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Elly Ney (piano)
The complete Brunswick & Electrola solo 78rpm recordings
rec. 1922-1938
APR 7311 [3 CDs: 232:00]

This 3-CD set of Elly Ney’s pre-war 78s gathers together her complete Brunswick and Electrola solo and concerto recordings. Many of the Electrolas have seen the light of day before on several CD incarnations, but the American Brunswick acoustic recordings are reissued on CD for the first time.

Elly Ney was born in Düsseldorf in 1882. Her teachers included Isidor Seiss and Karl Bötcher in Cologne and, after winning the Mendelssohn Prize aged 16, she went on to study with Theodor Leschetizky and later with Emil von Sauer in Vienna. She taught for three years at the Cologne Conservatory, before deciding her true vocation lay in performance. She launched her career as a virtuoso in Holland, then toured Europe and the United States. In 1911 she married the Dutch conductor Willem van Hoogstraten, with whom she had a daughter Eleonore (1918–2007). When the couple divorced in 1927, Ney married Paul Allais, an American coal dealer from Chicago. This union was short-lived and she eventually got back with van Hoogstraten. In 1927 she was honoured with the freedom of Bonn. In 1932 she founded the Elly Ney Trio with Wilhelm Stross (violin) and Ludwig Hoelscher (cello). After the war, the city of Bonn banned her from giving concerts because of her Nazi associations. In 1952 she was named Honorary Citizen of Tutzing. In her last years she toured, specializing in Beethoven. She died in Tutzing in 1968.

It was at the feet of her grandmother that Ney cultivated a longstanding love of Beethoven, and the composer became a speciality. Her mature style was tailor-made for the nobility and grandeur of this music, and the results were interpretations notable for their sense of architecture and structure as well as great profundity. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the great valedictory sonata of Op. 111. Storm and surge inform the opening movement, whilst the Arietta has a probing timeless quality, which leaves the listener with an overwhelming sense of peace, tranquillity and inevitability. From 1937 there's a compelling recording of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat. The unnamed orchestra is directed by Fritz Zaun. The outer movements have never sounded so fresh and infused with life, whilst the central Adagio is heartfelt. This latter quality can also be found in slow movement of the Sonata Pathétique.

Mozart’s Concerto No. 15 is poised and refined and I love the way Ney enunciates the lines. She emphasises the tender lyricism in the slow movement and the finale positively bristles with geniality and exuberance. The Strauss Burleske is as high-octane a performance as any I've encountered. There's sufficient contrast between sections of dazzling virtuosity and dreamy romanticism. In both cases she receives admirable support from her husband, the conductor Willem van Hoogstraten.

The Schubert Impromptu in F minor is graced with pearl-like finger work and diaphanous runs. Kinderszenen alternates introspective pieces with more exhilarating ones, maintaining an elusive child-like quality and sense of wonder when required. The Brahms Intermezzo Op. 117/1 is sensitive and poetic, whilst the 'lullaby' Waltz Op. 29/15 is seductive and lilting.

CD 3 contains eleven Brunswick inscriptions, set down between 1922 and 1924. All were recorded acoustically and consist of encore-type fare. Beethoven's Ecossaises, in an arrangement by Eugen d'Albert, exudes light-hearted fun and vitality. Schubert's F minor Moment Musical is played with zest and piquancy. Ney invests plenty of personality into Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 8. The sparkling Kleine Waltzer by Teresa Carreño is a delightful rarity, tellingly inflected. I found the two Chopin pieces disappointing. The Étude in E, Op. 10 No. 3 sounds too deliberate, and the Nocturne in F sharp, Op. 15. No. 2 is a bit regimented and lacking in poetry. The gem of the Brunswick selection is the Debussy Feux d'artifice, scintillating and brimming over with coruscating brilliance.

With the exception of the Mozart Rondo in A minor, K511, the contents of CD1 and the entire CD 2 have been taken from Biddulph's transfers (BD82045 and LHW033) and remastered, with a number of pitching errors corrected. I briefly sampled a few random tracks from both Biddulph and APR and the latter, to my ears, sounded marginally more quiet regarding surface noise, brighter and vivid, with greater presence.

I found Jonathan Summers’ illuminating notes most helpful.

Stephen Greenbank

CD 1 [80’42]
Electrola recordings 1934-1938
1-3. MOZART Piano Concerto No 15 in B flat major K450, UNNAMED ORCHESTRA / WILLEM VAN HOOGSTRATEN
4. MOZART Rondo in A minor K511
5-7. BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No 2 in B flat major Op 19, LANDESORCHESTER, BERLIN / FRITZ ZAUN

CD 2 [75’30]
Electrola recordings 1936-1938
1-4. Sonata No 4 in E flat major Op 7
5. Andante favori in F major WoO57; 6. Sonata No 8 in C minor Op 13 2nd movement
7. Six Variations on ‘Nel cor più non mi sento’ WoO70
8-9. Sonata No 32 in C minor Op 111

CD 3 [76’07]
Electrola recordings 1934-1938
1. SCHUBERT Impromptu in F minor D935/4; 2. Moment musical in C sharp minor D780/4
3-15. SCHUMANN Kinderszenen Op 15
16. BRAHMS Intermezzo in E flat Op 117/1; 17. Romance in F Op 118/5
18. Rhapsody in E flat Op 119/4
19. Intermezzo in A flat Op 76/3; 20. Waltz in A flat Op 39/15
Brunswick recordings 1922–1924
21. BEETHOVEN/D’ALBERT Ecossaises WoO83;
22. SCHUBERT Moment musical in F minor D780/3
23. MENDELSSOHN Song without words ‘Spinning song’ Op 67/4
24. CHOPIN Étude in E Op 10/3; 25. Nocturne in F sharp Op 15/2
26. LISZT Hungarian Rhapsody No 8 S244/8
27. SCHUBERT/LISZT ‘Hark, Hark! The Lark’ Ständchen von Shakespeare, S558/9
28. SCHUBERT/LISZT Valse-caprice No 7 in A, Soirées de Vienne, S427/7
29. BRAHMS Hungarian Dance No 2 in D minor WoO1
30. TERESA CARREÑO Kleiner Walzer
31. DEBUSSY Feux d’artifice, Préludes Book II No 12

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