Erwin Nyiregyhazi

by on October 28, 2007 at 12:29 pm in Music | Permalink

The name is pronounced as it looks.  Born in 1903, he was a child prodigy by five, played in Buckingham Palace by eight, and by age thirteen an entire book was devoted to his talents...

In the 1920s he toured to rave reviews, though he recorded only a few piano rolls.  He played in a dramatic and virtually improvisatory nineteenth century style.  Yet he was shy, introverted, and "constitutionally precise."  Strikingly handsome, he lost his way with women, marrying eight times, frequently visiting prostitutes and also going with men.  "I’m addicted to Liszt, oral **x, and alcohol — not necessarily in that order," he remarked.  After the War he resurfaced in Los Angeles.  His debilitations prevented him from concertizing, so he sight-read orchestral scores for Hollywood directors, for pay, so they could judge potential soundtracks.  He allied himself with Bela Lugosi (a huge admirer) and, inspired by The Fountainhead, courted Ayn Rand.  He was rediscovered in the late 1970s: "never before had I heard a living pianist who played entirely with that 19th century sense of rhetoric which the old writers had described: the true "Romantic Style," wrote Gregor Benko (TC: a man who knows piano).  "Next to him, Horowitz sounds like he is playing a toy piano," explained another reviewer.

He toured Japan and a few recordings were made, though his technique was unreliable.  We are left with scraps, and there is nothing worthy on CD.  On LP his recording of Liszt’s "St. Francis Legend" remains a marvel.  The late Roy Childs — a Nyiregyhazi worshipper — used to play me N. on reel-to-reel, taped from private concerts.  His "Funerailles" was unforgettable.  Will these recordings ever be released?

We now have Kevin Bazzana’s Lost Genius: The Curious and Tragic Story of an Extraordinary Musical Prodigy; here is a not sufficiently positive NYT review

Here is a summary website for the man.  Here is a YouTube video, it is amazing for a few moments toward the end but mostly sloppy.  Here are two more YouTubes, the old clip has a young N. playing Liszt’s Liebestraum in the background, the other is another pianist playing one of N’s compositions.

The bottom line: Talent is not enough.

1 blr bytes October 28, 2007 at 12:36 pm

For some reason, this post shows up as only a partial post on your RSS feed…

Don’t tell me!

2 Yan Li October 28, 2007 at 8:24 pm

Life is short. A few amazing moments that nobody has accomplished worth alot. It makes me believe that in an age of much reduced communication costs, any talent is wonderful, and likely not to be missed.

3 Andrew October 29, 2007 at 1:42 pm

I am sufficiently intrigued that I would like to listen to some of his recordings, but Tyler’s comments have discouraged me from purchasing anything already out there. Besides existing releases, however, Amazon has a pre-release listing for a compilation of Nyiregyhazi recordings on CD due in December.

However, the recordings all appear to date from 1972-1982, which given Nyiregyhazi’s personal history may mean that they do not live up to his earlier performances. I have no idea.

4 Tyler Cowen October 29, 2007 at 7:19 pm

I expect the new release will be quite good…and Oral you-know-what is censored because otherwise some government web sites will block MR…

5 翻译公司 February 13, 2008 at 8:01 am
6 dc March 17, 2009 at 3:48 am
7 花蓮租車旅遊網 May 29, 2009 at 1:32 pm


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