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  • Writer's picturelewiskingsleypeart

Grünfeld's Soirée de Vienne, Op. 56

Alfred Grünfeld’s Soirée de Vienne is one of those pieces that I never seem to tire of hearing, or indeed playing: from the very opening bars in which the hands dance a sort of intricate arabesque, to the finale of pianistic acrobatics, I find the whole thing to be a total joy. It satisfies my musical sweet tooth with its cavity-inducing melodies, and takes me right to the heart of 19th century Vienna with its assortment of waltzes. I don’t feel that I play this piece, but rather that I play with it; I feel like a curious child wandering through a vast Viennese palace, opening each and every door to discover a different ballroom behind each one. From the slow lilt of a lovers’ waltz to the rambunctious steps of unruly aristocrats who’ve had slightly too much Gemischter Satz, this piece has it all.

It’s also interesting to know a little about the man behind the piece. Alfred Grünfeld was an Austrian pianist and composer who quickly became the most popular salon pianist in Vienna — he played regularly in the homes of Viennese high society, displaying his pianistic prowess in virtuosic compositions which often featured popular tunes and melodies of the time. He was also the first pianist of note to make a recording on wax cylinder for the Edison Phonograph in 1889.

You can hear a recording of Grünfeld playing a wonderfully spirited rendition of Chopin’s Mazurka in B Minor, Op. 33 here:

You can also check out my recording of Grünfeld’s Soirée de Vienne here:

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