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Colin Clarke
International Piano, October 2006

The sheer scope of these two volumes is staggering. I have nothing but admiration for Naxos for issuing this hymn to female pianists; and for Marina and Victor Ledin, the producers and audio restoration engineers. The scope of repertoire included is amaz­ing, yet it is the sheer excellence of the performances that impresses most. Both volumes span approxi­mately the same dates (1926-195012), although some of the 43 names spread over these two volumes will be more familiar than others.

Vol. I offers a magnificent, glowing Paean by Bax, played by Harriet Cohen (intimately associated with that composer), Marguerite Long playing Milhaud (truly superb sense of colour; cheeky end), Myra Hess in Debussy's Poissons d'or (magically evoked) and Maura Lympany in evocative Liszt (Les Jeux d'eau a la Villa d'Este). There is even one of Slenczynska's first recordings: a robust 1945 Rachmaninov G minor Prelude.

But there are delights from all sides - Ray Lev, delicious in Prokofiev; Sari Biro, the first woman to record Mussorgsky's Pictures, is also wonderful in Pick-Mangiagalli's Danse d'Olaf, although she cannot match Ciccolini's lightness (on DVD, EMI DVB 3 101939). The rediscovery of some of this reper­toire is one of the pleasures here. Iris Loveridge's Evening Whispers (Palmgren) is simply gorgeous and truly crepuscular, while the very next piece, an Arensky Etude de concert (played by Leschetizky pupil Marie Novello) is prime encore material of the first order. The highlight of vol. I ? For me, Hilde Somer's delicious, infectious rendering of Grunfeld's Soiree de Vienne (Somer was the dedicatee of Ginastera's Second Piano Concerto).

Ania Dorfman, possibly most famous for her Beethoven performances with Toscanini, starts vol. 2 with an exciting Schumann : Aufschwung' (Fantasiestücke). Blanche Selva, dedicatee of the second book of Albeniz's Iberia, plays Garreta's Sardona in a rather 'bathroomy' acoustic, but delightfully nonetheless. In a confined review space one can only identify highlights again - but what highlights!. Danish pianist Johanne Stockmarr gives her all to Dohnányi's Third Rhapsody, while there are jaw-dropping technical feats from Raie de Costa in her 1930 version of Liszt's 'Rigoletto' Paraphrase, closely followed by Galina Werschenska's delightful 'Spinning Song' from Dutchman (Liszt transcribing again), spring-like in its freshness. To close, two classics in their different ways: Lili Kraus's Bartók (Six Romanian Folk Dances) is among the best Bartók playing I have heard, rustic of gait, with stunning use of the pedal - the pieces really do dance; and, finally, Leah Effenbach's unbuttoned version of Boogie-Woogie Etude (Gould). This is simply outrageous playing!.

There are real gems here. Not too much early music, but Kathleen Long's Le Tic-Toc-Choc is magnificently articulated. For sheer fun, try France Marguerite Ellegaard's version of Ibert"s 'Le petit âne blanc'; for nostalgia, try Ellen Bailon's Villa-Lobos (Choros no.5). Annotations are very detailed, although the order of pianists discussed does not match the playing. The programmes play very smoothly and satisfyingly. Bravo to all concerned!



Colin Clarke
MusicWeb International, October 2006

The sheer scope of these two volumes is staggering. I have nothing but admiration for Naxos for issuing this hymn to female pianists; and for Marina and Victor Ledin, the producers and audio restoration engineers. The scope of repertoire included is amaz­ing, yet it is the sheer excellence of the performances that impresses most. Both volumes span approxi­mately the same dates (1926-195012), although some of the 43 names spread over these two volumes will be more familiar than others.

Vol. I offers a magnificent, glowing Paean by Bax, played by Harriet Cohen (intimately associated with that composer), Marguerite Long playing Milhaud (truly superb sense of colour; cheeky end), Myra Hess in Debussy's Poissons d'or (magically evoked) and Maura Lympany in evocative Liszt (Les Jeux d'eau a la Villa d'Este). There is even one of Slenczynska's first recordings: a robust 1945 Rachmaninov G minor Prelude.

But there are delights from all sides - Ray Lev, delicious in Prokofiev; Sari Biro, the first woman to record Mussorgsky's Pictures, is also wonderful in Pick-Mangiagalli's Danse d'Olaf, although she cannot match Ciccolini's lightness (on DVD, EMI DVB 3 101939). The rediscovery of some of this reper­toire is one of the pleasures here. Iris Loveridge's Evening Whispers (Palmgren) is simply gorgeous and truly crepuscular, while the very next piece, an Arensky Etude de concert (played by Leschetizky pupil Marie Novello) is prime encore material of the first order. The highlight of vol. I ? For me, Hilde Somer's delicious, infectious rendering of Grunfeld's Soiree de Vienne (Somer was the dedicatee of Ginastera's Second Piano Concerto).

Ania Dorfman, possibly most famous for her Beethoven performances with Toscanini, starts vol. 2 with an exciting Schumann : Aufschwung' (Fantasiestücke). Blanche Selva, dedicatee of the second book of Albeniz's Iberia, plays Garreta's Sardona in a rather 'bathroomy' acoustic, but delightfully nonetheless. In a confined review space one can only identify highlights again - but what highlights!. Danish pianist Johanne Stockmarr gives her all to Dohnányi's Third Rhapsody, while there are jaw-dropping technical feats from Raie de Costa in her 1930 version of Liszt's 'Rigoletto' Paraphrase, closely followed by Galina Werschenska's delightful 'Spinning Song' from Dutchman (Liszt transcribing again), spring-like in its freshness. To close, two classics in their different ways: Lili Kraus's Bartók (Six Romanian Folk Dances) is among the best Bartók playing I have heard, rustic of gait, with stunning use of the pedal - the pieces really do dance; and, finally, Leah Effenbach's unbuttoned version of Boogie-Woogie Etude (Gould). This is simply outrageous playing!.

There are real gems here. Not too much early music, but Kathleen Long's Le Tic-Toc-Choc is magnificently articulated. For sheer fun, try France Marguerite Ellegaard's version of Ibert"s 'Le petit âne blanc'; for nostalgia, try Ellen Bailon's Villa-Lobos (Choros no.5). Annotations are very detailed, although the order of pianists discussed does not match the playing. The programmes play very smoothly and satisfyingly. Bravo to all concerned!



Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb International, August 2006

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.

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.






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1:55:32 AM, 17 April 2014
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