A film by Antonio Iturrioz
Leopold Godowksy (1870-1938) is regarded as one of the giants of the keyboard, renowned for his formidable technique and ingenious transcriptions of works by other composers, transforming already challenging pieces, such as Chopin’s Études, into works of extraordinary difficulty and invention, which few pianists are prepared to tackle. In addition to transcriptions, Godowsky was also a significant and prolific composer in his own right. He was the last in a lineage of great post-romantic composers that included Rachmaninoff and Busoni, and made a major contribution to the development of piano music. A ‘pianist for pianists’, the critic James Huneker referred to him as the “Buddha of the Piano”; popular during his lifetime, Godowsky and his music is hardly known or performed today.
The Cuban-American pianist Antonio Iturrioz is one of the few musicians to rise to the challenge of Godowsky’s music and, following an injury to his right hand when he was a young man, he spent several years studying Godowsky’s complete left hand transcriptions and original compositions. His 2010 film The Buddha of the Piano – Leopold Godowsky is the result of meticulous research into the composer’s life and music, and is the first and only film on Leopold Godowsky. Illustrated with archive material including photographs, scores and piano rolls, this engaging film summarizes Godowsky’s achievements as a pianist and composer, and reveals his busy, peripatetic life, and his thoughts on music and life, shining an important light on, arguably, the greatest pianist of all time. But perhaps what is most satisfying is the music which accompanies the film. Performed by Antonio Iturrioz himself, he demonstrates not only superlative technical fluency, endlessly rising to the vertiginous challenges of this phenomenal music, but also shows a deep appreciation of Godowsky’s unique artistry. Mr Iturrioz’s film, together with his performances, are a wonderful endorsement of Leopold Godowsky’s remarkable talent and his significant contribution to pianism and piano repertoire.
More information about Antonio Iturrioz’s film here
Concert pianist, documentarian and Steinway Artist Antonio Iturrioz, born in Cuba, came to the United States when he was 7 years old. Giving his first concert at 9, he played the Liszt First Piano Concerto for his orchestral debut at 15. His teachers have included his father, Pablo Iturrioz; Francisco De Hoyos, a pupil of Gyorgi Sandor; Bernardo Segall, who studied with the Liszt pupil Alexander Siloti; Aube Tzerko; and Julian White. He has taken master classes from Byron Janis, Alexis Weissenberg, Jorge Bolet, and Andre Watts.
While recuperating from an injury to his right hand, Iturrioz learned important and obscure works for the left hand, including the complete Godowsky arrangements and original compositions. This led to his first film, the unique documentary The Art of the Left Hand: A Brief History of Left Hand Piano Music, called “an important film” by Clavier magazine. His second, The Buddha of the Piano: Leopold Godowsky, the only film about Godowsky, has been shown at international piano festivals, colleges in the U.S., the Edinburgh Society of Musicians and at the American Liszt Festival in South Carolina. Highly praised by Marc-Andre Hamelin, Carlo Grante, and many others, Scotland’s greatest pianist of the second half of the Twentieth Century, Dr. Ronald Stevenson, said, “It is an important film for all pianists and pianophiles….You reveal with skill, clarity and sensitivity the intricacies of his polyphonic piano writing.” The film, translated into Italian and French, will soon be translated into Polish. Both films have been featured on national public television.
Iturrioz in 2013 gave the world premiere performance on one piano of L. M. Gottschalk’s complete two-movement symphony, La Nuit des Tropiques, (the first American symphony) having transcribed for the first time the second movement, “Fiesta Criolla,” for one piano.
The Steinway & Sons label released in fall 2018 the world premiere CD of this historic work. Andre Watts has called Gottschalk and Cuba an “extraordinary album of music!”
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