Dan Mizrahy, Pianist, Composer, Teacher (1926-2010)
A classic among Romanian pianists, Dan Mizrahy is to this day generally associated to the music of George Gershwin, the father of symphonic jazz, whom he introduced to our country.
Born on February 28, 1926 in Bucharest, he began his piano education at the age of four. Five years later, he was granted early entry to the Royal Academy of Music, sitting in the class of brilliant performer and pedagogue Aurelia Cionca while also training with Faust Nicolescu and Mihail Andricu. Expelled in 1941 on account of the regime’s anti-Semitic policy, he emigrated to future Israel where he pursued further studies at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance with Alfred Schröder, Arthur Schnabel’s former assistant. Repatriating in 1945, he resumed his studies at the Bucharest Academy of Music, taking private composition lessons with Mihail Jora. It was at the Radio Concert Hall that he made his debut – as a recitalist in 1946 and as orchestral soloist on May 16, 1949 under Constantin Bobescu.
We owe pianist Dan Mizrahy the first Romanian performance of many of George Gershwin’s works, like the Concerto in F (Târgu Mureş, 1958), the Second Rhapsody (1966) and the “I Got Rhythm” Variations (1974). Celebrating, in 1991, his 45-year collaboration with the Romanian Radio, he performed Gershwin’s complete piano concertos in one evening, with Paul Popescu conducting.
In addition to Gershwin’s music, Dan Mizrahy was drawn to the staples of the piano literature, such as Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto no. 1 which he played in Craiova in 1949, the year of his debut, and was known to express his regret at mostly being asked to play Gershwin to the detriment of the other composers in his repertoire.
Sharing his passion for Gershwin through dedicated conferences, researcher Dan Mizrahy delivered between 1997-1998 a series of concert lectures at colleges and universities in five US states, among which New York and Washington. As a composer he wrote mainly vocal music – lieder, romances, popular music pieces –, winning nine awards in the Crizantema de aur Competition and receiving the Mihail Jora Music Criticism Prize (1997).
Exceptionally gifted, a standard of balance and good artistic taste, Dan Mizrahy was also a warm, generous man, a model of elegance and kindness – a true gentleman, loved by all who knew him. As prove these testimonies, on Mizrahy’s death on February 25, 2010:
“We say good-by to an artist for whom music and beauty always came first, who knew what friendship was to give and to have, who created remarkable works for posterity and who above all charmed us with his art as a performer” (musicologist Grigore Constantinescu).
“Romanian culture, Romanian music and the Romanian art of piano performance suffered an irretrievable loss. I have admired Dan Mizrahy since I was a child; he was a great pianist and an extraordinarily generous man – let’s not forget that he helped Eugen Ciceu when Communists persecuted him and when nobody seemed to know him any longer. He played until recently just as passionately and magnificently as ever. I witnessed those concerts, we were friends, I love him and I will miss him enormously” (pianist Dan Grigore).
Author: Ștefan Costache
Translation: Maria Monica Bojin