MONIQUE DE LA BRUCHOLLERIE
Through her mother’s family, Bruchollerie was a descendant of French composer François Adrien Boïeldieu and her father was a cousin of André Messager. Bruchollerie studied as a child with Isidor Philipp, who was a family friend. Under his guidance at the age of thirteen she won a premier prix at the Paris Conservatoire and was awarded the Pagès Prize, an honour given every five years to the best premier prix winner. For this prestigious prize Bruchollerie played Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in A flat Op. 110, Schumann’s Carnaval Op. 9, Chopin’s Ballade No. 4 in F minor Op. 52 and a mazurka from Op. 50, Fauré’s Nocturne No. 7 and Balakirev’s Islamey.
She continued her studies in Paris with Alfred Cortot, and in Vienna with Liszt pupil Emil von Sauer. After gaining third prize at the Vienna Competition, Bruchollerie entered the Chopin Competition of 1937, where Yakov Zak won the first prize, and was placed seventh (Witold Malcuzyński was third). The following year she gained tenth place at the Ysaÿe Competition in Brussels, where she also met Emil Gilels with whom she remained friends. As early as 1946 Bruchollerie was invited to Poland with the National Polish Philharmonic Orchestra and returned many times during the 1950s. In 1948 she gave a highly-praised concert at the Salle Pleyel, where she played three piano concertos with Charles Munch and the Société des Concerts du Conservatoire.
Bruchollerie made her debut in the USA with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Ernest Ansermet on 14 December 1951; and at Carnegie Hall in New York, when she played Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor Op. 30 with the same forces in February 1952, she ‘…reaped an immense triumph’ according to critic Olin Downes. A week later she gave her New York recital debut, also at Carnegie Hall, playing Bach, Mozart, Chopin’s Piano Sonata in B flat minor Op. 35, five pieces by Debussy and Saint-Saëns’s Toccata. A month later Bruchollerie gave the New York première of a piano concerto by Jean Rivier conducted by George Szell.
When she returned to give another solo recital at Carnegie Hall in March 1953, Bruchollerie was described as displaying ‘…playing of unquenchable enthusiasm and exuberance’. Her programme consisted of Bach’s Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue BWV 903, Mozart’s Piano Sonata in C major K. 545, short pieces by Brahms, Chopin and Shostakovich, the Theme and Variations Op. 3 by Szymanowski, and Prokofiev’s Piano Sonata No. 3 Op. 28. She also played in Philadelphia, Chicago and other American cities, whilst through the rest of the world she performed in North and South America, Russia and Africa and gave a series of concerts in Germany with Sergiu Celibidache.
Throughout her career as a pianist Bruchollerie always devoted time to teaching, and held a professorship at the Paris Conservatoire. During a tour of central Europe in 1966 she suffered a car accident in Romania which interrupted her career and thereafter left her infirm with permanent damage to her left hand.
Bruchollerie made a few sides for the French company Pacific around 1950: Beehoven’s Piano Sonata in A flat Op. 110 and a disc of Tausig’s arrangements of Scarlatti’s Pastorale and Capriccio demonstrate playing of a strong personality. Her main recordings were those made for HMV in 1947 and a few LPs for American Vox in the early 1950s. Of the HMV recordings made in England, the best is a riveting performance of Chopin’s Ballade No. 4 in F minor, one of the finest versions of this work on disc. Apart from a Haydn Sonata in E minor, the only other recordings she made for HMV were two ten-inch sides: the first, a toccata by Saint-Saëns, in which it is evident that Bruchollerie was not solely a pianist in the French tradition; and the second, an arrangement by her teacher Philipp of some of Schubert’s Valses caprices. After her debut in the USA, Bruchollerie was signed by Vox in 1952, making LPs of concertos by Tchaikovsky and Brahms, as well as the Variations Symphoniques of César Franck. Her recording of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor Op. 23, recorded in Vienna in 1952, brims with energy and excitement and in no way is overshadowed by the recordings of Gilels or Horowitz. Perhaps her best LP is a brilliant performance of Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini Op. 43, in which she is partnered by Jonel Perlea and the Concerts Colonne Orchestra. An LP of Mozart concertos, K. 466 and K. 488, also appeared on the Nonesuch label, licensed from Eurodisc. In 2006 INA issued a compact disc of radio broadcasts from 1959 and 1962 which includes a powerful performance of Chopin’s Ballade No. 1 in G minor Op. 23 and the Sonata by Dutilleux. One of the greatest of French pianists, Bruchollerie should regain her rightful place once more of her recordings are made available on compact disc.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — Jonathan Summers (A–Z of Pianists, Naxos 8.558107–10).