One of the most grown-up review sites around

55,028 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider


paid for


100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
Renate Eggbrecht has recorded all 3 violin Sonatas

FOGHORN Classics

Mozart Brahms
Clarinet Quintets

New Releases

Naxos Classical

Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10


Obtain 10% discount


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


Discs for review may be sent to:
Jonathan Woolf
76 Lushes Road
Essex IG10 3QB
United Kingdom
Ph. 020 8418 0616


REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers


Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Piano Quintet in E flat major, Op. 44 (1842) [28:01]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto No. 15 in B flat major, K450 (1784) [26:54]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
14 German Dances, D783 (1823-24) [7:17]
Elly Ney (piano)
Hoffman String Quartet
Chamber Orchestra of the German Opera House, Berlin/Ernst Schrader
rec. March 1944, Breslau, Seneraum (Schumann); October 1944 (Mozart) and December 1944 (Schubert) Funkhaus Masurenalee, Studio 1, Berlin
MELOCLASSIC MC1029 [67:56]

Recordings devoted to Elly Ney continue to appear from time to time, though they are largely devoted to her commercial legacy. This one mines studio recordings made in Berlin and Breslau in 1944 and captures her in the role as concerto soloist, chamber player and solo recitalist, a nice distribution of talents.

I’ve reviewed her late Colosseum recordings, where interested parties can delve further into some aspects of her controversial life. As for musical matters, this disc finds her essaying a favourite concerto and one that she had earlier recorded in 1935 with her first husband, the Dutch conductor Willem van Hoogstraaten. It can be found in transfers on several labels, not least Dutton, Document, Biddulph and – not a great transfer – Hänssler. The radio sound is typically fine and the performance is more relaxed and more expansive than her studio recording. It’s noticeable that in the slow movement Ernst Schrader directs very expressively, not moving on with things as Hoogstraaten did a decade earlier. Ney’s phrase endings are full of grace and if one considers them anachronistic, then compensation lies in the warm exchanges between her and the winds in the finale. Altogether, this amplifies her virtues as a Mozart pianist – though of course she was predominantly admired as a Beethoven specialist.

She can be heard solo in Berlin at the beginning of December 1944 playing fourteen of the German Dances, D783. In 1961 she was to record, in stereo, the 15 Dances (COL9025.12.2). This is hardly taxing material but it was the kind of thing that Ney, and indeed Myra Hess, enjoyed playing from time to time. The late stereo is technically a bit cleaner than this studio rendering, but Ney never much cared for the cult of perfection and though there is a touch of muddled phrasing now and then, there is arguably a more personable and characterful performance to be heard in 1944.

The Schumann Piano Quintet reminds us that Ney made a small series of significant 78rpm sets of chamber music with her ensemble in the 1930s. The Quartet in E flat, Op.47 was recorded by her group in 1936; Florizel von Reuter, Walter Trampler and Ludwig Hoelscher so it’s particularly interesting to come across Schumann’s E flat major Piano Quintet, Op.44 (Breslau, 14 March 1944). Here her colleagues are the Hoffman String Quartet; Norbert Hoffmann, Wilhelm Martens, Fritz Laur and Hans Adomeit. All four had reasonable careers. I know that Martens went on to the staff of the Deutsche Hochschule für Musik in East Berlin and made some recordings for Eterna. The performance, though, is somewhat erratically paced. The march is decidedly funereal, especially at the chosen tempo, and the group struggles to re-establish the tempo primo. The stormy middle section serves only to destabilise the music’s direction even more. You get a wholly different experience listening to the Busch Quartet with Rudolf Serkin a couple of years earlier in New York, as indeed you do with the Budapest with Balsam at the Library of Congress in 1953. There is some whir, presumably due to the recording machine tape, but the tone is very shrill. Ney didn’t seem to mind violinists who were quite coarse-toned, as Reuter was prone to be – Max Strub was a lot better – as long as the results were musically truthful, but the sound of the fiddles here in this treble-oriented recording is particularly brittle. The Hoffmann Quartet was certainly not in the front rank of German groups on disc.

Nevertheless it’s always valuable to hear Ney, not least in works that escaped commercial recording. The notes set the scene well, and don’t gloss over the pianist’s aberrant conduct during the Hitler years.

Jonathan Woolf




Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat



Recordings of the Month


piano music Vol 4


Songs of Love and Sorrow

Thomas Agerfeldt OLESEN
Cello Concerto

The female in Music




From Ocean’s Floor