Ignaz (or Ignacy) Friedman was one of the most important pianists from the early decades of the twentieth century, ranking in stature with such keyboard stalwarts as Josef Hofmann, Sergey Rachmaninov, Josef Lhevinne, and Leopold Godowsky. His contemporaries were among his greatest admirers: Horowitz, a friend but generally taciturn in offering praise to rivals, was said to have assessed Friedman's technique as stronger than his own. Friedman was also a composer with a fairly substantial output, mainly of piano works or of chamber music involving the piano. He also transcribed many compositions for his instrument and edited Chopin's complete piano works, as well as selected ones by Beethoven, Liszt, and others.
Friedman was from the same place of birth as Josef Hofmann. Young Ignaz was drawn to music early on, no doubt because of his musician father, who was a member of a local orchestra. Friedman's first significant instruction on piano came from Flora Grzywinska in Kraków. He enrolled at the Leipzig Conservatory in 1900, where he studied composition with Hugo Riemann. The following year, he left for Vienna to study with composer and piano pedagogue Theodore Leschetizky. After three years of instruction from him, Friedman decided to launch his career in Vienna in November 1904, with performances of the Brahms, Liszt, and Tchaikovsky first piano concertos. His playing was enthusiastically received, as were the several encores he performed in between the concertos and at the close. The following year, he went on tour, thereafter rarely dropping out of the public eye, appearing with orchestras and giving recitals mainly in Europe until the 1920s, when he expanded his schedule to include concert dates in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Asia (including Japan), and parts of the Middle East. More than a few of his contemporaries would wonder at the energy he displayed to remain on tour almost constantly until 1943. He established residence in Berlin around 1905, but fled Germany in 1914 at the onset of World War I to settle in Copenhagen. While Friedman is hardly remembered as a composer, he did produce several interesting works, perhaps the most compelling of which came during the war years, a piano quintet, published in Leipzig in 1918. In 1920, Friedman gave his first concert tour of the United States, which paved the way for 11 return trips in the next two decades. On one of them, in 1923, he made his first recording (Schubert/Liszt — Hark, Hark! The Lark!) for Columbia Records. In 1925-1926, he recorded more music for the same label, including Chopin's Etude No. 7 in C, Op. 10, and Etude No. 12 in C minor "Revolutionary," as well as works by Mozart and Scarlatti. He would go on to record such staples as the Grieg piano concerto, the Beethoven Sonata No. 14 "Moonlight," and Liszt's La campanella (arr. Busoni). By 2002, these works — and the entire recorded legacy of Friedman — were available on reissues on various labels. Friedman remained as active in the 1930s as in the previous decades, but as political tensions grew in Europe, he decided to resettle once more, this time in Australia. There, and in New Zealand, he gave many successful concerts, some of which were broadcast. In 1943, Friedman retired from concert activity, owing to a partially debilitating paralysis in his left hand.