Friedrich Gulda – Jazz Austrian style
Friedrich Gulda was an Austrian pianist and composer who worked in both the classical and jazz fields. treat yourself to ten minutes today and indulge in some of these You Tube videos – the man is brilliant.
Born in Vienna as the son of a teacher, Gulda began learning to play the piano from Felix Pazofsky at the Wiener Volkskonservatorium, aged 7. In 1942, he entered the Vienna Music Academy, where he studied piano and musical theory under Bruno Seidlhofer and Joseph Marx.
He won first prize at the Geneva International Music Competition in 1946. Initially the jury preferred the Belgian pianist Lode Backx, but when the final vote was taken, Gulda was the winner. One of the jurors, Eileen Joyce, who favoured Backx, stormed out and claimed the other jurors were unfairly influenced by Gulda’s supporters. Gulda began to play concerts worldwide. He made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1950. Together with Jörg Demus and Paul Badura-Skoda, Gulda formed what became known as the “Viennese troika”.
However, today I wanted to draw attention to his incredible Jazz pieces.
Gulda’s ‘Uber album’ As you like it has some of the most incredible jazz pieces ever recorded. Here is the track listing:
1 Blues for H.G.
2 I Only Have Eyes for You Dubin, Warren
3 What Is This Thing Called Love? Porter
4 All Blues
5 Light My Fire
6 ‘Round Midnight Hanighen, Monk, Williams
7 East of the Sun
From the 1950s on he cultivated an interest in jazz, writing several songs and instrumental pieces, and at times combining jazz and classical music in his concerts. In 1956 he performed at Birdland in New York City and at the Newport Jazz Festival. He organized the International Competition for Modern Jazz in 1966 and he established the International Musikforum, a school for students who wanted to learn improvisation, in Ossiach, Austria, in 1968. He once said:
There can be no guarantee that I will become a great jazz musician, but at least I shall know that I am doing the right thing. I don’t want to fall into the routine of the modern concert pianist’s life, nor do I want to ride the cheap triumphs of the Baroque bandwagon.
In jazz he found “the rhythmic drive, the risk, the absolute contrast to the pale, academic approach I had been taught.” He also took up playing the baritone saxophone.
I found it very difficult to find much info on him or this stunning album – at least out of the classic world. There is plenty there of course. The jazz album seems to be partly overlooked, perhaps it is seen as a bridesmaid to his ‘real’ career. I’m not sure. But when You consider the first piece at the top of this post has him playing the recorder, you will understand what a fantastic classical jazz musician he was.
One remarkably interesting tid bit I did pick up was that he expressed a wish to die on Mozart’s birthday, the musician he most admired, and then did so. He died of heart failure at the age of 69 on 27 January 2000 at his home in Weissenbach, Austria. Gulda is buried in the cemetery of Steinbach am Attersee, Austria. I thought that was kind of cool actually. Although if I’d named a day like that and not a year, I’d get a tad nervous around that time each year.
So sit back. If its night time where you are and you want a sultry wine – help yourself – and enjoy a little cruising Gulda style.