The ladies who launched pianistic careers - 20 more join the Naxos ranks
Like Vol 1 (9/06), Naxos's intriguing "Women at the Piano" Vol 2 opens with a literary salute, this time from George Eliot who proclaims "a woman's rank lies in the fullness of her womanhood; therein alone she is royal". This splendid sentiment is followed by Marina and Victor Ledin's research which tells us that 250 women recorded in the first half of the 20th century. Later they hold up to ridicule the cliché that among pianists men are stronger, women more sensitive. I recall, in our own times, Cecile Ousset's scorn on reading that she looked like Delilah but played like Samson.
Once again Naxos's selection suggests a time of mastery and freedom long before the pesudo-precision of scissors-and-paste editing. There is Ania Dorfmann (who later recorded with Toscanini) with her exultant tub-thumping bass emphasis in Schumann's Aufschwung and Ginette Doyen's proficient if earthbound (compared with Moseiwitsch) way with Weber's Moto perpetuo. Johanne Amalie Stockmarr is less stylish and scintillating than Eileen Joyce in Dohnányi's C major Rhapsody but Olga Samaroff (born Olga Hickenlooper of Texas) revels in Lecuona's Andalucia music once used to accompany sequined jugglers and acrobats.
Madeleine de Valmalete's Rachmaninov Barcarolle takes virtuoso flight and if Yolanda Mero's offering - Max Vogerich's Staccato-Caprice - is essentially Christmas-cracker music, it is played with verve and relish. Lili Kraus is freely expressive in Bartok, and Kathleen Long, celebrated for her cool and musicianly championship of Faure, is delightful in Couperin. Irene Scharrer's performance of Chopin's Fantaisie- Impromptu is another winner, compensating for rather too many trinkets of the sort a jackdaw might collect. Vol 3 is eagerly awaited.