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James Friskin

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Phantasie for Piano Trio in E minorPiano Quintet, Op.1
James Friskin (3 March 1886, in Glasgow – 16 March 1967, in New York City) was a Scottish-born pianist, composer and music teacher who relocated to the United States in 1914.
Friskin studied in Glasgow with local organist Alfred Heap, and from 1900 (aged only 14) at the Royal College of Music under Edward Dannreuther for piano and (from 1905) Charles Villiers Stanford for composition. He completed his Piano Quintet in 1907 at the age of 21 and it was published by Stainer & Bell. Thomas Dunhill assessed it as "one of the most brilliant op.1's in existence". After completing his studies, from 1909 to 1914 he taught at the Royal Normal College for the Blind. In 1914, he emigrated to the United States, where, at the invitation of Frank Damrosch he became a founding teacher the Institute of Musical Arts, forerunner of the Juilliard School of Music. He continued teaching at Juilliard until his death.
While still at the Royal College, Friskin first met the composer and violist Rebecca Clarke (1886–1979). Friskin and Clarke, along with George Butterworth, formed a small choir to explore the works of Palestrina, asking Vaughan Williams to direct them. His 1912 Elegy for viola and piano might have been written with Clarke in mind. Over thirty years later they were married in New York City (on 23 September 1944), both aged 58, following a chance reunion.
In 1925, he was the first pianist to perform J. S. Bach's Goldberg Variations in the United States, and in 1934, he performed both books of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier in two New York recitals. He eventually recorded the Goldberg Variations in 1956, a year after Glenn Gould's celebrated recording. His obituarist in The New York Times wrote, "he became known as a Bach specialist long before others began specializing in baroque composers", and "he doesn't exaggerate or distort the music and plays Bach in a way that goes to the heart of the music. Friskin was not pedantic in his approach to Bach. Nor was he overly Romantic, an accusation that has been levelled at some of his more famous contemporaries."
His early promise as a composer was stifled by his activities as a teacher and performer and he appears to have given up composing soon after his move to the United States. The early Piano Quintet was followed by a series of Phantasie chamber works written for the Cobbett chamber music competitions, including a piano trio, a string quartet and another piano quintet. The Piano Sonata, perhaps his last major work, dates from 1915. The composer returned to London to perform it at the Wigmore Hall in November, 1920. There were also a handful of orchestral works, including a Piano Concerto which remained in manuscript and which has apparently been lost.
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