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A Special Offer to AMAP Members

One evening after Sergei Rachmaninoff played a piano recital in London, Tobias Matthay—who well remembered the performances he had once heard from Liszt, Anton Rubinstein, and von Bülow—remarked to his ward, Denise Lassimonne, that he thought it was some of the greatest playing he had ever heard. Matthay was not alone in his estimate, because for decades, connoisseurs and laymen alike have granted Rachmaninoff a unique status in the pantheon of great pianists. On December 21, 1940, a few weeks before Eugene Ormandy was scheduled to premiere the composer's Symphonic Dances with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Rachmaninoff sat at the piano to guide the conductor's understanding of the tempos and voicings he most desired. Perhaps unaware that his rendering was being recorded, on that occasion he created a remarkable solo reduction of virtually the entire work, delivering a performance of extraordinary poetry and stunning virtuosity. As is well known, Rachmaninoff was so averse to recording his performances that he never even permitted live broadcasts, so this priceless document stands as a sui generis addition to his discography. Today, Rachmaninoff's most extensive "live" performance, lost for decades, can now be heard by modern audiences thanks to the efforts of master recording engineer Ward Marston, who, with his partner Scott Kessler and Rachmaninoff scholar Francis Crociata, recently discussed aspects of its background and creation at the 2019 Matthay Festival. The track listings and the extraordinary liner notes by noted Russian music scholar Richard Taruskin, author of The Oxford History of Western Music, can be read by clicking on the cover image at left.

Now until 11:59 pm on August 15, 2019, the Marston label is making this title available to our attendees at a special discount. In addition, over the next several weeks, all piano CDs in the Marston catalogue will be priced at a 20% discount to those who enter the code "Matthay" when prompted. Those interested should click here, and after making their selections, fill their carts with the piano titles they choose. Then proceed to "checkout" and enter the code in the box in the right-hand portion of the screen. The discount will automatically then be deducted from your total purchase price.

An Important, Historic CD Release

On May 29, 1941, a twenty-four-year-old Moura Lympany walked into the Decca studios at Brockhurst Gardens in West Hampstead, greater London, to record Rachmaninoff's famous Prelude in C-sharp minor. She remained that day to record eight additional Preludes from Rachmaninoff's opus 23, and fifteen months later she became the first pianist in history to have recorded the composer's complete set of 24. She was then studying with Tobias Matthay, who coached her extensively on all of her repertoire, and after Matthay's death in 1945, she recorded the complete Preludes twice more. She returned to the Decca studios in January 1951 to record them in the new LP format, and over 40 years later, in April 1993, the now Dame Moura Lympany recorded them as CDs for the Erato label. To the present day, she remains the only pianist to have recorded the complete set in each of the three main commercial formats, but although the 1951 LPs have long been available as CDs, this month marks the first occasion that these historic 78s, recorded during the darkest days of World War II, have been made accessible to modern listeners.

Issued on Decca's Eloquence Classics label, the transfers in this set are superb, and the recording is accompanied by a beautiful twelve-page booklet containing fascinating and previously unpublished photos provided by the Estate of Moura Lympany, such as the one at right taken on August 8, 1929, as the twelve-year-old artist was about to make her debut with the Mendelssohn G minor Concerto in Harrogate, Yorkshire. The commentary is by Matthay scholar and former AMAP president
Stephen Siek. The CD is now available in the US through Amazon and other vendors.

The Reviews Thus Far ...

The new Decca Eloquence reissue of Moura Lympany's 24 Rachmaninoff Preludes has been received exceptionally well by the press. The October 2017 Gramophone, arguably the world's most widely read and respected classical CD journal, prefaced its review with its laudatory "G" symbol designating a recording of special merit. Scholar and commentator Jeremy Nicholas wrote: "There are simply so many glories here: the popular G minor Prelude bears comparison with any, while the lovely G flat major and G major are also the best of Lympany's three versions. One is left wondering why such a recording has taken so long to come back into circulation." The full text is available only to Gramophone subscribers, but those interested may click here or on the image at left. Pianist and commentator Philip Buttall has also contributed a glowing review to the October edition of MusicWeb International, the leading British classical CD site. His extensive essay is filled with praise, which he sums up in a final paragraph: "Should you still need any further convincing, then just start at [the] end and listen to the masterly way in which she despatches the final Prelude in D flat from the Op. 32 set, and especially its grandiose climax—a piece which is generally considered a perfect summation of all the music that has gone before, and here a fitting testament to Moura Lympany’s epic achievement as well." The full review can be read simply by clicking on the image at right.

And the unreserved praise of Australian critic Neville Cohn may be found here.

For November 2017:

Announcing New Landmark Commemorations of a Matthay-Trained Artist

Few Matthay students have ever generated the mystique of the often enigmatic Eileen Joyce. Born in Tasmania, her family was so poor that her mother used to fashion her clothing from flour sacks, and her first teacher was a nun, an arrangement her father only permitted because the family was charged a mere sixpence a lesson. When Eileen was still in her teens, Australia's most famous native-born pianist, Percy Grainger, declared her to be "the most transcendentally gifted young piano student I have heard in the last 25 years." Many years later, though few had access to her long out-of-print recordings, even Glenn Gould sang her praises: "She played Mozart with real devotion. Even I could recognize that, though I couldn't figure out whence it came. It's funny, too, because I heard her very old recording—late thirties or forties—of K.576 just a few weeks ago on the radio, for the first time in perhaps twenty years, and it made me think once again what an extraordinary pianist she really was." And several decades later, the British-born Stephen Hough wrote, "She displayed all the dazzle and scintillating virtuosity of many great players of the past ... she has to be added to the list of great pianists from the past."

She began her studies with Matthay in 1930, and shortly thereafter, he wrote to his American pupil Bruce Simonds that his studio now included "an Australian genius." As recounted in Stephen Siek's England's Piano Sage: The Life and Teachings of Tobias Matthay, "On 8 June 1932, she had paired the [Paul de] Schlözer ['left-hand' Etude in A-flat] with [Liszt's] La leggierezza, for her first Parlophone record, a 'vanity' recording to which one of her male admirers had committed £20. The disc was meant purely to enhance her marketability to concert agents, but when Parlophone executives listened to it, they were so overwhelmed with her virtuosity that they had it placed in record shops by August." From that time until the end of her recording career in 1959, she made over 100 recordings for the Parlophone, Columbia, and Decca labels, as well as for the smaller British label
Saga, which was founded in the 1950s. In the last several years, Matthay devotees can be especially grateful for the wonderful series "The Matthay Pupils," issued by the British APR label, and overseen by Mike Spring, whose expertise and devotion to historic performance has made incalculable contributions to ressurecting the Golden Age of pianism. The first installment in the APR series, Eileen Joyce: The Complete Parlophone & Columbia Solo Recordings, was a five-CD set that is now difficult to obtain—in fact, APR's inventory is totally exhausted. Thus, Eileen Joyce—The Complete Studio Recordings, a new 10-CD set from the Eloquence division of Decca scheduled for release in Australia on November 24, is both timely and groundbreaking, for it reissues not only fresh remasterings of the recordings represented in the APR set, but it includes the many concertos which Joyce also recorded—even her 1936 recording of the Shostakovich First and her previously unpublished account (beautifully remastered) of the Tchaikovsky Second with Polish conductor Grzegorz Fitelberg. The full contents of this 10-CD collection may be accessed here.

Issued a mere four months after the acclaimed Moura Lympany Rachmaninoff set, the new Eileen Joyce collection has again been spearheaded by the indefatigable Cyrus Meher-Homji, the classical music manager for Decca Universal, who has also contributed to the companion booklet which accompanies the set, a collection of essays from such well-known commentators as Bryce Morrison, a long-time friend and admirer of Joyce. Almost concurrent with the release of the Eloquence recordings is a new book chronicling Joyce's life and career, Destiny: The Extraordinary Career of Pianist Eileen Joyce, issued by Lyrebird Press, an imprint of the Victorian College of the Arts at the University of Melbourne. Scheduled for a November 13 release, this 220-page book includes essays by Melbourne Emeritus Professor David Tunley, scholar Victoria Rogers, and Cyrus has again contributed a wonderfully detailed essay examining Joyce's recordings.

To see the new Eloquence video publicizing this remarkable 10-CD set, please click here, and click either here or on the cover image above to order the set through US Amazon.

The Reviews Thus Far ...

The praise for Decca's Eloquence reissue of Eileen Joyce's Complete Studio Recordings has been nearly unprecedented. Writing in the March 2018 issue of Gramophone, piano scholar and commentator Jeremy Nicholas notes that Joyce's 1936 recording of the Mozart A major Rondo provides "a glimpse of the pellucid tone and unaffected phrasing that won her playing of this composer the unlikely admiration of Glenn Gould." He adds, "Among the many highlights is the remarkable La leggierezza that first brought Joyce to the attention of the movers and shakers," and "Paul de Schlözer’s ... infamous Étude in A flat, Op 1 No 2, accessible only to the Hamelins and Houghs of this world. What fabulous dexterity and tonal allure, what fearless execution and total musical conviction! In many of these short, showy works, Eileen Joyce is nonpareil. Her celebrated 1934 dispatch of Palmgren’s En route will put an end to any argument about that." The full text is available here or simply click on the image at left.

Also in March of 2018, MusicWeb International, the leading British classical CD site, deemed the Eileen Joyce set as "Recording of the Month," with critic Stephen Greenbank observing that "this superb collection will grace any historical piano recordings collection." He adds, "The Rachmaninov Prelude selection and Shostakovich Fantastic dances find the ideal interpreter in Joyce, who delivers idiomatic readings with plenty of personality. In the Arensky D minor Trio, Op. 32, the pianist joins forces with Henri Temianka on violin and Antoni Sala on cello. The players savour the soaring lyricism of the music, investing passion, power and energy when required. One of the finest versions I've heard." The full review can be read simply by clicking on the image at the right.

The accolades bestowed last December by Pianist magazine can be found here, and the briefer, though highly complimentary, review which appeared in January in the Classical Music Guide appears here. Jed Distler's authoritative praise may be found here at, though a subscription is required to read the full text. However, few critics have exceeded Australia's David Barmby in the praise he conferred in the Melbourne-based Performing Arts Hub: "These recordings include many of the concertos with which Joyce is most closely associated including a most moving Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No 2, a joyous Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No 2 (in his pupil Siloti’s edition), a superbly articulated, argued, brilliant and dazzling Piano Concerto by Grieg and notably outstanding performances of John Ireland’s engaging Piano Concerto and Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No 1. However, Joyce’s Chopin is the outstanding material here, breathing a free spaciousness, delicacy and understatement. The Brahms 6 Klavierstücke, Op 118 are imaginative with a sensuous elasticity. There is a raft of occasional pieces conveyed with precision, wit and charm, particularly Grieg’s Lyric Pieces, Op 43." His full review can be read here.

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