Joanna Leach (1937-2011) - a tribute from
Mike Beville and Andreas Boyde
Leach, pianist and record producer died on 8th April, 2011 after
9 years of fighting ovarian cancer. Joanna was born in Calcutta,
British India in 1937. The family returned to England and settled
in Cornwall after the war. Her grandmother was an accomplished
pianist and Joanna was exposed to music from an early stage.
She went on to study in Vienna under Josef Dichler and in London
with Peter Katin. She gave recitals at the Wigmore Hall, Purcell
Room, St. John's Smith Square and also at the Franz Liszt Academy
Budapest both as soloist and chamber musician. However, her
prodigious talent was fully realised when she discovered her
love for English square pianos of the late 18th /early 19th
century. This new musical discovery led to the launch of Athene
Records, a label that specialised in period instruments.
The first CD was released in 1991 with Joanna Leach performing
the John Field Nocturnes on three period square pianos. Bryce
Morrison of Gramophone wrote: "She most persuasively suggests
an intimacy and transparency of sound hard to parallel on more
modern brilliant and forceful instruments . . . Any singer on
hearing these performances would surely congratulate Leach on
her 'vocal' line, so richly and delicately embellished."
This was the beginning of a series of CDs that amplify her unique
approach to some of the well known repertoire performed within
an authentic setting. Her artistic accomplishments were internationally
recognised and her discs were selected by encyclopedic guides
as benchmark recordings.
Joanna Leach produced a series of other artists and the label
branched out in 1996 to include recordings of contemporary instruments,
live concert broadcasts and orchestral performances. Divine
Art Recordings Group continues the legacy of Athene Records.
Despite her illness Joanna continued as an active performer
and her last recordings made in late 2010 and in March 2011
show her at the height of her artistry. On Saturday 16th April,
German Radio is highlighting one of her Field Nocturnes.
reviews on MusicWeb International