The Complete Leopold Godowsky, Vol. 1
Columbia and Brunswick Recordings, 1913-1922

52046-2 (2 CDs)  | $ 36.00


Note: Original CD set is Sold Out; you will receive a CDR Version

The Complete Leopold Godowsky, Vol. 1
Leopold Godowsky (1870-1938), known to pianophiles as “The Buddha of the Keyboard” and “The Apostle of the Left Hand,” was one of the great geniuses in pianistic history, earning the highest esteem as both performer and composer. Virtually self-taught, he concertized all over the world until felled by a stroke at a London recording session in 1930. Godowsky was praised for his effortless technique and the remarkable tonal subtlety of his playing. Godowsky’s recorded legacy extends from 1913 to 1930 and includes discs made for both American and British Columbia as well as for Brunswick. Until now there has been no systematic, comprehensive reissue of his recordings. Marston is proud to announce a Complete Godowsky series in three volumes of two discs each, arranged chronologically by recording date and utilizing the best available original copies. Many items, including test pressings, will appear on CD for the first time.
CD 1 (78:03)


1. Song Without Words in G, op. 62, no. 1, “May Breezes” 2:54
  10 April 1913; (36693) D 17713  
2. Song Without Words in C, op. 67, no. 4, “Spinning Song” 1:50
  10 April 1913; (36693) D 17713  
3. Etude No. 3, “La Campanella” 4:35
  10 April 1913; (36694) A 5484  
4. Prelude in D-flat, op. 28, no. 15 4:20
  10 April 1913; (36695) L 1095  
5. Hark, Hark, the Lark! 2:40
  10 April 1913; (36696) A 5484  
6. Polonaise in A-flat, op. 53 [abridged] 3:49
  10 April 1913; (36697) A 5550  
7. Prelude in B-flat, op. 28, no. 21 2:14
  10 April 1913; (36698) A 5485  
8. Prelude in F, op. 28, no. 23 :50
  10 April 1913; (36698) A 5485  
9. Waltz in C-sharp Minor, op. 64, no. 2 3:26
  10 April 1913; (36699) L 1095  
10. Gnomenreigen 3:14
  4 March 1914; (36980) A 5550  
11. Waltz in G-flat, op. 70, no. 1 2:18
  4 March 1914; (36981) A 5597  
12. Berceuse in D-flat, op. 57 4:45
  January 1916; (36700-3) A 5858  
13. Nocturne in E-flat, op. 9, no. 2 4:33
  January 1916; (36701-4) A 5800  
14. Etude in F Minor, op. 25, no. 2 1:41
  21 January 1916; (48547) A 6013  
15. Arabesque en forme d’Etude, op. 45, no. 1 2:01
  21 January 1916; (48547) A 6013  
16. Wiegenlied in G-flat, op. 45 3:24
  25 January 1916; (48549) A 5896  
17. Waltz in A-flat, op. 42 3:49
  7 February 1916; (48580) A 5791  
18. Serenade in D Minor, op. 93, no. 4 2:25
  7 February 1916; (48590) A 6013  
19. Vienna Waltz in F, op. 42, no. 3 1:53
  7 February 1916; (48590) A 6013  
20. Etude de concert No. 3 in D-flat, “Un Sospiro” 4:22
  7 February 1916; (48591) A 5800  
21. Gondoliera, op. 13, no. 2 2:03
  7 February 1916; (48592) A 5791  
22. Etude in F-sharp, op. 2, no. 6, “Si oiseau j’étais” 2:07
  7 February 1916; (48592) A 5791  
23. Serenade in D, op. 15, no. 1 2:24
  26 May 1916; (48808) A 5858  
24. Waltz in E Minor, op. posth. 1:54
  26 May 1916; (48808) A 5858  
25. Melody in F, op. 3, no. 1 3:41
  5 June 1916; (48810-1) unpublished  
26. Rigoletto Paraphrase 4:39
  5 June 1916; (48812) A 5896  
CD 2 (79:34)


1. Romance in E-flat, op. 44, no. 1 3:02
  28 May 1920; (3857) unpublished  
2. Humoresque, from “Miniatures” 2:27
  2 June 1920; (3877) unpublished  
3. A la bien-aimée, op. 59, no. 2 3:04
  2 June 1920; (3879) unpublished  
4. Rustles of Spring, op. 32, no. 3 2:18
  28 July 1920; (4048) 15017  
5. Chant Polonais No. 1, op. 74, no. 1 “The Maiden’s Wish” 3:12
  28 July 1920; (4051) unpublished  
6. The Star-Spangled Banner 2:07
  7 December 1920; (4653) unpublished  
7. Song Without Words in A, op. 62, no. 6, “Spring Song” 2:32
  7 December 1920; (4655) unpublished  
8. Witches’ Dance, op. 17, no. 2 3:09
  21 December 1920; (4706) 15017  
9. Marche Militaire No. 1 4:15
  21 December 1920; (x4708) 50008  
10. Tango in D, op. 165, no. 2 2:03
  24 December 1920; (x4725) unpublished  
11. Etude Mignonne in D, op. 16, no. 1 2:09
  24 December 1920; (x4725) unpublished  
12. Waltz in C-sharp Minor, op. 64, no. 2 3:26
  24 December 1920; (4727) 15018  
13. Hunter’s Call, from “Miniatures” 1:02
  7 April 1921; (5240) unpublished  
14. Military March, from “Miniatures” 1:36
  7 April 1921; (5240) unpublished  
15. Home, Sweet Home 3:44
  24 May 1921; (5667) unpublished  
16. Fantasy-Impromptu in C-sharp Minor, op. 66 4:31
  24 May 1921; (x5670) 50008  
17. The Flatterer, op. 50 3:33
  30 or 31 May 1921; (5721) 15001  
18. Prelude in C-sharp Minor, op. 3, no. 2 3:29
  30 or 31 May 1921; (5726) unpublished  
19. Melody in F, op. 3, no. 1 3:24
  2-6 June 1921; (5738) 15018  
20. Impromptu in A-flat, op. 29 4:25
  2-6 June 1921; (x5748) 50009  
21. Liebestraum No. 3 in A-flat 4:07
  2-6 June 1921; (x5769) 50024  
22. Rêve angelique, op. 10, no. 22 (from “Kammenoi-Ostrov”) 4:38
  2-6 June 1921; (x5755) 50009  
23. Song Without Words in A, op. 62, no. 6, “Spring Song” 2:34
  10 February 1922; (7282) 15001  
24. On Wings of Song 4:16
  16-19 May 1922; (x8051) 50016  
25. Polonaise in A, op. 40, no. 1 4:10
  16-19 May 1922; (x8053) 50015  


CD 1:
Tracks 1-2, 4, and 9 were issued only on English Columbia.
CD 2:
Tracks 13-14 are pieces written for one piano, four hands. This test pressing does not identify the second pianist, but it is believed to be Godowsky’s son, Leo.


Producer: Donald Manildi

Audio Conservation: Ward Marston

Photographs: Gregor Benko and The International Piano Archives at Maryland

Booklet Design: Takeshi Takahashi


Marston would like to thank … The International Piano Archives at Maryland, for their help in the production of this CD release.

The Leopold Godowsky series was made possible through the generosity of the individuals listed below.
Anonymous (2), Mark Arnest, Paul Cathie, Robert H Challinor, William DesChamps, Ray Edwards, Charles D. Gangemi, Leopold Godowsky III, Allan Gotthelf, Peter Greenleaf, Donald R. Hodgman, Chase Kimball, Hyperion Knight, Farhan Malik, Donald Manildi, Jonathan Mann, Terry McNeill, Miguel Montfort, Robin O’Renick, Natasha Paremski, Joseph Patrych, Robert Rimm, Francis Romano, Peter Schenkman, Martyn Storey, Carl Tait, Erkki Valsta, and William E. Wellborn.


Leopold Godowsky was born in 1870 in the small town of Sozly, near Vilna (now Vilnius), at the confluence of the Polish, Russian, and Lithuanian borders. There is little evidence that he underwent any kind of extensive musical education. He briefly attended classes in Berlin around 1884, then traveled to Paris where Camille Saint-Saëns gave him a limited amount of musical advice. Meanwhile Godowsky began establishing a reputation as a formidable pianist in a wide repertoire, performing in several European cities and making his official American debut in 1890. A sensational Berlin debut ten years later attracted much attention. Godowsky also maintained a constant interest in teaching and composing. During the 1890s, for instance, he held important pedagogical positions in Philadelphia, New York, and Chicago. Following his 1900 Berlin concert, he set up residence there and was in great demand as a teacher. At about the same time Godowsky embarked on a series of remarkable compositions that carried the polyphonic aspects of piano technique to new heights. Chief among these is his extensive series of Studies based on the Chopin Etudes.

From 1909 until the outbreak of World War I, Godowsky lived and taught in Vienna. He then moved permanently to the United States with his wife and four children. He traveled and performed widely on several continents, continuing his master classes and compositional pursuits. In addition to further transcriptions and paraphrases, Godowsky’s output embraced numerous original compositions, both large and small. At a 1930 recording session in London, he suffered a stroke that effectively ended his public career. The final phase of Godowsky’s life was marked by disillusionment, owing to further personal tragedies. He died in New York in 1938.

Leopold Godowsky was unquestionably one of history’s greatest pianistic geniuses. Harold Bauer called him “the master of us all.” The critic James Huneker wrote that Godowsky is “the superman of piano playing. Nothing like him, as far as I know, is to be found in the history of piano playing since Chopin.” Perhaps most impressive of all are Josef Hofmann’s words to Abram Chasins after an evening at Godowsky’s home: “Never forget what you heard tonight; never lose the memory of that sound. There’s nothing like it in this world.”

In spite of the fact that Godowsky’s playing was held in the highest esteem by his peers, his disc recordings have received surprisingly little attention. Instead, Godowsky is primarily appreciated today for his ingenious transcriptions that pushed piano technique to levels hitherto unimagined. The argument most frequently presented against Godowsky’s recordings is that they are (supposedly) dull, uninspired, and not representative of the pianist. Yet few would disagree that Godowsky’s 1926 recordings of two of his own Schubert song transcriptions (“Morgengruss” and “Gute Nacht”) and his 1929 performance of Grieg’s Ballade are some of the greatest treasures of the recording era.

It was said that Godowsky played at his best only at small, informal gatherings rather than in the concert hall. A colleague of the violinist Carl Flesch wittily stated “Godowsky’s aura extends only two yards.” For the general public, Godowsky’s playing was something of an enigma. Cognoscenti and professionals could appreciate his immaculate mastery of the instrument, but such appeal proved elusive to the average concertgoer. A lack of public enthusiasm was not always the case for Godowsky, however. His debut in Berlin in 1900 was a success of a kind rarely seen before. He later wrote about the recital to his friend W. S. B. Mathews, “The success was greater than anything I have ever witnessed…I don’t exaggerate the success—I can never do justice to it!”

Unfortunately, the confines of the recording studio did not appeal to Godowsky. He equated making records with “nerve-killing tortures” and found the recording process to be “a dreadful ordeal.” In a 1938 letter to Paul Howard, founder of the International Godowsky Society, he flatly stated, “Do not judge me by my records!” In that same letter Godowsky lamented the primitive state of recording technology and the extra-musical obstacles the performer was faced with. “The left hand had to be louder than the right hand; the pedal had to be used sparingly and not at all when the hands were close to each other... The fear of doing a trifling thing wrong… How can one think of mood and emotion!” Performers, however, can be their own harshest critics, and, as already pointed out, Godowsky’s finest recordings are the work of a master pianist.

Perhaps the most startling aspect of Godowsky’s records is his tendency to alter the score where he felt improvements could be made. These modifications were not the result of any callous attitude towards the composer. Godowsky, in fact, believed it was a performer’s duty to know by memory every single note and marking in a score, and he was known to explode in anger when he felt a performer had neglected his duty in this area. But as Abram Chasins explains in his book Speaking of Pianists, “Once you knew what was in a score, however, he would delight in showing you dozens of places where changes would make the piece ‘sound better’–altering harmonizations and the disposition of voices, removing parallel fifths or octaves, or, especially, completing some contrapuntal line that the composer had abandoned…. In his philosophy, rewriting was really a service to the composer—who might not have thought of such a good idea—but inattention was ignorance and disrespect.” Throughout Godowsky’s recordings one finds such changes. Some are minor, audible only to someone thoroughly familiar with the work, whereas others can be radical, such as completely rewriting the ending of a work. No attempt has been made here to systematically list every alteration Godowsky makes, though an exhaustive listing is a project worthy of future consideration.

Godowsky’s earliest records—those recorded for the American branch of Columbia Records between 1913 and 1916—are generally considered his least successful, yet even in these there is much of interest. His recordings for the Brunswick label benefit from a somewhat improved recorded sound—Godowsky’s singing tone can be better heard and he is able to use a wider dynamic range. His very first recording, the Mendelssohn Song Without Words nicknamed “May Breezes,” [CD 1, Track 1] is masterful. Taken at a leisurely tempo, it is full of subtlety and nuance. His loving phrasing, tender hesitations, delicate colorations, and melodic yearning result in a deeply touching performance. The “Spinning Song” that follows [CD 1, Track 2] is a more careful rendition notable for its rewritten ending. Whereas in the “Spinning Song” the score modifications are limited to just the ending, they occur throughout Godowsky’s performance of Liszt’s “La Campanella.” [CD 1, Track 3] In altering this work he was hardly alone; Ferruccio Busoni often played and was soon to publish a significantly revised version of La Campanella, and Ignaz Friedman, in his recording of the work, took Busoni’s version and adorned it even further.

Godowsky’s two recordings of the Chopin Waltz in C-sharp Minor [CD 1, Track 9] [CD 2, Track 12] (a third version will appear in a future volume) show completely different aspects of the pianist. The earlier recording is much more successful. Godowsky plays convincingly from the onset. In the work’s middle section he employs considerable rubato and expression. At the return of the ‘B’ section, Godowsky chooses to emphasize the notes played by the right hand thumb, thus creating an inner musical line. The highlighting of this particular line was common among nineteenth-century pianists (Sergei Rachmaninoff, Mischa Levitzki, Josef Hofmann, and Raoul Koczalski are just a few of the other pianists whose followed this practice), but Godowsky takes things one step further by adding notes to continue the line until the phrase ends. His later disc of the work demonstrates a curious aspect found in some of Godowsky’s recordings—a tendency to begin in a very straightforward manner only to become more musically involved as the performance proceeds. In this second recording, the opening is stiff and heavy-handed. He continues to play in this manner until the work’s middle section, where he finally starts to exercise some expression and freedom. At the return of the ‘A’ section the playing is considerably more expressive than at the opening. Godowsky’s interest is now aroused, and he emphasizes inner voices, brings shape to the melody, and even surprises us with his varied dynamics.

The need to limit each recording to four and a half minutes so as to fit on one side of a record forced Godowsky to make brutal cuts to lengthier works. This sort of compositional mauling must surely have irked the composer-pianist, and in these abbreviated renditions Godowsky often sounds completely uninvolved. The Chopin Polonaise in A-flat [CD 1, Track 6] is a case in point. The introduction is cut, Godowsky is forced to invent an abrupt transition from the famous left hand octaves section back into the opening theme, which, by means of another cut, quickly leads into the work’s coda. There is nothing “heroic” about the playing; Godowsky is merely going through the motions. The Verdi-Liszt Rigoletto Paraphrase [CD 1, Track 26] suffers a similar fate. Once again the pianist is forced to make cut after cut. Godowsky did record this work again (in 1926), and that less severely truncated version will be included in a future volume.

Another observation one might draw from listening to a vast selection of Godowsky’s recordings is that his performances of non-standard repertoire often fare better than his renditions of their famous counterparts. Perhaps Godowsky was bored with the standard repertoire. Perhaps he found it more inspirational to bring something lesser known to the public. Whatever the reason (it may simply be coincidence), the less familiar pieces are often played more persuasively than the familiar ones. Chaminade’s The Flatterer [CD 2, Track 17], for example, comes to life in Godowsky’s hands. In Rubinstein’s Serenade [CD 1, Track 18] he imparts a wonderful speaking quality to the left hand and utilizes a rubato full of expressive hesitations. Henselt’s Gondoliera and “Si oiseau j’étais” [CD 1, Tracks 21-22] are both performed in an effective, poetic manner. On the other hand, some of the familiar Chopin works receive less than exemplary treatment. The Prelude in D-flat, op. 28, no. 15 “Raindrop” [CD 1, Track 4] has a few moments of expression but is mostly flat (its central section is particularly wooden). The Chopin Waltz in G-flat [CD 1, Track 11] has some noticeable ritards in its middle section, but overall sounds uninspired. Thankfully, not all of his Chopin performances are disappointing. The Berceuse [CD 1, Track 12] exhibits wonderful fluency and control, the Waltz in A-flat, op. 42 [CD 1, Track 17] is lively and energetic, and his performance of Fantasy-Impromptu [CD 2, Track 16] is especially fine in the outer sections.

We are extremely fortunate that so many of Godowsky’s test pressings have survived. Whereas among Godowsky’s commercially issued 78s there are almost no performances of his own compositions or arrangements (only the aforementioned two Schubert song transcriptions), several can be found among his extant unpublished records. Home, Sweet Home (presumably arranged by Godowsky) [CD 2, Track 15] exhibits some of his most tender playing. His Star-Spangled Banner arrangement [CD 2, Track 6] is bound to raise some eyebrows with its unusual harmonies. Hunter’s Call and Military March [CD 2, Tracks 13-14] are the last two pieces of Godowsky’s “Miniatures” for four hands. The second pianist in these spirited performances is thought to be Leopold Godowsky II. Humoresque [CD 2, Track 2], also part of the Miniatures for four hands, is heard here in Godowsky’s published two-hand arrangement. Curiously, the Albéniz Tango [CD 2, Track 10] is not performed in Godowsky’s then soon-to-be-published famous arrangement.

The early Godowsky discs presented here, confined as they are to the shorter pieces from his repertoire (and to the limitations of the acoustical process), nonetheless reveal a good deal of the refined musical taste and tonal subtlety that were characteristic of his pianism. His recordings often benefit from repeated hearings, as their subtleties are not always immediately apparent. There are of course those (the Schubert-Tausig Marche Militaire [CD 2, Track 9], for example) that impress at once. Future volumes of this edition will reveal additional facets of Godowsky’s playing.

© Farhan Malik, 2004

A Note from the Producer

Leopold Godowsky’s commercial disc recordings extend from 1913 to 1930. They may be divided into three groups: American Columbias, 1913-1916; American Brunswicks, 1920-1926; and British Columbias, 1928-1930. Until now there has been no complete, systematic reissue of these recordings. The present series of Marston CDs provides a comprehensive chronological survey of Godowsky’s 78-rpm discs, drawing upon the best possible source material. In the case of the Brunswick releases, a rather large number of alternative takes has survived in the form of test pressings. Most of these seem to have been rejected on technical or musical grounds. In most instances they represent repeat performances of repertoire that was approved for release; in one extreme case, there are no fewer than seven attempts at MacDowell’s Witches’ Dance. We have endeavored to include as many alternative takes as possible in this series.

In the accompanying track listing, the designation “unpublished” refers to items not issued during Godowsky’s lifetime. However, several of these subsequently appeared on various LPs and/or CDs.

Any assessment of Godowsky’s recorded performances presents a complex picture. The extent to which these discs accurately reflect his pianistic stature and artistic ideals has been the subject of much discussion. As with any performer who recorded extensively, some Godowsky discs are more impressive than others. However, as with his colleagues Hofmann, Rachmaninoff, Friedman, et al, the purely documentary value of offering his discography in toto cannot be denied. Only after thoroughly examining Godowsky’s complete output, along with critical appraisals of his playing by those who heard him in public and in private, can we approach a realistic evaluation.

A more detailed biographical sketch of Godowsky, along with a works list and discography, may be found at Another useful website is, which provides further details on many aspects of his life and career. As of 2004, only one full-scale biography has appeared in print: Godowsky: The Pianists’ Pianist by Jeremy Nicholas (Appian Publications, 1989).


Producer: Donald Manildi

Audio Conservation: Ward Marston

Photographs: Gregor Benko and The International Piano Archives at Maryland

Booklet Design: Takeshi Takahashi


Marston would like to thank … The International Piano Archives at Maryland, for their help in the production of this CD release.

The Leopold Godowsky series was made possible through the generosity of the individuals listed below.
Anonymous (2), Mark Arnest, Paul Cathie, Robert H Challinor, William DesChamps, Ray Edwards, Charles D. Gangemi, Leopold Godowsky III, Allan Gotthelf, Peter Greenleaf, Donald R. Hodgman, Chase Kimball, Hyperion Knight, Farhan Malik, Donald Manildi, Jonathan Mann, Terry McNeill, Miguel Montfort, Robin O’Renick, Natasha Paremski, Joseph Patrych, Robert Rimm, Francis Romano, Peter Schenkman, Martyn Storey, Carl Tait, Erkki Valsta, and William E. Wellborn.