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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are superb, and the recording is accompanied by a beautiful twelve-page booklet containing fascinating and previously unpublished photos provided by the Estate of Moura Lympany, such as the one at right taken on August 8, 1929, as the twelve-year-old artist was about to make her debut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.



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