I am launching an exciting project that will make public previously unreleased recordings of the Hungarian-American pianist Ervin Nyiregyházi (1903-1987) performing at the Century Club of California, in San Francisco, in 1972.
A former child prodigy and a concert star in both Europe and America in his teens and twenties, Nyiregyházi spent decades in poverty and obscurity before finally resuming his career with this comeback recital in 1972. The life story and performance style of this eccentric genius would go on to attract much media attention in the 1970s.
For an introduction to Nyiregyházi’s amazing life, read Kevin Bazzana's introductory article to his award-winning biography Lost Genius: The Story of a Forgotten Musical Maverick (2007). Please also visit my personal Nyiregyházi page fugue.usTHE NYIREGYHAZI PROJECT
Nyiregyházi’s personal archive, including reel-to-reel tape recordings, were donated posthumously to the Takasaki Art Center College (TACC), in Japan, in the 1990s, but the contents of the archive were not made available to the public in the years that followed. Both Kevin Bazzana and I made many attempts to access the archive in the 2000s, but were unsuccessful.
In 2012, the TACC was closed because of financial difficulties, and the archive was eventually seized by the creditors. Negotiations to transfer ownership of the archive to my company, Sonetto Classics, London, were initiated in 2013, and Sonetto acquired the material in the summer of 2016.
The sizeable collection included both Nyiregyházi's personal archive and materials that the TACC itself produced—more than a hundred reel-to-reel tapes (including a number of masters), films, compositions, photographs, letters, and more. Initial concerns over the condition of the tapes proved baseless, when Abbey Road Studios confirmed that they had been well preserved, displaying Nyiregyházi's white-hot playing in concert with a vivid immediacy seldom experienced in the studio recordings he made later in the 1970s.
About this album: In the early 1970s, after decades in poverty and obscurity, Nyiregyházi started giving public recitals to help pay for his ninth wife's medical bills. His first full comeback recital took place at Century Club of California, in San Francisco, on December 17, 1972. He offered a large program including Brahms's F-minor sonata, three mazurkas and a prelude by Chopin, Debussy's “Pagodes,” and several works by Liszt. The concert, which Nyiregyházi once ranked as the best of his career, was recorded, but only a few tracks from it appeared in the compilation of Nyiregyházi concert performances released by Music and Arts in 2007.
Our objective is to release a two-CD set comprising the entire recital as well as bonus tracks (see Risks and Challenges). Our sound sources are the reel-to-reel tapes owned by Nyiregyházi himself. The CD will include sleeve notes by Nyiregyházi’s biographer Kevin Bazzana, and previously unreleased photos drawn from the TACC archive.
Tomo Sawado, CEO and producer of Sonetto Classics, is leading the project. A collaborator on many music projects, he established the largest online Nyiregyházi archive (http://www.fugue.us), which is widely recognized among piano enthusiasts and has been cited in The Wall Street Journal and International Piano. His first major project for Sonetto Classics, Angelo Villani Plays Dante’s Inferno, received five stars in both The Independent (Andy Gill) and International Piano (Bryce Morrison), and received the highest rating, "Tokusen-ban," in Record Geijutsu magazine.
Kevin Bazzana is the author of the award-winning, internationally praised Nyiregyházi biography Lost Genius: The Story of a Forgotten Musical Maverick, which was published in North America in 2007 and subsequently in Germany and Japan. He also wrote two acclaimed books on Glenn Gould, including the biography Wondrous Strange: The Life and Art of Glenn Gould (2003), and was a consultant on the documentary Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould (2009). Sawado and Bazzana have collaborated since 2004.
Sound engineer Robin Springall is the owner of Repeat Performance Media, whose clients include Paul McCartney, Peter Gabriel, R.E.M., Sting, Eric Clapton, Elton John, the Monteverdi Choir and Orchestra, Wigmore Hall, and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Sawado and Springall worked together in 2015 on Angelo Villani Plays Dante’s Inferno, which was funded through a successful Kickstarter campaign.
Jeremy McGahan is cofounder of Sonetto Classics and has managed a number of piano recitals in the U.K. He has extensive experience within the finance sector and will be overseeing promotion and marketing.
This project is officially endorsed by Mattheus Smits, president of the International Ervin Nyiregyházi Foundation, in Krommenie, The Netherlands. The Foundation represents Nyiregyházi’s estate.
Digital transfer is by Jed Allcock (Abbey Road Studios).
Budget: The budget covers all production costs, including digital remastering, a 20-page booklet (in English and Japanese), 1,000 double-CD pressings, handling and shipping fees, and a license fee for the cover photo. Any extra funding received will be used to reissue, distribute, and promote the album in international markets as well as for Nyiregyházi-in-concert trilogy projects (see FUTURE PROJECTS). If the target amount is not reached, all the pledges will be returned.
FUTURE PROJECTS: The year 2017 marks the 30th anniversary Nyiregyházi’s death, and we hope that, with sufficient support, this album will be the first release of a Nyiregyházi-in-concert trilogy that will also include two other San Francisco recitals, at the Old First Church and the Forest Hill Club House, both from 1973. We also plan to include his last recordings privately made in 1984 in one of these albums. We have already obtained fine sound sources (including one master tape) and full authorisation from The International Ervin Nyiregyházi Foundation for these two additional releases.
The trilogy will be completed in 2018.
Risks and challenges
The sound quality of the tapes for the Century Club recital is generally excellent for a live recording from 1972. The piano sound is rich, clear, and colourful. During the Chopin group, however, there is a section approximately five-seven minutes long in which the left channel becomes shaky. In the release version, we plan to keep this section as is but will also include the same recordings as they appear in a different sound source whose sound is inferior but is more stable in the corresponding section.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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