Global Fascinations and Sophistications
While on a Salzburg holiday during the late 60s, I espied a notice that
announced veteran pianist's Elly Ney welcome return in a recital
the week before my arrival. I was naturally very upset that having missed
her post-war Royal Festival appearance, I was deprived of this precious
opportunity of hearing her especially as her recordings on Electrola, Deutsche
Grammophon and Colisseum had become prize items in my collection. She died
shortly after at the age of 86, but I am grateful to Biddulph Recordings
for reissues of her Brahms B flat major Concerto, and now a coupling of
Mozart Piano Concerto 15, Beethoven's Second Concerto in B flat and
the lovely Strauss Burleske -- the very first recording of the work,
and probably the best.
A pupil of Leschetizky and Sauer whilst a student at Cologne University,
she eventually taught there, and travelled Europe and the USA during her
younger career, her specialities the German Classics -- Schumann, Mendelssohn,
as well as Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms, and Chopin, although she was asked
to play Tchaikovsky No.1 at the 1930 London Proms.
Married first to the Dutch violinist-conductor Willem van Hoogstraten,
they became reunited when her second husband died. Proof of their wonderfully
balanced, understanding partnership shines through the Mozart and Strauss
-- her intimate playing and the sympathetic accompaniment. These are superbly
graded performances of chamber like quality, rippling scale passages leading
from poetically phrased melodies, a real feeling for eloquence in the Mozart
slow movement, grace and elegance throughout the finale. The Strauss is
remarkable in the way it slants satire against a backwash of decaying, imperialistic
charm for ballrooms and big occasions, her exquisite touch tempered by a
slight emphasis of passing regret for a bygone age in the extended passage
that leads to the exciting coda.
Her younger Cologne compatriot Fritz Zaun becomes a kindred soul in the
Beethoven -- the reading slightly slower than any heard at the present time,
rightly more classical than romantic as it was the first accepted keyboard
concerto the composer wrote [listen -- track 6, 0:00-1:00].
Interpretively, I place it above Clara Haskil and Myra Hess, and it denotes
her whole approach to musicmaking by insisting -- as she did to chamber music
colleagues -- a common approach where everyone was in agreement; then she
asked them for another, quite different approach, and the second run through!
Despite her eternal allegiance to the Nazi party -- Hitler conferred upon
her the title of 'Professor' in 1937 -- here was an artist who placed the
score first, adored both as a performer and a teacher.
Copyright © 27 December 2000
Bill Newman, Edgware, UK
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