Who left more of a legacy to mankind, a German chancellor or a Jewish pianist? At the end of January, excited headlines announced that a previously unknown 1889 recording of the voice of Prussian ruler Otto von Bismarck was discovered by a scholar digging in the archives of sound pioneer Thomas Edison.
An overlooked find in the same trove is of unquestioned cultural importance to devotees of musical Yiddishkeit. The Jewish pianist and composer Alfred Grünfeld, born in Prague in 1852, is accepted as the first truly great pianist to make records. His previously known earliest recordings, from 1899, preceded other mighty keyboard colleagues’ first such efforts by a full decade.