Riefling’s career lasted for more than 60 years, and his reputation as one of Scandinavia’s most brilliant pianists has never been trifled with. This set contains five pieces from three different concert recordings made between 1979 and 1986, and marks the highlight of Riefling’s brilliant concert performances. Made live and without repairs – just as Riefling himself preferred.
Even by today’s standards Riefling’s public début came at a very early age. In the autumn of 1925, barely fourteen years old, he performed a full-length recital, which included a substantial Beethoven work, the Sonata in F sharp opus 78. As a young man Riefling went on to study with Leimer in Hannover and participated subsequently at courses taught by Fischer and Kempff. Riefling’s international career received a decisive boost in 1936 when he won first prize in the Scandinavian Musicians’ Olympics in Copenhagen. From then on he was a regular guest in the world’s music metropolises where his performances elicited effusive, even sensational, reviews. In 1938 he succeeded in making the finals of the Queen Elizabeth competition
Beethoven and Bach
For Riefling, Beethoven and Bach was the ideal music – perfect by itself. Music critics honoured him through his entire career for performances that put the work in focus, or perhaps “the spiritual aspect” of the work, rather than the performer, and they lauded his unwavering sense of tempo and pulse, the glass-like clarity of rapid passages, unsurpassed architecture and superb distribution of material. Riefling made more than 60 records, amongst them are all of Beethoven’s sonatas, a record series honoured with Grand Prix du Disque. He received the Norwegian Grammy award in 1985 for his last recording; Bach’s Das Wohltemperierte Klavier (Simax PSC1044, PSC1046).
The legacy after Robert Riefling
Riefling was employed at the Music Conservatory in Copenhagen (1965-73) and the Norwegian Academy of Music (1973-80), and amongst his students are many important musicians of today. He was a great authority, though mild and polite towards his students. It was said already in the 20’s and 30’s that “Norway’s new piano favourite is both modest and self-conscious all at once”.
Riefling was so steady, firm and clear in his interpretations that the record market welcomed him like a hero, and there is reason to believe that the excitement was mutual – his interpretations and ideas became immortal and perhaps also emphasized by radio and studio recordings. Towards the end of his life Riefling regained much of his youth’s openness and adventurous spirit. The recordings we present are filled with offensiveness, virility and glitter, and have a level of energy that one usually doesn’t expect from a 75-year old!