P0876. CONSTANCE KEENE: Complete Piano Sonatas (von Weber). 2-Newport Classics 60165. 032466016523
“Constance Keene was a concert pianist and recording artist known for her interpretations of Rachmaninoff, Chopin, Hummel, and other demanding composers. She was one of the outstanding Romantic pianists of the middle part of the 20th century, and one of the few female American keyboard artists to garner an international reputation.
By the time she was 13, Abram Chasins, a well-known composer and teacher had taken her under his wing. Chasins became music director at WQXR, and Keene first performed before a wider audience playing duos with Chasins on the radio on Saturday afternoons. The two later married and formed an extraordinary partnership. Chasins wrote books, juried international competitions, and helped found KUSC in California, while Keene taught, recorded, and concertized around the world.
Beginning in 1945, Keene and Chasins performed as soloists with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Serge Koussevitzky at the Berkshire Music Festival at Tanglewood. In 1947, the two - though not yet married - presented the maestro with a pair of vintage instruments, a cello and violin, which formed the nucleus of the Tanglewood Instrumental Collection.
Keene's rendition of Rachmaninoff’s Preludes became perhaps her most famous single recording. It prompted Arthur Rubinstein to comment: ‘I cannot imagine anybody, including Rachmaninoff himself, playing the Preludes so beautifully’.
While universally hailed for her musicianship, Keene was also a great beauty, and was mindful of her appearance and conduct during performances. Journalists turned to her for advice in articles on how to sit down gracefully - she suggested practicing sitting and standing up in front of a mirror until the motion appeared effortless. The conductor Dmitri Mitropoulos, under whom she performed with both the New York Philharmonic and Philadelphia Orchestra, was reputed to have remarked, ‘With those looks, you don't need any talent’. Despite, or perhaps because of this, he remained her favorite conductor.”
- Z. D. Akron