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Global Fascinations and Sophistications

Elly Ney


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.

Elly Ney (c) 2000 Biddulph Recordings

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.

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Copyright © 27 December 2000 Bill Newman, Edgware, UK







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