Links to Important Documents Courtesy of the Paul Howard Estate
Paul Howard Recital Promo from 1921
Founder of the International Godowsky Society (1936-53)
An appreciation by Andrew Cockburn
Although there have been many musicians who, particularly during his lifetime, professed the greatest admiration for Godowsky as a man andi as a composer/pianist, it is surprising how few played his music or even; got beyond the still prevalent view that he was hardly more than a transcriber with a fiendishly clever gift for tinkering with other composers' music (which had much better be left alone). There have, however, been a few exceptions. One was David Saperton, Godowsky's son-in-law, who gave some all-Godowsky recitals in New York in the late forties and who recorded in the early fifties (These recordings are due for re-issue soon, on the Desmar label). Another was Clarence Adler who broadcast many recitals of Godowsky- during the fifties. The other exception, the subject of this article, was Paul Howard.
Howard was of Irish lineage and was born in London in 1875. He emigrated with his family to Australia at the age of nine, settling in Adelaide, where he lived until his death in 1953. Although not a prof- essional musician, he possessed a passionate and fanatical devotion to the music of Godowsky and this led him to found and develop the International Godowsky Society in 1936. This was in order to cheer up Godowsky who was depressed and disillusioned for the last few years of his life. The I.G.S. did not, unfortunately, survive Howard's own death in 1953. However, as I, as an adolescent knew Howard for the last eight years of his life, I would like any venture setting out to stimulate interest in Leopold Godowsky to pay some tribute to the pioneering work which Paul Howard did. Since Howard neither met Godowsky, who had never been to Australia, nor was he a professional musician, how did such a Society come about. The answer lies in Howard‘s personality which was remarkable. Some facts about his working life are relevant. He was apprenticed to a photographer as a boy and later studied shorthand - to such good effect that he later set up an Australian record for speed copying. After a period of teaching in schools, he set up a correspondence college to train girls for secretarial work and later switches to subjects in which primary producers in Australia were interested, such as wool-classing. Correspondence courses had a particular importance in Australia where the vast distances isolate people. This provided the background for the I.G.S. in the sense that Howard became accustomed to handling large-scale correspondence. One of the pleasures of knowing him when I was a young man living in Adelaide was that of dropping in at his office to be entertained with letters from pianists and others from all over the world — heady stuff for an adolescent living in the relatively arid intellectual climate of Adelaide.
His family life was a happy and secure one. He was a devout Catholic, and I think that this account (by a local priest) of his last years gives a good picture of his personality: He would toddle into the sacristy with hat in hand and a joyful smile - a little man, with beautifully silky white hair, the soft skin and complexion of a cherub, the dancing eyes of a gay young child and a roguish laugh which might have been mistaken for that of a disarming old roue except that he was transparently a libertine in nothing but his generosity. He had been one of the first to kneel at the alter rails, his beloved Mumsie beside him, to receive the sacred Host; he had sat enraptured, overflowing with emotion and generous appreciation, often, he would tell you afterwards, with a tear in his eye, during a sermon which other, less generously emotional members of the congregation would probably be justly judging rather too long; and outside the Church, the duty of worship done, the devine word in a very full sense taken to heart and the devine gift received, he would be one of the first to light his cigarette, after wrapping it fastidiously in an extra piece of rice—paper, and it would dangle rakishly between his lips while he chaffed the ladies, or looked deep, deep into their peerless eyes — they were all beautiful creatures and they all had peerless eyes!
This description of his music room is by his son, Ray: “The Music Room! Who has entered it and forgotten? It's a crowded room; so much had to fit in: writing desk with bookcase above (there lay the birthday book with so many entries never forgotten); the handsome old gramophone; armchair; oh, don't forget the twin 6-foot grand Lipps. One of these Pop had purchased about 50 years ago from Kuhnel's. Besides this he possessed various other pianos over the years, and about 15 years ago began hunting for another. His friend, Mr. Fraser of Kuhnel's, happened to receive about this time the twin of the Lipp Pop already had, much to Pop's delight, for it had never been used save as a piece of decorative furniture and was in new condition. Needless to say, Pop purchased it. Were ever pianos more constantly used, more carefully tended?"
So much by way of background. Although Howard and Godowsky never met, they enjoyed a very considerable correspondence which, fortunately, is preserved and forms an invaluable source for an appreciation and understanding of Godowsky as an artist. In October 1932, he wrote to Howard: "Your indomitable enthusiasm for my work is an ever present encouragement to me. I have some great musicians and good friends who believe in the serious mission of my art, but you, a musical hermit, teaching and practising in the deserts of the antipodes are a musical Gandhi; a saintly fanatic.....I consider my Passacaglia and my Suite, the latter for the left hand alone, my most mature compositions, while I believe that my Etude Macabre is my most tragic and the Capriccio Patetico my most humanly touching. My four Poems I think would interest you: they are very personal - highly sensitized emanations of a battered soul. I have a large number of other works, too numerous to mention, which require sympathy, compassion and wisdom to approach them rightly". And again in May 1933: "My compositions have such a personal idiom, involved inner voices, complicated contrapuntal and polyrhythmic devices, sonorities of a new kind, that the hoi polloi of pianists keep away from them. They are too indolent mentally and physically to make the supreme effort. It was not my intention to be involved. The technical side of music, though it interests me, is not the one to attract me at the expense of the emotional. I am convinced that emotion is the prime requisite of art, though it must be tempered by knowledge and intelligence. I have never written a note that I did not feel. My music in myself divulged through sound".
These two examples give some idea of the quality of this correspondence, which began about 1932 and continued until Godowsky's death. It is the editors' intention to publish further excerpts from this and other material relating to Godowsky and his music. In particular I wish to draw attention and give more emphasis to Godowsky's achievement an original composer and not just that of a transcriber.