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Women at the Piano – An anthology of Historic Performances Volume 1 (1926-1952)
Selim PALMGREN (1878-1951)
Spring, Op. 47: No. 1. Evening Whispers [02:56]
Iris Loveridge
Alfred GRÜNFELD (1852-1924)
Soiree de Vienne, Op. 56 [06:01]
Hilde Somer
François COUPERIN (1668-1733)
Pieces de Clavecin, Book 3, 14th Ordre in D major-minor: VI. Le carillon de Cithere: [02:42]
Gaby Casadesus
Pastels, Op. 24: No. 3. Feux-follets, "Will-of-the-Wisp" [01:53]
Guiomar Novaes
Arnold BAX (1883-1953)
Paean [03:40]
Harriet Cohen
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Music for Children, Op. 65: No. 2. Valse [01:17]
Ray Lev
Darius MILHAUD (1892-1974)
L'automne, Op. 115: No.2. Alfama [02:36]
Marguerite Long
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Images, Book 2: III. Poissons d'or (The Gold Fish) [03:35]
Myra Hess
Ignacy Jan PADEREWSKI (1860-1941)
Humoresques de concert, Op. 14: No. 6. Cracovienne fantastique in B minor [02:36]
Una Bourne
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Harpsichord Suite No. 7 in G minor, HWV 432: VI. Passacaglia [03:16]
Maryla Jonas
Gabriel PIERNÉ (1863-1937)
Etude de Concert, Op. 13 [04:02]
Lucette Descaves
Country Jig in D major [02:27]
Jeanne Behrend,
Fructuoso VIANNA
Corta-jaca [03:47]
Reah Sadowsky
Emmanuel CHABRIER (1841-1894)
Bourree fantasque [05:53]
Emma Boynet
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Années de pélerinage, 3rd year, S163/R10: IV: Les jeux d'eau à la villa d'Este [07:51]
Moura Lympany
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
6 Etudes, Op. 111: No. 6. Toccata [03:05]
Monique de la Bruchollerie
Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946)
4 Pièces espagnoles: IV. Andaluza [03:16]
Aline Isabelle van Barentzen
3 Pieces, Op. 5: No. 3. Menuetto scherzando [03:23]
Eileen Joyce
Anton Stepanovich ARENSKY (1841-1906)
24 Characteristic Pieces, Op. 36: No. 13. Etude de Concert in F sharp major [02:28]
Marie Novello
2 Lunaires, Op. 33: No. 2. La danza di Olaf [03:35]
Sari Biro
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
12 Etudes d'execution transcendante, S139/R2b: No. 5 in B major, Feux follets [03:34]
Jean-Marie Darré
Sergei RACHMANINOFF (1873-1943)
10 Preludes, Op. 23: No. 5 in G minor [03:22]
Ruth Slenczynska
Rec. 1926-1952. ADD
NAXOS HISTORICAL 8.111120 [77.28]

Twenty-two pianists, united by their sex, jostle for disc space in this tightly packed volume from Naxos covering the years 1926-52. The second volume in this series is already lined up and promises us twenty more. Nationalities are widespread but there are some consonances between them, not least in respect of their teachers; Matthay in London but more especially Isidore Phillip in Paris; Monique de la Bruchollerie, Guiomar Novaes and Emma Boynet all studied with that most distinguished pedagogue. Certainly there is also the programmatic question to consider, as the majority of these twenty-two pieces are firefly morceaux, encore morsels or rhythmically enticing dance-dramas. But if one considers the recital as a glimpse at some under-sung performances – mixed in with the leavening of internationally accepted great players – then it makes for some diverting listening.
I’d like to hear more of Monique de la Bruchollerie who was apparently the first French pianist to record concertos by Brahms, Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov back in the 1950s. Her Saint-Saëns is in the best French style, clear and spirited. That Iris Loveridge became better known as a specialist in British music shouldn’t blind us to her real talents throughout the repertoire though her Palmgren can offer only the tiniest chink of light on that part of her career. Her compatriot Marie Novello has a niche place in specialists’ hearts. Notwithstanding the fact that she was a Leschetizky pupil her discs, the few she made before her wretchedly early death at thirty, show a finished artist. Naxos has gone for the best recorded, her 1927 HMV, though her earlier Winners and Edison Bells are just as impressive musically speaking. It seems as if she’d just contracted with HMV which would have raised her profile substantially; she died of cancer the following year. 
Occasionally the net widens in respect of source material and that’s the case with Sari Biro’s transcription disc. She was the first woman to recorded Pictures at an Exhibition the notes tell us, back in 1951. Reah Sadowsky glitters in the moto perpetuo heroics of the Vianna, with its saucy Mediterranean sway, and we can also enjoy the de Falla specialist Aline Isabelle van Barentzen as she performs music with which she was so intimately associated. Harriet Cohen is here, performing Bax’s Paean as is Ruth Slenczynska, a pianist I greatly admire (listen out for her Ivory Classics CDs), playing Rachmaninov; she takes time to get going but the disc comes from her own (semi-official?) label. Hilde Sommer is captured on an Austrian Remington.
The big names pianists – Hess, Long, Novaes, Casadesus, Joyce (brilliant as ever), Darré – will someone please release her early 1950s LP collaboration with Maurice Maréchal – hardly require much comment.
As for sound quality, well, doubtless I’m becoming a bore on this subject but however superficially attractive it may be to erase surface noise the problem is what you lose with it. This disc promotes the middle frequencies at the expense of treble. I ran my Novello and Hess 78s alongside these transfers and the starvation in the higher frequencies was all too audible. But the compensation for those who were not reared on extraneous noise is no shellac hiss.
The biographical documentation is first class - to the point, not flowery but very relevant. My only problem is that the notes trace the pianists chronologically whilst the track-listing doesn’t so I can guarantee you will be flicking back and forth trying to relate each woman’s date of birth with the relevant section in the booklet. But you can cope with that.
Jonathan Woolf




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