Myra Hess: Complete HMV Recordings 1938-1942 (Biddulph LHW 025)
Friday 25 August 1995
Best is Schumann's Carnaval, a delectable sequence of cameo portraits where Dame Myra displays a sensitive touch, tasteful rubato and a lilting turn of phrase. There's ample virtuosity, too ("Papillons"), as well as grandeur ("March of the Davidsbundler against the Philistines") and humour ("Lettres dansantes"). Hardly less impressive are a Scriabinesque Album Leaf by Hess's celebrated teacher Tobias Matthay and Howard Ferguson's versicoloured F minor Piano Sonata, a sizeable statement that's particularly rich in contrapuntal interest.
Then there's an insightful sequence of late Brahms Intermezzi, a nimble Scarlatti Sonata and Hess's signature tune, her own eloquent voicing of "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring", here shaved just a little close to its first note but otherwise sounding as serenely peaceful as I'd remembered it. Those wartime audiences must have been profoundly comforted.
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