Erwin Nyiregyhazi

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.


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