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Three Great Danish Woman Pianists: Stockmarr; Ellegaard; Werschenska
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

Sonata in E flat major K282
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Für Elise
Menuetto from Sonata Op. 10 No. 3
Sonata in E flat major Op. 81a Les Adieux
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)

Nocturne in E flat major Op. 9 No. 2
Valse in C sharp minor Op. 64 No. 2
Berceuse Op. 57
Domenico SCARLATTI (1685-1757) arr. Carl TAUSIG (1841-1871)

Ernö von DOHNÁNYI (1877-1960)

Rhapsody in C major Op. 11
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)

Norwegian Bridal Procession; Lyric Pieces Op. 19 No. 2
Johanne Stockmarr (1869-1944) (piano) recorded 1926-1942
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)

Polonaise in A major Op. 40
Valse in C sharp minor Op. 64 No. 2
Fantasie-Impromptu Op. 56
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2
Liebestraum No. 3
La Campanella
Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946)

Danse rituelle du feu
César FRANCK (1822-1890)

Prelude, Chorale et Fugue
France Ellegaard (piano) (b. 1912) recorded 1943-53
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)

Sonata in B minor Op. 35
Valse in C sharp minor Op. 64 No. 2
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Ecossaises E flat major
Johan Nepomuk HUMMEL (1778-1837)

Rondo Favori in E flat major
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883) arr. Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

Spinning Chorus from The Flying Dutchman
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)

Rhapsody in G minor Op. 79 No. 2
Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915)

Prelude in C sharp minor Op. 11 No. 10
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)

Prelude in C major Op. 12 No. 1
March from The Love of Three Oranges
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)

Prelude in C minor Op. 23
Galina Werschenska (1906-1994) (piano) recorded 1946-50

DANACORD DACOCD 442-443 [2 CDs: 159.08]

The title of this disc is a bit of a mouthful and the geographical truth of the matter is that of the three only Johanne Stockmarr was Danish-born. France Ellegaard hailed from Paris and Galina Werschenska came from a long established patrician St Petersburg family. Though there was concert-giving overlap between them – they were all active to some degree domestically between 1929-44 – I suspect that the big name here, Stockmarr, will command the majority of interest. She was an exceptional artist and had been nurtured in an intensely musical environment. One of her earliest teachers was the Moravian cellist and composer Franz Neruda, long since a Danish resident, whose sister Wilhelmine was later better known as Lady Hallé and with whom the young Johanna was to tour. A Royal Court pianist and a friend and noted exponent of Grieg she was highly popular in Britain – where she made her first discs – and her long career lasted up until death in 1944. The bulk of her discs here date from two years before this, though there is a scattering of 1926-30 material. One of the most extended is the Mozart K282 and here we can immediately appreciate a number of things; the concentrated seriousness of her playing in the Adagio opening, the spaciousness engendered through subtlety of rubato and the depth of her tone. There is a mellowness and articulacy to the Menuetto as well that is attractive and that reveals her expressive nuance. Les Adieux finds her once more full of depth and superfine right hand tracery the opening movement. Elsewhere she is a little stretched by some physical and technical demands but Le Retour triumphs in spite of them. There is a natural aristocracy of phrasing in Chopin’s Nocturne in E flat – nothing’s over accented – and there is real dash and sweeping splendour to the Dohnányi Rhapsody.

France Ellegaard recorded her selection of eight items between 1943 and 1953. She was popular in Denmark and proves herself a pianist in the boldest of French traditions. There are some delicious filigree voicings and effects in the Chopin Waltz in C sharp minor; pedalling is light albeit with slightly too much rubato; intensity is generated through a slow-ish tempo. Ideally if she’d played in tempo her lightness would have been even more effective but she proves she was, at her best, an inventive, imaginative player who constantly changes colour. Above all she’s frequently very stylish. Elsewhere she can be rather more erratic – the Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody gets a rather on/off performance for example and Liebestraum is not so good – I don’t think he was her forte. Her Franck Prelude, Chorale and Fugue is a little pallid in places and cool as well.

The final member of this conjoined trio is Galina Werschenska. After her move to Denmark she received plenty of advice from Stockmarr, Henriques and Anton Svendsen. She had a piano trio and formed a duo with the fine cellist Louis Jensen but soloistic ambitions took the upper hand. Though her career rather petered out in the 1950s – her husband was killed in a car crash and she later developed a disabling neuritis – she continued playing on a much more limited scale. The bulk of her discs derive from 1946 sessions. Her Chopin Sonata lacks a little dramatic realization but other things go very well indeed. Her Hummel is pertly attractive in the finest tradition, her Beethoven Ecossaises splendid. When it comes to the leonine Brahms’ Rhapsody in G minor I find that she does rather lose out on the potential for implicit drama though it’s otherwise convincing on its own terms. The series of Preludes clearly show her priorities – Scriabin, Prokofiev, Rachmaninov - the music of her Russian inheritance. The control, the evenness and the wit all mark her out as a notable exponent of this repertoire, even if the Rachmaninov Prelude in C is rather limited in terms of actual projection.

The documentation here is really excellent – I owe much to the biographical details – and the two discs are a most worthwhile conspectus of these three very varied women, whose geographical origins and stylistic imperatives were themselves disparate. I’m sure the curious listener will derive great pleasure from this laudable set.

Jonathan Woolf

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