Elly Ney

8.99 €

Elly Ney was a disciple of both Theodor Leschetizky and of Emil von Sauer. Her Second World War German radio recordings are turning up on this CD release for the first time. She did have a big career prior to the Nazi regime, but Ney went with the times and adopted the Nazi ideology, becoming a heroic figure for a regime she wished to fully represent. Ney’s post-war career was haunted by her Nazi past and her career somehow decayed. But this is an important recording for admirers of the German piano tradition. Her idea about Mozart style reflect late-19th-century practice in the frequent cadential and transitional ritards, and tapered phrasings.


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ELLY NEY plays Schumann, Mozart and Schubert

1-4. Schumann: Piano Quintet in E-flat Major, Op.44 [33:37]
I. Allegro brillante [09:40]
II. In modo d’una marcia. Un poco largamente [11:19]
III. Scherzo: Molto vivace [04:51]
IV. Allegro ma non troppo [07:46]
Elly Ney ∙ piano
Hoffmann String Quartet:
Norbert Hoffmann 1st violin ∙ Wilhelm Martens 2nd violin ∙ Fritz Laur viola ∙ Hans Adomeit cello

Recorded ∙ 14 March 1944 ∙ Breslau ∙ Senderaum ∙ Reichssender Breslau ∙ Radio Studio Recording

5-7. Mozart: Piano Concerto No.15 in B Major, KV.450 [26:54]
I. Allegro [11:36]
II. Andante [07:08]
III. Allegro [08:10]
Elly Ney ∙ piano
Kammerorchester des Deutschen Opernhauses Berlin
Ernst Schrader ∙ conductor

Recorded ∙ 19 October 1944 ∙ Berlin ∙ Funkhaus Masurenallee ∙ Saal 1 ∙ Reichssender Berlin ∙ Live Recording

8. Schubert: 14 German Dances, D.783 [07:17]
Elly Ney ∙ piano
Recorded ∙ 01 December 1944 ∙ Berlin ∙ Funkhaus Masurenallee ∙ Saal 2 ∙ Reichssender Berlin ∙ Radio Studio Recording

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Music is Soul! [Technique] doesn’t exist for me! Music is soul! There is no soul in hours and hours of practice with only technique in mind. You say when you hear the wonderful technician—’He goes so fast—that is wonderful’ but music is not speed. It is not doing something the same way every day. It is spirit. It is soul” – Elly Ney

Elly Ney was born on 27 September 1882 in Düsseldorf, daughter of an active French imperial army sergeant Jakob Ney (1852–1916) and the German music teacher Anna Friederike (1854–1931). She was also the great-granddaughter of the French Marshal Michel Ney, 1st Duc d’Elchingen, 1st Prince de la Moskowa, who was a military commander during the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. He was one of the original 18 Marshals of France created by Napoleon and led the last charge of Napoleon’s Old Guard at Waterloo. When she was little Ney used to sit behind the piano and listen to her mother play and tried to play the tunes after her. She received early piano lessons from her mother and was later sponsored by the Bonn music director Leonard Wolff. Even in her earliest years of study she gained the attention of not only the teachers and musicians in her own home but also of all European artists who recognized that the child was divinely gifted. At the age of ten (1893) she received a scholarship from the Cologne Conservatory, where she studied with Isidor Seiss (1840-1905), himself a pupil of Friedrich Wieck, father of Clara Schumann. Seiss died by his own hand in Cologne in 1905, having suffered increasing blindness that had forced him to retire from his teaching position. Through Seiss, Ney became imbued with the deeply significant traditions of the great classicists — Brahms, Beethoven, Mozart, Schumann.
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 the famous 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. In 1906 Ney had to cancel a teaching position at the Conservatory of Cologne due to increasing concert obligations at home and abroad.

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. She made her American debut on 15 October 1921 in a recital of Beethoven’s works at Carnegie Hall, New York:
• Piano Sonata No. 29 in B-flat Major, Op. 106 (“Hammerklavier”) (1817–1818)
• Andante in F Major, WoO 57 (“Andante favori”) (1803)
• Six Variations on an Original Theme in F Major, Op. 34 (1802)
• Piano Sonata No. 23 in F Minor, Op. 57 (“Appassionata”) (1804–1805)
• Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp Minor, Op. 27, No. 2 (“Moonlight”) (1801)

Ney enjoyed great success in the United States and her reception was most enthusiastic, as these quotations from the US newspaper reviews indicate:

• “You remember when Heifetz made his debut that warm October afternoon in 1917? There was something of the same expectant air on Saturday when Elly Ney appeared.”

• “This famous artist has taken the American public by storm and the metropolitan critics have been lavish in praise of her pianistic prowess.”

• “Miss Ney’s program was one of heroic demands and heroic achievements. As a pianist she is strongly individual and an outstanding figure among the great ones of today.”

• “Mme. Ney is at home in all schools. She gave a marvellous reading of the Brahms. With unreserved strength and endurance, strength which she does not allow to carry outside of pianistic limits, she played the allegro with imposing breadth and splendor. Her tone, always round and full, is also one of warmth and poetry, and in her most tempestuous passages, a thing of beauty.”

• “Greater contrast in musical exposition than that between the Brahms and the Debussy compositions could scarcely be imagined, and was convincing evidence of the protean genius of the interpreter. The filmy delicacy, the atmospheric charm of La soirée dans Grenade was irresistible.”

• “Of course. Ney would make one think of Teresa Carreño, but there is even greater power. When she makes passages foam like cataracts in the sunshine there is the roar behind the ripple. She is distinctly the most significant pianist who has played here in many seasons.”

• “Mme. Ney is held in high esteem in Europe where she has been appearing for some years. They call her ‘the female Paderewski’ because of the extraordinary virility of her playing, and she is hailed as the greatest living interpreter of Beethoven and Brahms.”

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 (No.6088559) on May 1, 1937. According to a report of the German newspaper Hamburg Abendblatt, Ney started her concerts with the Nazi salute. She enjoyed excellent relations with many prominent politicians of the Nazi Party and sympathized with the Nazis in many ways, encouraged the hero worship of the great composer when she said at the Hitler Youth’s Beethoven Festival in Wildbad in May 1938: “Nordic music is by nature heroic. This can be heard here in every sound. The human side of our Meister was also simple and heroic. This sacred fire should inflame the hearts of the youth, arouse their sense of responsibility, steel them in their struggles, and console and raise them up in their sorrows. So come, you German youth! Leave everyday life behind! In these days and hours we want to open ourselves together to the rivers of spiritual strength in the German people. May this render our deeds in the service of the Führer great and luminous.”

Because of her omnipresence on Germany’s concert stages during the Nazi period, because of her unconcealed if totally naive 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 admirer Elly Ney as she inaugurated a Hitler Youth Beethoven Festival in 1938. ‘Heroism is the essence of all Nordic music!’ she continued, aligning the composer with her misplaced belief in Nazi ideals. ‘May great and enlightened deeds in the service of the Führer arise from this!” Equally reprehensible was Ney’s association with well-known murderous functionaries of the Third Reich, particularly the Governor-General of Occupied Poland, Hans Frank. Frank, formerly Hitler’s personal lawyer, was a high-ranking member of the SS. He resided in Cracow, only a few miles from Auschwitz, and he instituted a reign of terror against the civilian population, systematic plunder and brutal economic exploitation and became directly involved in the mass murder of Jews and Polish citizens. In 1941, when Frank heard that Ney was going to perform in a concert for Germans living in Cracow, he thanked her for this “tremendous cultural-political favor, in the service of the fight for Germanity in the East.”

Ney’s post-war career was haunted by her Nazi past. In September 1945, US Intelligence interrogated Ney and in October her name appeared on their blacklist. Following the passage of the Law for Liberation, Ney filed his Meldebogen and requested the scheduling of a Spruchkammer hearing, which cleared her to concertize in 1947. American advice to concert managers not to give ‘such great publicity’ to her ‘comeback’ was ignored. The American pianist Edward Kilenyi who was appointed Music Control Officer for Bavaria (Germany) in the US Military Government in 1945, rated Ney as a political unsophisticate. The issues involved in Nazi Germany’s cultural transformation were profoundly complicated, and they inevitably provoked dramatic and oversimplified solutions. Kilenyi was committed to finding a middle ground between the extremes and endorsed a case-by-case approach to blacklisting. Because of Ney’s celebrity as “the Nazi pianist,” the city of Bonn, imposed an official ban on her performing there. This kept the Nazi era alive for Ney and forced her off the main stages and into the provinces. Only in 1952, after she publicly declared that “to be like all great artists, naturally unpolitical. My friendliness towards the regime was only in the interest of music.” she could return to Bonn for concert performances. As one of the few musicians whose Nazi sympathies had been so pronounced as to hinder her post-war career, Ney was allowed to play in the DDR (German Democratic Republic) in 1952. Her career, which had flourished in the earlier years of the century, never recovered outside of Germany, but she undertook extensive tours in Germany and recorded for the German label Colosseum. Between 1960 and 1968 she recorded a large amount of her repertoire. Seven of the discs are devoted to Beethoven, including the last three concertos with Hoogstraten, and some sonatas and shorter pieces. She died on 30 March 1968 at her home at Tutzing in South Germany at the age of 85.

Notes by Michael Waiblinger, © 2014

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Article number: MC 1029
UPC barcode: 791154054055
Recording dates: 1944
Release date: March 2015
Total timing: 67:56

Producer and Audio Restoration: Lynn Ludwig
Booklet Notes: Michael Waiblinger
Design: Alessia Issara
Photographs: Valentin Kubina
With special thanks to Dr. Klaus Linsenmeyer
From the Original Masters ∙ © 2015 Meloclassic