 [19:42]

Recorded ∙ 16 October 1949 ∙ Paris ∙ Studio de la Radiodiffusion-Télévision Française ∙ Radio Studio Recording

Additional Information

Article number: MC 1008
Release date: 02 May 2014
UPC barcode: 0791154050088
Total time: 60:07

Producer and Audio Restoration: Lynn Ludwig
Booklet Notes: Michael Waiblinger
Design: Alessia Issara
Photographs: Boris Lipnitzki
With special thanks to Boris Lipnitzki
From the Original Masters ∙ © 2014 Meloclassic

Alexander Brailowsky was born in Kiev, Russia, February 16, 1896. He began taking piano lessons when he was five years old. His first teacher was his father, an amateur pianist. The lessons were confined to playing scales. In Brailowsky’s own words: “Oh! Such scales! Father made them a game, and, like a pacemaker, he carried me on and on. I would try to beat him in speed and accuracy, although I did not know at that time he was really leading me on into what seemed like a delightful rivalry”. He continued his training at the Kiev Conservatory with Pouchalsky, who had studied with Theodor Leschetizky, so it seemed only natural that Brailowsky should follow in this tradition.

Alexander Brailowski

At the age of 14, young Brailowsky was taken to Vienna to become a pupil of Leschetizky. It was Leschetizky’s custom to invite the elite of the Viennese musical world to his house to hear his outstanding students. At one of these “house concerts”, the celebrated teacher had presented his first world-famous pupil Ignace Jan Paderewski. At another, he introduced Brailowsky, who was destined to be the last of Leschetizky’s disciples to achieve international renown. While Leschetizky had set ideas about physicality at the keyboard – ideas which have found their way into his book – he was opposed to the pursuit of technical perfection for its own sake “I am in principle no friend of theoretical piano methods”. So when Brailowsky once said at a lesson that “tone is an expression of your soul”, he perhaps summed up his own teacher’s philosophy. In fact, when teaching, Leschetizky might well have changed his favourite motto – “No life without art, no art without life” -to “No technique without musicality, no musicality without technique”.

Brailowsky claimed to have been exclusively taught by Leschetizky. Florence Trumbull, who acted as assistant to Leschetizky, put the real facts of the case before the public, stating that the Brailowsky family left Russia for Vienna in 1911. Brailowsky, aged 14, was placed under a teacher, and his young sister Sivra, aged 8, was placed under Trumbull. Leschetizky himself became very enthusiastic over the little girl, and predicted a great career for her. At the same time the great pedagogue had only abuse and discouragement for Alexander. The father, disappointed in his son’s progress, went to Trumbull, begging her to take him in her class. She agreed, despite Leschetizky’s warning that it would be of no avail.

After several months of hard work under her tuition the boy improved so much that he was admitted in to Leschetizky’s class, becoming a brilliant pupil, who continued studying under Trumbull for two years. On January 4, 1925, Brailowsky published a letter referring to being entrusted to “an assistant” and to “the lady” in question. The letter made an unpleasant impression in musical circles, being written with the object of attracting publicity by claiming Leschetizky as his sole teacher. Trumbull answered, giving such convincing proofs of her statement that Brailowsky made no further denial. She had given him during the two years over 160 one-hour lessons!

At the outbreak of World War I, Brailowsky moved to Switzerland, where the famed Ferruccio Busoni took a proprietary interest in the young man’s career and taught him in Zürich. A second move settled the family in France in 1919. Not long after his arrival in Paris, Brailowsky’s father decided that the time was ripe for his son to make his first appearance in public. The boy’s debut recital created such a sensation in Parisian musical circles that offers of engagements began to pour in from all the capitals of Europe. He completed his training with Francis Planté in Paris. One of the first of these engagements took place in Brussels in the presence of Queen Elisabeth, who repeatedly invited the young man to the Royal Palace to play sonatas for violin and piano with her.

Alexander Brailowski 2

In 1926 he became a naturalised French citizen. He specialised in the works of Frédéric Chopin, and achieved most of his fame between the two world wars. He gave the first complete Chopin cycle in history in Paris in 1924, using the composer’s own piano for part of the recital. This series included two sonatas, eleven polonaises, four scherzo, three impromptus, nineteen nocturnes, twenty-five preludes, twenty seven etudes and fifty-one mazurkas. This performance was repeated three times in Brussels, Zurich, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, and other principal cities.

On November 19, 1924, he made his American debut in Aeolian Hall in New York City. Brailowsky received an excellent review by the noted Olin Downes, music critic of the New York Times. However, a prominent Chicago critic, Glen Dillard Gunn, wrote the following account of Brailowsky’s debut: “This young Russian can play fast. He can play loud. He can play softly. His tone is beautiful, his passages brilliant or limped. But his rhythm is correct without being vital. His brilliant technique is not always accurate; his message to the public, therefore, is never delivered. He plays. One listens. There is no contact, no spark, no kick.”

He made a coast-to-coast tour of the USA in 1936; first gave the Chopin cycle in America during the 1937-1938 season, in 6 recitals in NYC. Appearances as soloist were made with major symphony orchestras and his interpretations of the works of Chopin brought him world-wide acclaim. Brailowsky was noted for his large repertory and he recorded for Victor the works of Chopin, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Scarlatti, Schumann, and others. His recordings for Victor were numerous and used by students as examples of performances of the Chopin works. During a series of nineteen recitals in Buenos Aires, he never repeated a single work. When he was to appear in Colombia and he appeared before the packed house he was given a big hand and, bowing his acknowledgement, he turned to find there was no piano. This could be a shock to any performer and the situation grew worse as there was no piano available and the recital was called off. During World War II he gave recitals for the USA. In 1960 he played the Chopin cycle again in New York and Brussels in honour of the 150th anniversary of Chopin’s birth. Although his playing by now was past its best, but none-the-less, still delivered some superb nuances and an overall mastery. His death was at the Lenox Hospital, April 24, 1976 of complications brought on by pneumonia at the age of 80.

© Michael Waiblinger 2014

Seymour Bernstein, who had studied with Brailowsky, wrote little known yet very interesting facts about Brailowsky in his book “Monsters and Angels: Surviving a Career in Music”.

I handed Brailowsky my score of the Bach/Busoni Chaconne and played it for him from beginning to end. Having been somewhat in a trance from the moment I entered his home, I cannot say how I performed. I do remember, though that Brailowsky positioned himself at the tail end of the concert grand during my performance. He rested the music on the lid of piano, crouched over it and turned each page as I played. When I finished, he walked around the full length of the piano and stood at my right with a gleeful expression. I, of course, leapt to my feet and stood facing him. His eyes were warm and expressive as he inquired, “Do you have a manager?” It was the same growling voice with the thick Russian accent that I remembered from backstage at the Mosque Theater. “No,” I answered, and wondered why he asked me that. “Do you play often in pooblick?” This sounded more like an admonition than advice. He then added, “You play very well. You must have a manager. Please telephone my manager and tell him I said he must manage you!”

Placing the score of the Chaconne on the music desk, he turned to me and exclaimed, “When I played this piece for Busoni…” “Busoni?” I thought. “He actually played the Chaconne for the composer himself!” I was so astonished at this, that I could hardly concentrate on Brailowsky’s comments. It was like being privy to music history in the making. Brailowsky then proceeded to speak about and also demonstrate certain passages that Busoni had discussed with him. Before I left his home and after thanking Brailowsky, I slipped my hand into my pants pocket, and, in a barely audible voice, asked him what his fee was. “I am very sorry,” he said, trying to be more serious than he actually was. “I do not teach, and, therefore, I do not have a fee.” As though anticipating what I would ask next, he added, “If you will telephone me in two weeks, I will hear you again.” I was overwhelmed by this, and tears welled up in my eyes. Brailowsky embraced me warmly, and accompanied me downstairs. I thanked Brailowsky once again, embraced him a second time, and walked out onto East 64th Street. There was no happier young pianist in the whole world.

My further lessons with Brailowsky ranged from hilarious to traumatizing. He was one of those performers who had no teaching experience. His idea of a lesson was to brush me aside and play the entire piece, or at least a good section of it. Once at a lesson, I asked Brailowsky how he pedaled the opening theme of the Waltz in A flat by Chopin. He looked at me quizzically and exclaimed, “I don’t know how I pedal; I just pedal!”

One evening in 1968, I was invited to dinner. Once there, Ela went to a cabinet built into the bookcases. Rummaging through some scores, she produced the manuscript of Concerto No.2 by Villa-Lobos, a work that the composer had written for, and dedicated to, Brailowsky. Villa-Lobos had once heard Brailowsky in Rio de Janeiro perform two concerti on the same program – the Tchaikovsky B flat minor and the Rachmaninoff C minor. He was so impressed by his playing that he decided to create another big romantic vehicle tailored to Brailowsky’s virtuosic style. Ela explained, “With all of the big warhorses in my husband’s repertory, he never learned this concerto. No, of course, he never will.

Source: Monsters and Angels: Surviving a Career in Music by Seymour Bernstein (Author). Publisher: Manduca Music Publications.

Download CD Front Cover ∙ High Resolution

Download CD Tray Cover ∙ High Resolution