Total dedication and accord
A portrait of piano duettists
Isabel Beyer and Harvey Dagul,
by BILL NEWMAN
I first met the husband and wife duo Isabel Beyer and Harvey Dagul at one of those special functions at the Austrian Institute in London. It was a quite unexpected pleasure for me as I, as usual, was feeling a trifle fed up, slightly sorry for myself at the lack of enthusiasm shown by my editor. He was insisting on high grade treatment on behalf of today's international artists with their world-wide coverage, while I was merrily ignoring him to seek out extra support and recognition for those music makers I personally believed in, a good number of whom I considered superior on all counts.
In the richly fertile period of broadcasting -- roughly the mid 1950s through to the mid 80s -- the BBC Third Programme, before it became Radio 3, shone out like some beacon of prominence towards widening cultural interest in the Arts generally, commanding sincere respect in place of today's endless hype by aiming to convey the truth of its opinions and decision makings, what programmes to feature and how best to choose the ideal performers. Gradually, a tremendous girth and spread of events resulted, much of which found agreement with my own personal desires, quests for excellence and emotional slants.
Suddenly I found myself tuning in to four hands on one grand piano, the like of which I hadn't enjoyed so much since the two-piano specialists Bartlett and Robertson, the Trimble Sisters or Cyril Smith and Phyllis Sellick. Isabel Beyer and Harvey Dagul offered one additional -- and invaluable -- incentive to their overall programmes which immediately caught the listeners' attention. They labelled it 'Inviting you to Share the Treasures of the Piano Duet Repertoire with a selection of pieces for your lasting enjoyment', and if you regard this as rather corny, since 1950 when they met as students at the Royal Academy of Music, they have researched a huge repertoire of forgotten and neglected music to delight audiences in Britain, France, Belgium and the United States. Another member of their family is their son, Guy -- also a composer -- who occasionally takes his place on the stool between his father and mother to perform works for six hands by Carl Czerny.
Isabel Beyer and Harvey Dagul
Harvey collected me by car outside St Albans Station. 'I find this a most important and necessary means of getting anywhere on time since I broke my leg' he communicated, showing me the sites of the cathedral town with its expanse of trees and hedgerows. Their house itself is bathed in sunlight, linking downstairs lounge, kitchen, and back garden with its marvellous green vegetables and flowering shrubs showing at their very finest in full bloom. Somehow, I envisaged knowing it already, feeling completely at home as I sat down to scoff some particularly appetising home-made cake!
Copyright © 20 January 2005
Bill Newman, Edgware UK