Elly Ney;  van Hoogstraten;  Zaun  (Biddulph 82045)
Item# P0117
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Elly Ney;  van Hoogstraten;  Zaun  (Biddulph 82045)
P0117. ELLY NEY, w.van Hoogstraten Cond.: Burleske (Strauss); Concerto #15 in B-flat, K.450 (Mozart); w.Zaun Cond.: Concerto #2 in B-flat (Beethoven). (England) Biddulph 82045, recorded 1932-37. Transfers by Rick Torres. Long out-of-print, Final Copy! - 744718204526


“Of all the musicians tainted by their actions during the Second World War few could have seen their reputations sink lower than Elly Ney. A fanatical Hitler worshipper, her appearances after the conflagration were mainly peripheral and the reputation she had earlier built as a concerto soloist, Beethovenian of the first rank and powerful chamber player, pretty much evaporated. That she really was a player of sometimes quixotic distinction can be verified from her surviving recordings, not least those with her own trio and expanded quartet (the players included Florizel von Reuter, Walter Trampler and the cellist Ludwig Hoelscher with whom Ney was to record some of the Beethoven Cello Sonatas on LP).

Ney was born in 1882 and had an outstanding tutorship culminating in studies with Leschetizky and Emil von Sauer. She taught briefly but her drive as a concert soloist saw her lauded as early as 1909, and marriage to Dutch born violinist and conductor Willem van Hoogstraten saw her embark on a duo career as well. She visited America regularly and was a visitor to the London Proms - though in London she tended to get asked for the Tchaikovsky b minor in preference to her Beethoven. She seemed for a time to occupy a position vis-à-vis Beethoven that Frederic Lamond had slightly before her and Schnabel was to do shortly afterwards.

Biddulph’s conjoining of these concertos demonstrates many of these central strengths. Above all we can sense her appositely characterised responses to each of these very different works. In the Mozart for example, with an unnamed orchestra not of the front rank under van Hoogstraten there is a rare feeling of engagement and metrical daring, almost an improvisatory quality that is immediately attractive and frequently captivating. Lest risk taking and bravura be thought her distinctive qualities one should also listen to the beautifully weighted chordal playing in the slow movement - and as for bravura, well, she clearly had a big technique but also at times a splashy one. In the finale though despite slips there is a vibrancy and sense of adventure that is distinctive and very real. In her accustomed Beethoven we find a true balance between the choleric and the elevated; she understands Beethoven’s humours, she can play with raucous drama or with elegance and can effortlessly fuse the two in musical terms. This is a very alive performance; it’s rhythmically on its toes without sounding at all rushed, and in the slow movement Fritz Zaun gives us an orchestral introduction of almost Brucknerian spirituality. Here, the apogee perhaps of her playing, she is flexible but forward moving and in the finale she triumphantly drives to the conclusion, barely bothering to notice the finger slips.

The trio is completed by a blistering performance of the Strauss BURLESKE, a work that really responds to her sense of drama and drive and on the wing musicianship. The tricky side joins here have been well managed though the copies used are rougher sounding than the companion discs. There is I believe no competition for these performances in the catalogue - and Tully Potter’s notes set the seal on a distinguished, exciting and thought provoking disc.”

- Jonathan Woolf, musicweb-international

“At 16 Ney won the Mendelssohn prize (1900) - in a contest of which the famous Hungarian violinist Joseph Joachim, was one of the judges. In 1903 she went to Vienna to study with Theodor Leschetizky and Liszt pupil Emil von Sauer, and at nineteen she began the series of concert tours that carried her all over Europe and convinced musical experts there that she was an extraordinary artist. Leschetizky believed that those with slender hands needed to bring more pressure to their touch in order to achieve a sensuous tone. Without any doubt, this issue was addressed in his work with the young German pianist and the results became an integral part of Ney's sound. Even in moments of bold display, however, the lessons learned from Leschetizky remained with her and the tone kept a rounded quality. The evidence of this may be found in her recordings.

Her first concert tour was in Holland, which became her home country for some years, as she married Willem Van Hoogstraaten, a well-known Dutch conductor, in 1911. Ney’s first marriage was ending in 1920, and later, for a short time, she was married to Paul F. Allais (1895–1990) of Chicago. In 1921 Ney and Hoogstraaten travelled to the United States where made her American début on 15 October 1921 in a recital of Beethoven’s works at Carnegie Hall.

Ney enjoyed great success in the United States and her reception was most enthusiastic. Later known for her anti-Semitic views, she had performed with the Jewish violinists Bronislaw Huberman and Carl Flesch in 1924, again at Carnegie Hall. The distinguished trio that she headed, along with cellist Ludwig Hoelscher and violinist Wilhelm Stross (later Max Strub), was founded in the final phase of the Weimar Republic. Even before 1933 Elly Ney had developed a personal idealism that was not without its eccentricities. Ney went with the times and adopted the Nazi ideology, becoming a heroic figure for a regime she wished to fully represent. In 1937, on her birthday, Adolf Hitler conferred on Elly Ney the honorary title of professor. Two years later she became director of the piano classes at the Salzburg Mozarteum. Ney voluntarily joined the Nazi party (#6088559) on 1 May, 1937. According to a report of the German newspaper Hamburg Abendblatt, Ney started her concerts with the Nazi salute.

Because of her omnipresence on Germany’s concert stages during the Nazi period, because of her unconcealed if totally naïve admiration for Hitler, and because she was quite old even then, Elly Ney had been nick-named ’Reichsklaviergrossmutter’ (official piano grandmother of the Reich). Hitler admired Elly Ney as she inaugurated a Hitler Youth Beethoven Festival in 1938.

Ney’s post-war career was haunted by her Nazi past. Because of Ney’s celebrity as ‘the Nazi pianist’, the city of Bonn imposed an official ban on her performing there. Her career, which had flourished in the earlier years of the century, never recovered outside of Germany. She died on 30 March 1968 at her home at Tutzing in South Germany at the age of 85.”

- Michael Waiblinger