Sunday Gramophone - Mozart: Piano Concerto Nr. 20 K.466 - Mitja Nikisch, Piano - 1934

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(Mitja Nikisch - A tragic case of timing)

Probably one of the more tragic stories in the history of classical music is the story of Mitja Nikisch. Son of the great conductor Arthur Nikisch, whose recording of Beethoven's fifth symphony in the early years of the 20th century went down as the first recording of the symphony, Mitja was torn between his duty as keeper of the family tradition of classical music and his overpowering love for Jazz. For a time he split his loyalties between both, gaining fame and notoriety as a gift Classical pianist (this recording of the Mozart Piano Concerto no. 20 is a rare example) while at the same time, achieving a reputation in Berlin Jazz circles as an extraordinary band leader. And for a time he was able to succeed in both. It was as a result of the rise to power of Adolf Hitler and Nazism virtually banned all Jazz and dance bands as "degenerate" that Nikisch's life took a tragic turn. While he was able to straddle both worlds for a time, by 1936 he was able to do neither and the result was a tragic and premature death by suicide of a promising and gifted talent at the age of 36.

Of the handful of recordings Nikisch made, only this one features his playing of Mozart. The Piano Concerto Nr. 20 K. 466 with The Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Rudolf Schulze-Dornberg, recorded for the Telefunken label in 1934.

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