Reference Recording: This one
"The composer/pianist Ilse Fromm-Michaels was based in Hamburg throughout most of her long life (born in 1888, she lived to be 98). At the famous Stern Conservatory, where she befriended a fellow pupil named Otto Klemperer, Fromm-Michaels studied piano with James Kwast and composition with Hans Pfitzner. Max Reger wrote her a letter of recommendation on hearing her play his monumental Bach Variations. She must have been a big player in order to tackle fingerbusters like the Busoni and Reger Concertos, as well as the Rachmaninov Third. She was invited to play the latter under Artur Nickisch after he had heard Fromm-Michaels play her own Piano Sonata, the largest-scaled work among her complete piano oeuvre. In the main, her piano writing owes as much to Rachmaninov′s swirling filigree as it does to her mentor Pfiztner′s crabby chromaticism. If the Walzerreigen Op. 7 seems to regress toward Brahms′ lilting wistfulness, her 1932 Passacaglia is forged from an ascetic blueprint that flirts with atonality. There′s also an intriguing set of variations on an original theme, plus two youthful books of miniatures. Fromm-Michaels′ final piano work was a nostalgia-laden Waltz penned around 1950 that might fit into a Kreisler folio or a Korngold opera. Babette Dorn′s solid pianism and excellent musicianship make a convincing case for the revival of Fromm-Michaels′ essentially derivative yet ultimately rewarding keyboard output. Should an enterprising label undertake her 1938 Symphony or Music Larga for clarinet and string quartet, I′ll be there to listen."
Jed Distler

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