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Colosseum Classics



Elly Ney (piano)
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Sonata in E flat major, Op. 7 (1796-7) [30:51]
Piano Sonata in C minor Op. 13, “Grande Sonate Pathétique” (1798-99) [21:19]
Piano Sonata in A flat major, Op. 26 (1800-01) [23:02]
Piano Sonata in C sharp minor, Op. 27 No. 2 Sonata quasi una Fantasia, “Moonlight”: (1801) [18:02]
Piano Sonata in D minor, Op. 31 No. 2 “The Tempest” (1801-02) [24:29]
Piano Sonata in E flat major, Op. 31 No. 3 (1801-02) [23:44]
Piano Sonata in C major, Op. 53 “Waldstein” (1803-04) [25:43]
Piano Sonata in F minor, Op. 57, “Appassionata” (1804-05) [25:43]
Piano Sonata in B flat major, Op. 106. “Für das Hammerklavier” – Adagio  (1817-18) [18:13]
Piano Sonata in E major, Op. 109 (1820) [17:02]
Piano Sonata in A flat major, Op. 110 (1821) [21:58]
Piano Sonata in C minor, Op. 111 (1821-22) [29:58]
Piano Sonata in C minor, Op. 111 (1821-22) [29:16]
Andante favori WoO 57 in F  (1804) [7:52]
Albumblatt fir Elise WoO 59 A minor (1810) [2:56]
Six Variations for piano on Nel cor piu non mi sento (1795) [4:50]
Variations in F major Op.34 (1802) [13:49]
Thirt Two Variations in C minor WoO 80 (1806) [12:08]
Rondo a capriccio in G major Op.129 Rage over a Lost Penny (1823) [5:41]
Six Ecossaise (1823) [2:37]
Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor Op.37 (1800) [40:43]
Piano Concerto No.4 in G major Op.58 (1805-06) [35:47]
Piano Concerto No.5 in E flat major Op.73 Emperor (1808-09) [41:18]
Elly Ney reads the Heiligenstadter Testament [12:08]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Rondo in A minor K511 (1787) [8:47]
Piano Sonata No.10 in C major K330 (1778) [21:49]
Piano Sonata No.11 in A major K331 (1778) [24:27]
Agnus Dei [0:24]
Andantino [0:50]
Wilhelm Friedemann BACH
Kein Halmlein wachst auf Erden [0:51]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Fifteen German Dances [9:05]
Wanderer Fantasy in C major D760 (1822) [22:44]
Impromptu in G flat (1827) [7:50]
Impromptu in A flat [8:37]
Impromptu in F minor [6:01]
Moment musical in A flat [5:21]
Moment musical in F minor [1:52]
Moment musical in C sharp minor [4:47]
Schlafe holder, susser Knabe [0:53]
Fruhlingsglaube [1;55]
Weisst du wieviel Sternlein stehen [0:41]
Gold’ne Abendsonne [0:37]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Symphonic Etudes Op,13 (1834) [27:07]
Symphonic Etudes – Appendix (posthumous) [14:25]
Wiegnlied [1;14]
Kind erwacht [0.24]
Traumerei [2:04]
Schlummerlied from Op.68 [5:02]
Novellete Op.21 No.1 in F major [5;40]
Warum? - Fantasiestuck Op.12 No.3 [3:09]
Christoph Willibald von GLUCK (1714-1787)
Gavotte [3:43]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Prelude in C [1:00]
Well Tempered Clavier BWV 870 – No.1 in C major [2:49]
Well Tempered Clavier BWV 870 – Fugue in C major [2:40]
Prelude No.21 in B flat major BWV 890 [1:30]
Cantata  No.22 Ertodt’ uns durch dein’ Gute [2:06]
Spoken introductions by Eleonore von Hoogstraten [0:30 + 0:30]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Piano Sonata No.1 in C major Op.1 – Andante and Scherzo  [6:10 + 2:05]
Piano Sonata No.3 in F minor Op.5 [39:01]
Romance in F major Op.185 No.5 [3:54]
Intermezzo in E flat minor Op.118 No.6 [5:38]
Intermezzo in E flat major Op.117 No.1 [4:53]
Rhapsody in E falt major Op.119 No.4 [5:18]
Chorale Prelude Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen Op.122 No.6 [1:24]
Brief Commentaries by Elly Ney [0:13 + 0:12]
Sandmannchen [1:45]
Guten Abend, gute Nacht [1:59]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Songs without Words
Funeral March Op.62 No.3 [3:23]
Andante con moto Op.19 No.1 [4:42]
Allegro vivace Op.102 No.5 [1;15]
Spring Song Op.62 No.6 [3:18]
Spinning Song Op.67 No.4 [2:04]
Andante sostenuto [1:47]
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Fantasie in F minor Op.49 (1840-41) [12;10]
Ballade in A flat Op.47 (1840-41) [7:21]
Nocturne in C minor [6:20]
Nocturne in G major [6:34]
Nocturne in F sharp major [3;34]
Reading from Rainer Maria Rilke – Das Karrussell – Jardin du Luxembourg spoken by Eleonore von Hoogstraten [1:55]
Reading from Rainer Maria Rilke – Spanische Tanzerin spoken by Eleonore von Hoogstraten [1:15]
Elly Ney (piano)
Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra/Willem van Hoogstraten
rec. 1960-68;  Readings by Eleonore von Hoogstraten recorded 2003
COLOSSEUM CLASSICS COL 9025-12.2 [12 CDs: 72:47 + 45:10 + 76:49 + 64:30 + 75:32 + 66:38 + 68:34 + 76:48 + 69:42 + 64:32 + 69:31 + 77:03]


This is a twelve CD edition of Ney’s complete late recordings for Colosseum, a company based in Nuremberg. Willy Luther, business manager of the town’s symphony orchestra, was also in charge of the record label and so recordings of three of the Beethoven concertos with Ney became possible. And much else of course. In addition to the large number of recordings issued at the time we have previously unpublished material. The second and third movements of Brahms’s First Sonata for example are included as is a brief spoken commentary from Ney. There is also the 1960 recording of Ney reading from the Heiligenstadter Testament (twelve minutes) and a collection of encore and lyric pieces. In addition the pianist’s daughter, Eleonore van Hoogstraten, recites poetry by Rilke (recorded in 2003) to recreate the ambience of some of the ”poetry and music” evenings enjoyed at the Ney house.

I’ve written about Ney before in the context of a Biddulph disc of some of her recordings from the 1930s (see review). I don’t propose to go into the details of her insalubrious and deplorable conduct during the Nazi years except to point out that the compact booklet notes offer a wholly inadequate and indeed farcical representation of her behaviour, which has been very well documented elsewhere - see for instance David Monod’s Settling Scores; German Music, DeNazification and the Americans 1945-1953 which was published by the University of North Carolina Press in 2005.

What’s important here is the quality of her musicianship in these, her last tranche of recordings made between 1960 and 1968, the year of her death. She performed indomitably, almost to the end. With so many performances it’s best to concentrate on a few salient features. She certainly retained her luminous tone to the last. It was a cardinal legacy of her years with Leschetizky and later with von Sauer; that much certainly cannot be gainsaid. What the newcomer to these late recordings will find is a sense of deliberation and precision that will fall on the ear either as prodigious depth or else as stolid aridity. There are times listening to these performances when polarities such as this are really the only possible, some may add permissible, response.

Her playing of Beethoven’s Pathetique is measured with a communing, calm grandeur about it. But there is something almost defiantly static about it that is a product of her methodology and not necessarily her age. It’s a feature that recurs throughout these recordings and will for many prove an insuperable burden to. One searches in vain for signs of mezzo piano in her playing of the Moonlight; it’s slow, halting and doughty. What this actually conveys, to me at least, is not breadth or significance but an almost self-willed sense of containment – limited dynamics, reduced internal contrasts and in the Waldstein a stifling sense of the agreed limits of expression. Her Appassionata is alternately static and brusque.

She was famous for her Beethoven of course and for performances of the last sonatas, Op.111 in particular. There’s a performance of her self-communing slow movement (only) of the Hammerklavier from the last year of her life. Op.109 witnesses the refined beauty and colour she could evoke – the Molto espressivo variation is remarkable for its beauty – as well as some peculiarities of pedalling and articulation. She rather indulges metrical shifts in the slow movement of Op.110. but its finale has a certain leonine and implacable nobility. The same could just be said of Op.111 of which she made multiple recordings. There are two such here; one is from 1968 and the other from 1965. We need really only concern ourselves with the later recording, which is spacious, considered, technically still in control, and deserving of respect. The 1965 performance comes from a disc of pieces recorded on Beethoven’s own Graf piano. This is of documentary interest only as it was in dire condition and makes a horrible racket.

The concertos were recorded with her husband Willem van Hoogstraten. The C minor is an exercise in deliberate note placement rather than any sense of generating any viable sense of dynamism – this can be possible even at a slow tempo but not here. The orchestra is so-so, the piano over-recorded in relation to it. Her responses to the orchestral statements in the G major are achingly protracted and intensely pliant. Her performance of the finale is possibly the most acceptable of any of the concerto movements. The E flat major concerto is splashy with a lot of covering pedal – more Corporal than Emperor.

When we listen to her in other composers’ music we find much the same virtues and weaknesses. Her Schumann  Symphonic Etudes is heavy, stentorian but at least up to tempo for much of the time. She lacks Kempff’s colour and mercurial touch. She plays the so-called Appendix, which is valuable. There are two Mozart sonatas here. K331 is – but you’ve guessed – ponderously done. This is internalised not externalised playing. The young Ney took risks in the studio; here things are turned to weight and also, as here, to dust. There’s not much sparkle in the finale, nor in K330 which is almost entirely inert.

Brahms’s Op.5 sonata was taped in 1961. It has a good sense of grandeur and nobility but it’s again weighted down too much for any real freedom of expression. Her playing of the smaller pieces is intriguing and better – deeply solemn in the E flat major Intermezzo for instance. Her F sharp major Chopin Nocturne is a Germanic lullaby and has slipped entirely its stylistic moorings. The disc of small pieces, some less than a minute long, is full of such heavy booted moments, though ones not without their own very personal concentration.

There’s also a Mendelssohn-Schubert-Chopin disc [CD 9]. I can’t understand why the G flat Impromptu is so catatonically slow or why it has no sense of drama other than she didn’t feel any for it. The companion A flat is docile with a very self-limited range of emotive response – an ”all passion spent long ago” performance. The Mendelssohn Andante con moto Op.19 No.1 is lovely but exhausting and pallid, despite the tonally luminous playing.

I think my views on Ney’s late recordings are more than clear but their presentation here has been accomplished with care and dedication. They’ve been out of print for forty years now and collectors, whether pro or contra (or a mixture of both), will find nothing less than first class restoration from Colosseum.

Jonathan Woolf 


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