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Valerie Tryon played in public as a child, and at the age of twelve broadcast for the BBC. At the same time she became one of the youngest students to be accepted at the Royal Academy of Music in London as a junior exhibitioner. At fifteen she enrolled full-time, and her success at the Royal Academy led to her receiving the Boise Scholarship, enabling her to study in Paris with Jacques Février. Tryon was a prizewinner at the Budapest Liszt Competition, where she played Liszt’s Feux-follets, Piano Sonata in B minor and Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12. After making her London debut at the Wigmore Hall, Tryon appeared at the 1959 Cheltenham Festival delivering a performance which received ecstatic reviews. In a two-column article entitled On Playing the Piano, music critic of The Times Frank Howes expounded on the subject, and Tryon in particular: ‘…for here was piano playing by a girl of twenty-five which had all, not merely some, of the qualities required.’ She had played Bach, Beethoven, Liszt and Ravel, and at a concert at the Wigmore Hall in the following February played Bach, Brahms, Fauré, Medtner and Alun Hoddinott’s Piano Sonata which she had introduced at the Cheltenham Festival. Particular praise however, was reserved for her interpretations of a selection of Liszt’s Études d’exécution transcendante: ‘…she produced some uncommonly full and rich tone right from the shoulder, besides dazzling her listeners with feats of prestidigitation.’ Six months later Tryon gave the Proms première of Alun Hoddinott’s Piano Concerto, and as well as being a keen advocate of his music, it would appear that she played a fair amount of other twentieth-century music early in her career including Stravinsky, Shostakovich and Bartók.

Her large repertoire allows Tryon’s concerts to cover a wide range of styles from Bach to the twentieth century. The mainstay of her repertoire is built around the technically demanding works of the nineteenth century such as Brahms’s ‘Paganini’Variations Op. 35 and a great deal of Liszt including the Études d’exécution transcendante and ‘Paganini’Études. She plays a large number of works for piano and orchestra including Bartók’s Piano Concerto No. 3, all of the concertos of Beethoven, Chopin and Liszt, seven by Mozart, Tchaikovsky’s Nos 1 and 2, and many other works by Britten, Franck, Richard Strauss, Turina and Weber.

Chamber music too is a genre Tryon enjoys, having worked with violinist Alfredo Campoli and cellist George Isaac; and she now works with the Toronto-based Rembrandt Piano Trio. She has worked with many conductors including Pierre Monteux, Sir Adrian Boult and Bernard Herrmann, and with orchestras including the London Symphony, Royal Philharmonic, City of Birmingham Symphony and Hallé.

Tryon has recorded for many labels. In 1989 she accompanied soprano Claudette Le Blanc in a disc of Debussy songs, whilst for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s label in July of 1997 she recorded an interesting disc entitled Ferruccio Busoni – Visionary. Familiar works such as the Chaconne and Carmen Fantasie are juxtaposed with the Polyphonic Studies, Indianisches Tagebuch Book 1 and Variations on Chopin’s Prélude in C minor.

In 1999 Tryon began an association with the British label APR. Her first disc of Scarlatti sonatas was described by the American Record Guide as ‘an outstanding addition to the Scarlatti catalog’. It is a fine collection of twenty sonatas played with clarity and intelligence. The following release was the first volume of what promises to be the complete piano music of Ignaz Friedman. It is a mixture of transcriptions and original works including Friedman’s Passacaglia Op. 44 and Ballade Op. 66. The disc ends with an impressive performance of the Studies on a theme of Paganini Op. 47b. Tryon may not have the broad sweep of style that Friedman himself had, but she has the technique to play works such as the arrangement of Johann Strauss’s Frühlingsstimmen. Each disc includes fascinating essays, and Tryon’s recording of the complete works of Ravel includes an interview with the pianist, concentrating on her studies with Jacques Février.

Tryon has participated in the Naxos series of the Complete Piano Music of Franz Liszt. Harold Schonberg wrote in the American Record Guide, ‘Tryon impresses me as the best pianist so far in the ongoing Naxos cycle of the Complete Piano Music of Franz Liszt.’ She has contributed three discs so far, all of transcriptions. Volume 11 contains transcriptions of works by Mozart and lesser-known lieder composers of the nineteenth century, whilst Volume 14 is of transcriptions of Ferdinand David’s Bunte Reihe. Volume 17, Tryon’s finest to date, is of Schubert song transcriptions where Tryon gets to display her fine musicianship and wide range of touch and tone. It is an extremely fine disc concluding with a rousing Erlkönig where she judges the tempi for each section perfectly.

© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — Jonathan Summers (A–Z of Pianists, Naxos 8.558107–10).

Role: Classical Artist 
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