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A personal tribute by BILL NEWMAN


<< Continued from last week

A strong attachment grew up at this time between Moura and her young nephew and godson, Christopher Johnstone. She looked upon him as her surrogate son. Sadly missing this country since she occupied a small room in Paddington early in the war years, she decided to lease 44 Bruton Place, near Berkeley Square. It had previously belonged to Laurence Harvey and Margaret Leighton. Moura had it transformed into bright colours -- pink, red, vermilion, yellow -- bringing in potted palms and tropical plants. She bought a Mercedes car for a song, and had a greenhouse erected in the skylight of her study with power and heating to grow her favourite tropical fruits, and collecting seeds and cuttings at every opportunity. Entertaining became a top priority.

She visited Sir Clifford Curzon, then Herbert von Karajan and his charming wife Eliette, and sat on the jury of the Leeds Piano Competition. At a dinner party in 1970 she met Edward Heath, who invited her to his first premiership party. They have been close colleagues to this day, having much in common. Other close friends were the Sitwells -- Reresby and Penelope -- whose London flat became the site of several pleasurable interview-discussions we made together.

Concerned that her career was coming to an end, she had periods of anxiety which affected her playing. Then she felt a lump in her right breast. They operated. London agent Wilfrid van Wyck enquired: 'Are you cold inside, what's happened to you?' 'I had had cancer, and he recommended I contact Ilona Kabos, who had helped several people with problems and had a good ear.' Kabos stopped the flighty behaviour and the endless parties: 'Do you have to go to every one? It would be better if you practised!' Gradually it had an effect; she began to work hard again -- one hour's exercise each day -- Chopin Etudes -- to get her technique back. 'I started playing the way I felt, and from that moment I began to touch people.' When Kabos herself died of the same illness, it left an irreplaceable gap.

The recitals and concerts were now underway -- London, Great Yarmouth, Belgrade and Belgium -- then, on 6th January 1979 came the award of a CBE in the New Year's Honours List.

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Copyright © 5 June 2001 Bill Newman, Edgware, UK




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