CD 1 (75:49)
|1.||Contredanse A, No. 3 from Le Bal, Op. 14||1:22|
|2.||Contredanse B, No. 3 from Le Bal, Op. 14||1:29|
|24 December 1895 (o.s.), Julius Block cylinder 139, Moscow|
Announcement translated from German: [Unintelligible] by Anton Rubinstein performed by Josef Hofmann, as a token of remembrance for Herr Julius Block in Moscow, on 24 December 1895.
|3.||Magic Fire Music from Die Walküre||3:17|
|10 February 1896 (o.s.), Julius Block cylinder 140, Moscow|
Announcement translated from German: Performed by Josef Hofmann on 10 February 1896 in Moscow.
|4.||Song Without Words, Op. 38, No. 5, “Passion”||2:17|
|date unknown, Julius Block cylinder 137, Russia|
|4 April 1911, (30750-1) A5302 Columbia, New York|
|6.||Prelude, Op. 3 No. 2, C-sharp Minor||3:22|
|4 April 1911, (30747-1) A5302 Columbia, New York|
|7.||Pastorale, D Minor, K. 9 and Capriccio, K. 20, E Major||4:52|
|10 April 1923, (X 10353) 50035 Brunswick, New York|
|8.||Magic Fire Music from Die Walküre||4:08|
|25 April 1923, (X 10474) 50035 Brunswick, New York|
|Cadillac Hour, 15 March 1936, New York|
|Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp Minor, Op. 27, No. 2, “Moonlight”|
|10.||I. Adagio sostenuto||5:27|
|12.||III. Presto agitato||5:27|
|13.||Nocturne in F-sharp, Op. 15, No. 2||3:46|
|14.||Waltz in A-flat, Op. 42||4:04|
|15.||Waltz in D-flat, Op. 64, No. 1 “Minute”||1:44|
|Bell Telephone Hour Film, 30 July 1945, New York|
|17.||Prelude in C-sharp Minor, Op. 3, No. 2||3:06|
|Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat, Op. 73, “Emperor”|
|19.||III. Rondo (abridged)||5:02|
|20.||Charles Rosen Interviews||9:55|
|1999 and September 2002|
|21.||Constance Keene interview||8:10|
CD 2 (77:02)
|1.||Jorge Bolet interview||14:42|
|9 April 1987|
|2.||Glenn Gould interview||0:50|
|3.||Witold Lutosławski interview||0:48|
|4.||Rudolph Ganz interview||3:34|
|5.||Ruth Steinway interview||9:18|
|20 November 1975|
|6.||Tadeusz Sadlowski interview||6:07|
|13 March 1989|
|7.||Gian Carlo Menotti interviews||4:45|
|21 April and 2 November 1987|
|8.||Aniela Rubinstein interview||3:26|
|1 April 1991|
|9.||Nadia Reisenberg interview||11:00|
|16 November 1975|
|10.||Irene Wolf interview||6:57|
|11 November 1975|
|11.||Dagmar Godowsky and Betty Hofmann rehearse||1:55|
|12.||Anton Hofmann interview||13:40|
Produced in association with the Estate of Josef Hofmann
Producers: Gregor Benko and Ward Marston
Audio Conservation: Ward Marston and J. Richard Harris
Photographs: Gregor Benko
Booklet Design: Takeshi Takahashi
Marston would like to thank Marc van Bemmel for providing the disk source for CD 1, Tracks 9-15 and Jon Samuels for providing a digital transfer of his disk source for CD 1, Tracks 7 and 8
This set is sponsored through the generosity of Richard Childers, Kenneth Hutchins, Antonio Méndez-Vigatà, Tadeusz Nowakowski, Peter J. Rabinowitz, and one anonymous donor
Marston is grateful to the Estate of John Stratton (Stephen R. Clarke, Executor) for its continuing support.
This final volume of “The Complete Josef Hofmann” series was deliberately delayed, for we had hoped to unearth further recordings of Hofmann, taken from broadcasts, and thus be able to include previously unknown musical material. So far, we have not been able to find recordings of any of those broadcasts, and finally decided to wait no more. A list of some of those Hofmann broadcasts that might yet surface in recorded form is included at the end of these notes.
More than one company made acetate records taken from broadcasts, offering to sell the recordings to the artists involved; some of the Hofmann broadcast material already issued in previous volumes derived from such sources. The prospect of finding a recording of Hofmann’s first 1936 Buenos Aires recital is perhaps the most exciting. Hofmann turned on the radio in his hotel room the morning after the concert and heard a recording being broadcast of his previous night’s recital. He hadn’t realized that recitals were routinely recorded and broadcast from the Teatro Colón. A New York Times correspondent, investigating this story, confirmed three decades later that the recital was recorded, but also that the fragile acetate discs had vanished during the era of dictator Juan Peron. [In 1972 Mr. Albert Nerken, a benefactor of the work of International Piano Archives, agreed to underwrite expenses for a trip to Buenos Aires to search for this recording. Harold C. Schonberg, then chief music critic of the New York Times, was to accompany our party, a press campaign was planned, and a large reward was to be offered. At the last minute, the venture had to be cancelled because of unsettled political conditions in Argentina.] Rather than issue this final volume with just one CD of the remaining music recordings now on hand, we decided to include a second CD with edited excerpts from some of the interviews concerning Hofmann that I have recorded, or collected from other sources.
CD one begins with newly remastered transfers of the wax cylinders recorded by Julius Block in Russia in 1896, originally included in the Marston set the “Dawn of Recording.” Using new pitch stabilization technology, Ward Marston has been able to improve (albeit slightly) the sound of the cylinders, incised by the twenty-year-old Hofmann shortly after the death of his revered teacher Anton Rubinstein. Clearly announced as played by Hofmann, there is no doubt concerning their authenticity. Also included are two alternate takes of acoustic recordings made for each of the American companies Columbia and Brunswick that had not appeared on earlier volumes. The sound at the beginning of the Schubert-Liszt “Marche Militaire” is very faint, and it and the Rachmaninoff “Prelude in C-sharp Minor” were soon re-recorded by Columbia and issued in better sounding versions. Next is a recently discovered, superior-sounding, source for the “Cadillac Hour” broadcast from 1936, during which Hofmann played a spectacular interpretation of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.” Marston originally issued that program on volume six of the complete Josef Hofmann series; the new source for this broadcast is a “Radio Corporation of America” pressed transcription disc, labelled “MS 99465-68 (program no. 10)” discovered by our friend Marc van Bemmel, to whom we are especially grateful.
The sound track of the July 1945 film featuring Hofmann, produced by the Bell Telephone Company to be shown in movie theaters to promote their radio program “The Telephone Hour,” contains two selections Hofmann also played for Bell Telephone broadcasts, but these film recordings are entirely different performances. Recording the soundtrack for the film, broadcasting a different program two times in one day, and then making the film itself, was an ordeal for Hofmann. Over two days he recorded the soundtrack for the film, then played two successive broadcasts of a different program for his fifth set of appearances on the “Bell Telephone Hour” (the initial broadcast for the east coast states, the subsequent live broadcast for the west), and only then was he actually filmed, a strange sequence for someone unfamiliar with the process and, perhaps, unsettling for a musician to have to synchronize his visual performance with a previously recorded soundtrack. He wrote to his wife Betty:
“… Four day ordeal … Monday [July 30, 1945] I recorded (Sound Track) for the film. At 4 p.m. I started rehearsing for the Broadcast which lasted until 6 p.m. – At 9 p.m. Broadcast for East and middle West – At midnight broadcast for the Coast, then supper with Greiners and Steinways. Retired at 2 a.m. got up at 8:30 a.m. for I was to be filmed at 11 a.m. for the ‘Movie-Tone’ studios (Fox) 54th St, and 10th Ave. It lasted until 6 p.m. then dinner and bed, for the following morning I had to be there at 10 a.m. already, until 6 p.m. again. The 4th day I was at the studios from 1:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. in all 21 ½ hours for 8 minutes film-playing! Absurd, is it not? …” [Alexander Greiner was the Steinway artists’ manager, one of Hofmann’s closest friends]
In copies of the film posted on the internet one can see that he was sedated and heavily made up. It marked a sad point in Hofmann’s life. There were many reasons—his personal life was disintegrating, his career was nearing its end, and he was often inebriated. Luckily the soundtrack was recorded earlier in the day, without the influence of alcohol. There were only a few more concerts for Hofmann over the next year and a half. His last professional appearance, his eighth Bell Telephone broadcast, was on 13 January 1947, and then his career was over. He lived as a recluse for ten more years in California.
• • • • •
The remainder of this issue consists of excerpts from interviews concerning Hofmann. Preparing these excerpts took many hours, for none of the recordings were originally made with any thought of future public issue in mind. Editing the recordings and reducing them to digestible segments was a formidable task. Some were originally recorded under noisy, less than optimal conditions, and we have done what we can to improve the sound, but not always with success. Ward Marston and I have made every effort to excise the interviewers’ questions, to sequence lines of thought, eliminate pauses, coughs, repeats, and verbal tics such as most of the “you knows.” Despite our efforts, there are some impurities and burbles, for which we apologize. (Apologies also because it was necessary to include a few of us interviewers’ comments and questions to understand the context.)
In making a selection we chose from those tapes recorded in better sound (many interview tapes were sonically inferior) and have tried to present a range of perspectives. The ground covered goes back more than a hundred years, for Rudolph Ganz and Hofmann were already close friends in 1901, while Ruth Gardner Steinway met Hofmann in 1912. The interviews were originally conducted as part of biographical research, although some discuss Hofmann from a musical perspective as well. Hofmann was one of the most intelligent, and complicated, musical artists of all time, a genius personality riddled with contradictions. He was often extravagantly generous, as well as sometimes miserly, and sentimental and emotional sometimes while in general cold and remote. There are many biographical details that will be new, some not so pleasant. Of course, these do not portray the complete “story” or history of Josef Hofmann, but only a series of often disconnected details, glimpses that cannot themselves add up to a full portrait. However, we hope these interview excerpts make an interesting finale to the complete Josef Hofmann series. Let us hope that this is only a temporary “finale,” and that other musical recordings will be located. Our search for additional recordings of Hofmann playing will continue.
• • • • •
Charles Rosen (1927–2012) The first two sentences spoken by Rosen stem from a 1999 broadcast from New Zealand, where he was interviewed by Tim Dodd; the remainder from an interview with Gregor Benko in New York City in September 2002. The universally respected pianist/scholar/polymath thought Hofmann was the greatest pianist he ever heard. On 3 March 1940, teenaged Rosen had witnessed an amusing event involving Rachmaninoff, that took place at a Hofmann Carnegie Hall concert. That recital ended with Liszt’s “Don Juan Fantasy,” after which came Hofmann’s usual “second recital” of eleven encores. Rosen described Hofmann’s performance of the “Don Juan Fantasy” to an interviewer for the Guardian newspaper (April 9, 2011): “… I had heard Josef Hofmann play [it] when I was 13. It was the greatest performance of anything I’d ever heard.” Just after that Hofmann played a trick on his friend Rachmaninoff, who went to congratulate Hofmann in the greenroom after the recital proper, but before Hofmann came out to start his usual chain of encores. Rachmaninoff asked him for a promise: “… Dear Hofmann, if you have any intention of playing the Prelude, please let me get out of the house first …” Hofmann kept his promise, but also succeeded in tweaking his friend, when he “… went out to start his encores with a twinkle in his eye and mischief in his mind …” Hofmann played encore after encore. When he got to the tenth one, he started with the notes A, G sharp and C sharp—the famous opening of “The Prelude.” The audience sighed with delight and anticipation at hearing the piece, while Rachmaninoff squirmed lower into his seat. Hofmann used those first notes, not to start Rachmaninoff’s Prelude as everyone thought, but as an improvised, launching gesture into Chopin’s “Fantasie-Impromptu.”
“… I’m told that the scolding he received from Rachmaninoff afterwards was tempered with a musician’s appreciation of a good joke on himself. …” (quotes from the “Mephisto” column in Musical America March 1940.) The last, eleventh encore was the Strauss-Godowsky “Fledermaus.” This incident is one often told, but often told wrong. Another Hofmann recital at Carnegie Hall that particularly impressed Rosen took place exactly one year later, on 3 March 1941, when Rosen was accompanied by his teachers Moriz Rosenthal and Rosenthal’s wife Hedwig Kanner; next to them sat Joseph Lhevinne. Rosen tells of how Lhevinne and Rosenthal reacted to Hofmann’s performance of a Beethoven sonata, each contradicting the other.
Constance Keene (1921–2005) interview with Gregor Benko in New York City in September 2002. One of Hofmann’s most talented pupils was Abram Chasins, who wrote eloquently of his lessons with Hofmann in his book, Speaking of Pianists. Chasins gave a master class in the 1930s that was attended by the very young Constance Keene; he became her teacher, and in 1949, the two were married. Keene eventually became an important pianist and teacher herself, and her recordings of the complete Rachmaninoff preludes are legends. Chasins and Keene were intimates with Vladimir Horowitz, and Keene tells of seeing Hofmann’s letter praising Horowitz that was framed on Horowitz’s wall; when she received a similar letter from Hofmann, she felt it was no excess for her to do the same. She found similarities between the playing of Horowitz and Hofmann, finding Horowitz demoniac, and Hofmann elegant, citing his recording of the Chopin “Andante Spianato e Grande Polonaise” as “ravishing.” Keene was never a Hofmann pupil, but between her lessons with Chasins and the pointers Hofmann gave her when she played for him, as well as from her astute observations at Hofmann’s recitals, she incorporated many of the features of his art into her own. She describes some of these—playing with motion toward a point of rest, keeping a basic pace and not stretching a rubato to the point of no return, and using a metronome when practicing Chopin.
Jorge Bolet (1914–1990) was interviewed in Manhattan by Gregor Benko on 9 April 1987. Hofmann’s playing awed the Cuban-American pianist Jorge Bolet with an intensity that lasted until the day he died, although Bolet always maintained that he patterned his own ideas about performance after Rachmaninoff, rather than Hofmann: “He was a unique personality, a unique pianist. What he did was perfect … for him” he explains. We can hear Bolet’s awe more than fifty years later as he describes Hofmann’s “boundless imagination” that was brought to bear on Beethoven’s “Sonata Op. 111,” as well as Liszt’s “Don Juan Fantasy,” with a middle section that was “… so sensuous,” while other Hofmann performances were “… basically so simple, straight, without deviating one iota …” from the score. Bolet studied with Hofmann’s assistant, David Saperton, and was among a group of students at the Curtis Institute of Music that included Nadia Resienberg, Shura Cherkassky (who made a successful
effort then to copy Hofmann’s style), and the now-forgotten Lucie Stern. Born in 1914, the same year as Bolet, Stern may have been one of Hofmann’s most talented pupils, but she died in 1938. Of particular interest is Bolet’s evaluation of how well the recordings represent what Hofmann sounded like in person, and his description of Hofmann’s famous mannerism, bringing his flattened hand down on the keyboard to make an “explosion.” Perhaps some today will be astonished by Bolet’s final words, that there are “… no absolutes in music, including what a composer wrote.”
Glenn Gould (1932–1982) was interviewed by Vincent Tovell in 1959 for the program “At Home with Glenn Gould.” The Canadian pianist stated he was “about six years old” when he heard his first piano recital: Hofmann playing in Toronto. He would have been five at the time Hofmann’s recital there on 12 November 1937, when the program was Beethoven “Waldstein Sonata,” Schumann Kreisleriana, a Chopin group with the “E-flat Minor Polonaise” and “F Minor Ballade,” plus pieces by Stojowski, Schubert-Godowsky, Scriabin, and Hofmann’s own “Kaleidoskop” (the same program as Hofmann’s famous “Casimir Hall” recital.) But we can’t be certain it wasn’t Hofmann’s recital in Toronto on 11 January 1940, when Gould was seven. That long program included the Bach-Busoni “Chaconne,” Beethoven’s “Tempest” sonata and Liszt’s “Don Juan Fantasy.” (Hofmann played in the city again in April 1944 so it was not his last recital in Toronto, as Gould supposed.) Gould describes the impression the first piano recital he was to attend made on him. Igor Stravinsky, Bruno Walter, and Alice Tully also left reminiscences of how their earliest musical inspiration came from hearing Hofmann when they too, were children.
Witold Lutosławski (1913–1994) from comments made during a broadcast from Virginia, U.S.A. in 1980. (Unfortunately, the radio station had music playing in the background as the composer spoke.) One of the major composers of the twentieth century, Lutosławski studied piano and composition in Poland, where he heard Hofmann play Chopin’s E Minor Concerto in September 1934, and several subsequent recitals. Hofmann had not performed in his native country for many years. Pianist Marian Filar wrote: “… His first concert at the Philharmonic wasn’t sold out because nobody knew who he was. Then he played the Chopin E Minor Concerto, and we all fell out of our chairs …”
Rudolph Ganz (1877–1972) interviewed in Chicago by Gregor Benko and Albert Petrak in 1967. Pianist and conductor Ganz was ninety years old at the time of the interview. He seemed to have defied time. Not only was his memory acute, he was amazingly active and productive. The interview was not conducted specifically about Hofmann—it was before I started Hofmann biographical research—but Albert Petrak (co-founder of International Piano Library) and I couldn’t resist asking Ganz about Hofmann. He tells of Hofmann’s invention of pneumatic shock absorbers, which were patented in 1920 but had been in development for more than a decade. Hofmann realized considerable income from the invention in the few short years before the shock absorbers became obsolete. He tells of Hofmann’s well-known tightness about money, and his affair with Betty Short, the woman who would eventually become Hofmann’s second wife; she was only a few months older than Hofmann’s daughter Josefa, by his first marriage. The first Mrs. Hofmann, Marie Eustis Hofmann, refused for years to grant him a divorce, so Hofmann lived in London with Betty. Their son, Anton, was almost four years old when his parents were married, as Ganz jokes. Eventually Hofmann second marriage collapsed as well, when Betty began affairs with other men. Hofmann began drinking heavily, and his inability to fulfill scheduled performances with conductor Artur Rodzinski and the New York Philharmonic in February 1945 was the result of an epic alcoholic bout, described in sad detail in Halina Rodzinski’s memoir. Only a month later he played a Rubinstein Fourth Concerto in Detroit when sober, and the recording shows it was a triumph, evidence that the decline in Hofmann’s playing was proportional to his alcohol intake. Unfortunately, Hofmann was often cruel when inebriated, and as Ganz recounts, he told emissaries to tell Rodzinski to go to hell. Ganz marvels that Hofmann, who had “the strongest will among my friends,” was reduced to such a sorry state. Hofmann refused to come back to New York to be part of the 1953 Steinway centennial celebrations. Ganz blamed the men who ran the Steinway firm for not making an attempt to rescue Hofmann. They had their reasons, but Ganz said he would not forgive them.
Ruth Gardner Steinway (1889–1978) was interviewed by Terry McNeill and Gregor Benko in her Massachusetts home on 20 November 1975. She was the wife of Theodore E. Steinway, one of Hofmann’s close friends. Theodore died in 1957 at the age of seventy-four; he had been president of the piano firm from 1927 to 1955. At the age of eighty-six Mrs. Steinway was still a most appealing personality. Especially interesting are her comparisons between Hofmann’s first wife, Marie Eustis, and his second, Elizabeth (Betty) Short. Marie Eustis’s father had been the American ambassador to France, and her grandfather the founder of the Corcoran Gallery of Art. Betty Short’s father had been a chicken farmer in Petaluma, California. Ruth Steinway came from the same aristocratic American background as Marie Eustis, who had shocked her very proper family and Newport society in 1905 when she married Hofmann, an artist with all the insinuations of low birth that implied. Rudolph Ganz met Ruth and Theodore at the railroad station when they visited Marie and Josef at their Swiss home near Vevey in 1912—the Steinways were on their honeymoon. She refers to both Alexander Greiner and his predecessor as the Steinway artists’ representative, Ernest Urchs. She tells of how appealing Hofmann was to women (“everybody fell for him, especially when he was young”) and how he was so much more natural and at home with his second wife Betty (who was thirty-one-years-younger than Hofmann), than with the formal, ten-years-older Marie. The incident with Hofmann wanting to see the new baby Elizabeth Steinway (who became the wife of Schuyler Chapin) happened in 1925. “Dagmar” is Dagmar Godowsky, the former silent movie star daughter of Leopold Godowsky. She cultivated her reputation as a “loose woman,” and it was deserved. “Daggie” was also close to Betty Hofmann, despite the potential conflict over affairs with Betty’s husband. Hofmann attracted women the way rock stars do today. His penchant for telling “naughty” stories (which seem corny and tame now) was well known. Ultimately Dagmar outgrew her youthful good looks to become a grossly overweight specimen who nevertheless wore clothing more appropriate to her silent film vamp image until she died at the age of seventy-eight in 1975. During her last years, Dagmar was a close friend of philanthropist Alice Tully.
Thaddeus Sadlowski (1914–1999) interviewed by Gregor Benko (in front of a noisy open window facing the street) at his home in New York City on 13 March 1989. Sadlowski came to New York from his native Chicago and studied privately with Joseph Lhevinne, over several years in the late 1930s and early 1940s. He sometimes used the first name “Tadeusz,” appearing occasionally accompanying singers in New York. With other pianists like Vladimir Villyensky and especially Paul Berlin, he often worked as half of a piano duo that accompanied many dance recitals around the country in the 1940s. As “Ted” Sadlowski, he and George Roth formed a duo that won the Paderewski Foundation Award in 1952; they toured more than 100 cities the next year as duo pianists in a traveling show with tenor Lauritz Melchior. By the mid-1960s he had largely given up public performances, and worked in New York as an agent for the Sony Superscope Corporation. He made at least one LP record accompanying a singer, and the third supplement to the World Encyclopedia of Recorded Music (1956) lists a two-LP set of him performing the complete Chopin mazurkas on the Collosseum label, no copy of which has yet been located. I heard him play the Schulz-Evler transcription of the “Blue Danube” more than once, and he was a fabulous, old fashioned romantic pianist with a big sound, as his big personality and voice might indicate. He was a mainstay of the Paderewski Foundation and kind of a “mascot” to many Polish speaking artists. Hearers might be surprised to learn that many great pianists of the past, when in intimate surroundings with confreres, would spend their time criticizing the competition. Sadlowski tells of being with Simon Barere, Moriz Rosenthal, and Hofmann in an automat restaurant, when Rosenthal referred to Anton Rubinstein, but “not the present clown.” Sadlowski was one of the few artists who were allowed to try one of Hofmann’s personal pianos with the narrower (here called “shorter”) keyboard, as well as the unique action Hofmann had designed. Sadlowski described it as “the most fabulous action ever.” (Steinways never put the action into production and subsequently destroyed all examples.) Elements of boisterous humor were evident in this interview, but it ends with one of the saddest of all Hofmann stories.
Gian Carlo Menotti (1911–2007) interviewed in New York City by Gregor Benko on 21 April and 2 November 1987. The composition students Samuel Barber and Menotti (then lovers) were Mary Louise Bok’s “pets” at the Curtis Institute of Music, and remained intimate personal friends for many years after. Halina Rodzinski’s memoir recounted a March 1937 occasion: “Our dinner party with Sam and Gian-Carlo, both as handsome as matinee idols, and Pani Mary, looking like a chic Rosetti ‘Blessed Damsel’ …” Mrs. Bok’s loyalty and generosity to each insured their progress, and it is doubtful whether Menotti would have had his measure of success without her. He had been studying piano with Isabelle Vengerova. She had him play for Hofmann, who was not impressed. Menotti felt he was “an unpleasant person.” Perhaps used to being spoiled, Menotti resented Hofmann’s indifference. Menotti said performers didn’t excite him—he was interested in Shakespeare, not Laurence Olivier. He thought Hofmann didn’t love Mrs. Bok. “… I’m afraid that he used her … They had an affair, of course …” She was very complex, difficult, an awkward and shy woman, very romantic, “… almost comic at times …” and her letters to Sam Barber could have been interpreted as love letters. She had been interested in Stokowski as well, and then Efrem Zimbalist. She wanted Barber to call her by “… some strange name ….” (That would be “Marussia,” the name she insisted Hofmann call her in private communications.)
(Aniela) Nela Rubinstein (1908–2001) interviewed in New York City by Gregor Benko on 1 April 1991. Mrs. Rubinstein was extraordinarily appealing, and still beautiful at the age of eighty-three. Her father was the Polish conductor Emil Mylnarski, and her first husband was the Polish pianist Mieczysław Munz, who she accompanied to the United States in 1928. Munz was a protégé of Hofmann’s, who loved Munz’s playing. The couple stayed near Hofmann and his family at their vacation house in Maine, the “Rock,” for the summers in 1928 and 1929. She adored Hofmann’s four-year-son, Anton, and soon became close to Hofmann’s benefactor (and secret lover) Mary Louise Curtis Bok, who cried when she told Nela of her mistreatment at the hands of her husband, Edward Bok. Legendarily generous, she presented Nela with a Ford, a complete surprise. Card games were a regular feature of social life at the “Rock,” but often these occasions were an ordeal because of Betty’s gorgon of a mother, Helen Short “… who sat chewing her teeth” and because of Hofmann’s drinking. Wife Betty also drank, and not too much later began her long mental decline, culminating in slatternly behavior. Nela divorced Munz and married Arthur Rubinstein in 1932. She preferred husband Arthur’s playing of Chopin, for unlike Bolet, she thought Hofmann brought out things that “weren’t really there.” We know this was Arthur Rubinstein’s opinion.
Nadia Reisenberg (1904–1983) was interviewed by Terry McNeill and Gregor Benko in New York on 16 November 1975. She had studied with Hofmann at the Curtis Institute of Music from 1929 through his departure in 1938. Originally a student at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory before immigrating to the United States in 1922, she then studied with Liszt pupil Alexander Lambert in New York. Hofmann and Lambert were close friends, so Hofmann’s offer to accept Reisenberg as his own student could have strained relations between the two men, but apparently did not. Reisenberg felt she was Lambert’s star pupil and was troubled by the choice she was offered, but she unhesitatingly chose to leave Lambert for Hofmann. Lambert taught only young women, and there was much socializing between students and Lambert’s wide circle of older, male, musician friends. It was at Lambert’s studio that Hofmann met Elizabeth Short, the much younger woman who became his second wife. Reisenberg was astonished by Hofmann, especially his memory, and the fact that he had no library of scores, but preferred to model her own playing on Rachmaninoff’s, although she felt the latter was really only great when playing his own music. She was wrong in thinking that Hofmann did not know the music of Medtner; he had championed the first sonata and other works twenty-five years earlier, but left off playing them about the time Reisenberg was born. Her sister, Clara Rockmore, became the pre-eminent virtuoso on the Theremin; Hofmann made several improvements to that electronic instrument for Rockmore.
Irene Goldovsky Wolf (1917–2010) was interviewed by Terry McNeill and Gregor Benko at her home near Philadelphia on 11 November 1975. Mrs. Wolf was the daughter of the renowned Russian-American violinist Lea Luboshutz and opera conductor and broadcast-commentator Boris Goldovsky was Irene’s brother. Hofmann was fond of Lea Luboshutz and her playing, hiring her for the Curtis Institute faculty and appearing in several joint recitals with her in 1926 and 1927. The Hofmann and Luboshutz families summered together in Camden, Maine, where Hofmann would bring the mechanic he employed, Charles Mickley (“Mikla”) to work on his many inventions. Lea was one of the first friends to accept the new and much younger woman in Hofmann’s life, Betty Short, who was pregnant with Hofmann’s child [Anton] in 1924. That an enormous scandal did not erupt was at least in part the result of help from Lea. Irene had a crush on Hofmann, and Boris wanted very much to become a piano pupil of Hofmann’s, but his hopes were dashed when Hofmann rejected him as not talented enough for a career as virtuoso. It was a blow about which he later wrote with curdled hatred in his autobiography. Mrs. Wolf was in a position to witness both Hofmann’s personal life (he had to marry Betty—“… the child was coming …”) and his professional activities, remaining close to the school and a supporter of the Curtis Institute for the rest of her life. Hofmann played at her wedding, and Betty was asked to participate in the wedding party. She tells of Betty’s unsettling, Hollywood-style exaggerations and vulgarity in insisting on wearing an outfit made in part out of live anemone flowers for her minor role in the ceremony, unaware that she was upstaging the bride, as well as causing unnecessary difficulty. Despite that, Mrs. Wolf liked Betty and thought her “a great beauty,” but judged, correctly, that Betty was “never an innocent little girl” and that life at home with Betty was “unbelievable” for Hofmann, a hell from which he often sought refuge in the Luboshutz home. She observed first hand Hofmann’s black moods, his difficulties in dealing with faculty and students at the Curtis Institute—“… so moody … it would go on for days …totally remote at certain times … everyone was terrified …” which instilled an atmosphere of intrigue and favoritism at the school. She tells of what she judged to be Hofmann’s cowardice in many relationships. But she defends Hofmann from the charges that he had been a bad administrator at Curtis.
Elizabeth “Betty” Hofmann (1905–1971) and Dagmar Godowsky (1897–1975) Leopold Godowsky II, son of the composer/pianist, bought an acetate disc cutter in the mid-1930s. It was one of the first practical home recording outfits, and Hofmann’s wife, Betty, asked him to record her and her friend Dagmar Godowsky (Leopold’s sister), while they rehearsed a script for a Dorothy Gordon radio program for children, about the boyhood of Josef Hofmann. Dagmar reads Gordon’s part of the script, while Betty reads her own part in a stilted fashion. Soon it is too much for them and they break down into giggles, but soldier on. This is the only known recording of Betty Hofmann, and one of the rare recordings of Dagmar.
Anton Hofmann (1924–2010) interviewed at his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts by Caine Alder in February 1967. Few offspring of musical artists ever had their childhoods more clouded by their parents than did Hofmann’s daughter and three sons. This was especially true for Anton, the eldest of his three sons and the first child of the pianist’s union with Betty Short. Inheriting his father’s keen intelligence (but not his musical aptitude), Anton was pampered for his first years, then largely neglected as he witnessed the sad decline of both his parents as he came into adolescence. His mother’s mental state teetered, while his father sank into depression, and he and his siblings saw their parents’ marriage sour while Hofmann’s career stalled. Anton had come to terms with much of his childhood when he allowed himself to be taped in 1967. He notes his father’s generosity—Hofmann provided the sole support for many relatives and friends—as well as Hofmann’s difficulties with his own mother. Anton relates his father’s inventiveness as a child, creating a water-driven motor for the cylinder recordings apparatus Edison had sent to the Hofmann home in Berlin. Hofmann told Anton of his lessons with his namesake, Anton Rubinstein, who at the last lesson told Hofmann “I have told you all I know about piano playing.” Hofmann was impatient with himself, incessantly trying to achieve the artistic results he wished, if not necessarily practicing at the piano for hours. Hofmann’s pupil, prodigy Ruth Slenczynska, had a few lessons at Hofmann’s home, while Anton watched. He and his father were horrified to see how Ruth’s father mistreated her. Anton described the man as “an absolutely unbelievable louse.” He tells of the circumstances of his mother and father’s initial romantic attachment, then the inexorable decline of their relationship, describing their marriage as “hectic … both had a great many psychological problems … their own individual problems became rather more exaggerated …” This helped cause Hofmann’s anxieties and conflicts, “a vicious circle” that led the pianist to rely on alcohol and the barbiturate then known as Phanodorm. When inebriated Josef Hofmann could be hostile. Anton is remembered today as much for his work at age twenty in Los Alamos on the Manhattan Project, his subsequent work as a physicist, his part in the founding of the Acoustic Research corporation (which introduced the first acoustic suspension loudspeaker in 1954) and his co-founding of the KLH corporation, which introduced the first transistorized high-fidelity equipment in 1962 (the “H” standing for “Hofmann.”) “Tony” was an ardent supporter of the work of International Piano Archives, which would not have succeeded without his constant interest and help.
©Gregor Benko, 2017
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Here is a partial list of the Hofmann broadcasts that might yet surface in recorded form:
12 February 1935 – Seattle – short interview on “Mary’s Garden of Friendship”
30 October 1935 – Warsaw – Beethoven Variations in C Minor; Chopin “Valse Op. 42;” “Nocturne Op. 15, No. 2;” Liszt “12th Hungarian Rhapsody”
6 or 7 November 1935 – London – Chopin E Minor Concerto with the BBC Orchestra conducted by Hamilton Harty (this concert was broadcast all over Europe, and included the world premiere of Walton’s First Symphony; a small portion of the concerto was issued on the Complete Josef Hofmann Volume One)
25 or 26 November 1935 – Bournemouth – Schumann Concerto, Bournemouth Orchestra conducted by Richard Austin
10 July 1936 – Buenos Aires recital – Bach-d’Albert “Prelude and Fugue in D;” Beethoven “Sonata Op. 110;” Chopin “Sonata No. 2, B-flat Minor, Op. 35;” Liszt “12th Hungarian Rhapsody” eight encores
24 January 1937 – New York – broadcast nationally – Ford Sunday Evening Hour with conductor Victor Kolar: Chopin: Concerto No. 2, F Minor, slow movement, “Grand Valse Brilliante” [most likely Op. 18 in E-flat]; Liszt “12th Hungarian Rhapsody”
14 March 1937 – New York – broadcast nationally – General Motors Hour with conductor Erno Rapée: Rubinstein Concerto D Minor 1st Movement, Mendelssohn “Rondo Capriccioso”
21 January 1940 – Pittsburgh, Schumann Concerto, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra conducted by Vladimir Bakaleinikoff
24 March 1945 – Carnegie Hall – recital broadcast to Europe by Armed Forces Radio: Handel “Harmonious Blacksmith;” Mendelssohn “Scherzo E Minor;” Beethoven “Moonlight Sonata;” Chopin group; Schumann Faschinsswank aus Wien, plus “more than half a dozen encores.” (A recording of the Chopin group was located some time ago and issued on the Complete Josef Hofmann Volume Two)