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James Friskin (3 March 1886 in Glasgow – 16 March 1967 in New York City) was a Scottish-born pianist, composer and music teacher who relocated to the United States in 1914.

James Friskin
Born3 March 1886
Died16 March 1967
NationalityScottish, American
OccupationClassical music pianist, composer and teacher



Friskin studied at the Royal College of Music under Edward Dannreuther (for piano) and under Charles Villiers Stanford (for composition). After completing his studies, from 1909 to 1914 he taught at the Royal Normal College for the Blind. In 1914, he emigrated to the United States, where he taught at the Institute of Musical Arts. He was an original faculty member of the Juilliard Graduate School, and continued teaching there until his death.

He and the English-born composer and violist Rebecca Clarke (1886–1979) married in New York City in 1944.[1][2][3][4]

In 1925, he was the first pianist to perform J. S. Bach's Goldberg Variations in the United States.[5] He recorded that work in 1956.[citation needed] In 1934, he performed both books of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier in two recitals in New York.[5]

His obituarist in The New York Times wrote, "he became known as a Bach specialist long before others began specializing in baroque composers", and "he doesn't exaggerate or distort the music and plays Bach in a way that goes to the heart of the music. Friskin was not pedantic in his approach to Bach. Nor was he overly Romantic, an accusation that has been levelled at some of his more famous contemporaries."[5]


These include:[3][6]

  • Ballade in C major for piano
  • Cello Sonata in F major
  • Concert Overture
  • Elegy for viola or clarinet and piano (1912) [7]
  • Impromptu for cello and piano
  • Nocturne in E flat for piano
  • Phantasy for string quartet, winner of a Cobbett Prize in 1906 [8]
  • Phantasy for piano trio in E minor [9]
  • Phantasy Quintet (for piano, 2 violins, viola and cello) (1910 or 1912) [10]
  • Piano Concerto
  • Piano Quartet in G minor
  • Piano Quintet in C minor, Op. 1 (1907) [11]
  • Romance for cello and piano
  • Romance for violin and piano
  • Scherzo for cello and piano
  • Sonata for piano in A minor
  • Suite in D minor
  • Three Pieces for piano
  • Three Sacred Motets for unaccompanied five-part chorus
  • Violin Sonata in G major


  • Friskin, James (7 August 2014) [1921]. The Principles of Pianoforte Practice. Literary Licensing, LLC. ISBN 978-1498169189.
  • Friskin, James; Freundlich, Irwin (17 February 2011) [1954]. Music for the Piano: A Handbook of Concert and Teaching Material from 1580 to 1952 (Revised ed.). Dover Publications. ISBN 978-0486229188.


  1. ^ "James Friskin (Piano, Arranger)". Retrieved 22 April 2015.
  2. ^ "Industry Directory: James Friskin 1886–1967". Scottish Music Centre. Retrieved 22 April 2015.
  3. ^ a b "Unsung Composers: James Friskin 1886–1967". Retrieved 22 April 2015.
  4. ^ James Friskin at AllMusic. Retrieved 28 May 2015.
  5. ^ a b c "Obituary of James Friskin". The New York Times. March 1967.
  6. ^ Free scores by James Friskin at the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP)
  7. ^ James Friskin: Elegy, for viola & piano at AllMusic. Retrieved 28 May 2015.
  8. ^ James Friskin: Phantasie for string quartet at AllMusic. Retrieved 28 May 2015.
  9. ^ James Friskin: Phantasie in E minor, for piano trio at AllMusic. Retrieved 28 May 2015.
  10. ^ James Friskin: Phantasy, for piano & string quartet at AllMusic. Retrieved 28 May 2015.
  11. ^ James Friskin: Piano Quintet in C minor at AllMusic. Retrieved 28 May 2015.

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