Landmarks of Recorded Pianism, Vol. 3

52076-2 (2 CDs)  | $ 42.00


Landmarks of Recorded Pianism, Vol. 3
This two-CD set is volume 3 in the Landmarks of Recorded Pianism series, and comprises piano solos, concerti, and two spoken reminiscences. Producers Gregor Benko and Ward Marston have selected these recordings because of their intrinsic musical and historic importance, hoping that they will merit the attention of music lovers, scholars, and collectors. Most of the offerings in this set will be completely new to collectors and enthusiasts since they are available here for the first time.

The center pieces of the set are two concerto performances taken from broadcasts, both marvelous in different ways: first we present Chopin’s F-minor concerto from a 1936 broadcast with Polish pianist, Jan Smeterlin, ably supported by the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Serge Koussevitzky. A performance of both tumult and tenderness, it is the earliest known live performance of this work.

Then we offer a 1950 BBC broadcast of the Schumann concerto with 79-year-old Adelina de Lara, who had studied the work with Clara Schumann nearly sixty years earlier. De Lara gives an almost “chamber music” reading of the concerto, with subtle gradations of color and phrasing. We are also offering a third performance with piano and orchestra, but not an actual concerto. It is a seven-minute concoction of themes from the first movement of Tchaikovsky’s first concerto, made for a Coca-Cola sponsored radio program, played by the great Russian pianist, Simon Barere, with André Kostelanitz conducting the orchestra. This strange little pastiche is a new addition to the Barere discography.

For piano solo recordings, we first feature two recently discovered acoustic sides made in 1919 by African-American composer and pianist, Nathaniel Dett. These are lovely, serene readings of two short pieces from two suites, and we can only wish that we could hear more, but we have been assured that these are the only recordings of his artistry. The set also includes recordings by Australian-born pianist Elsie Hall whose only records are twelve sides made for HMV in 1930. These can be heard here for the first time in reissue, as well as a splendid performance of Bach’s C-minor Partita recorded privately when Hall was 86 years old. Our Landmarks third volume concludes by paying tribute to the English pianist, Katherine Goodson, 1872–1958. Goodson, a star pupil of Leschetizky, enjoyed a great career spanning a half-century yet sadly left us no recordings of her extraordinary artistry. Here, however, we can hear her speaking on two BBC broadcasts. First, a detailed reminiscence about her studies with Leschetizky, where she plays eight brief musical extracts. Our set concludes with Goodson giving a touching account of her week’s stay with soprano, Nellie Melba, at her Australian home.

CD 1 (78:26)

Simon Barere (1896–1951)

The Pause That Refreshes CBS broadcast, New York City; 17 October 1943

1.Introductory Announcement 0:48
2.Popular Melodies from the First Movement of Tchaikovsky’s Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor 6:28
 with orchestra conducted by Andre Kostelanetz 

Nathaniel Dett (1882–1943)

Recordings made for the Broome record label; 1919

3.Barcarolle, No. 3 from In The Bottoms Suite (Dett)2:53
 86-2-1 (Broome 54)
4.Mammy, No. 4 from Magnolia Suite (Dett)2:50
 86-1-1 (Broome 54)

Jan Smeterlin (1892–1967)

Public concert broadcast by NBC from Symphony Hall, Boston; 8 February 1936

Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, Op. 21 ((Chopin))
5.I. Maestoso12:22
6.II. Larghetto9:12
7.III. Allegro vivace7:56
 with the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Serge Koussevitsky 

Adelina de Lara (1872–1961)

BBC broadcast; 29 May 1951

8.Adelina de Lara speaks of her studies with Clara Schumann 2:34
Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54 ((Schumann))
9.I. Allegro affettuoso15:41
10.II. Intermezzo: Andantino grazioso5:47
11.III. Allegro vivace11:54
 with the BBC Scottish Orchestra conducted by Ian Whyte 

CD 2 (79:56)

Elsie Hall (1877–1976)

The Gramophone Company, London, recorded at Studio A, Hayes;
November/December 1930

1.Gavotte in D minor and Musette in D from English Suite No. 6 in D minor, BWV 811 (Bach)2:58
 27 November 1930; Bb20526-2 (EA1128 Australia; FJ117 South Africa)
2.Prelude and Fugue in F minor from The Well Tempered Clavier, Book Two BWV 881 (Bach)3:04
 2 December 1930; Bb20531-2 (EA1127 Australia; FJ 116 South Africa)
3.Allegro from Suite No. 7 in G minor (Handel)1:31
 25 November 1930; Bb20518-1 (EA1129 Australia; FJ118 South Africa)
4.Allegretto from Suite No. 14 in G (Handel)1:03
 25 November 1930; Bb20521-2 (EA1130 Australia; FJ119 South Africa)
5.Toccata from Sonata No. 6 in A (Paradies)1:34
 25 November 1930; Bb20519-2 (EA1129 Australia; FJ118 South Africa)
6.Andante sostenuto in E-flat, No. 2 from Kinderstücke, Op. 72 (Mendelssohn)1:43
 25 November 1930; Bb20520 (EA1130 Australia; FJ119 South Africa)
7.Bagatelle in D, Op. 42 (Bargiel)1:10
 25 November 1930; Bb20518-1 (EA1129 Australia; FJ118 South Africa)
8.Ringeltanz in A minor, Op. 36, No. 4 (Gade)0:59
 25 November 1930; Bb20521-2 (EA1130 Australia; FJ119 South Africa)
9.Rondoletto from Sonata for the Young, Op. 118, No. 1 (Schumann)1:53
 25 November 1930; Bb20520 (EA1130 Australia; FJ119 South Africa)
10.Arabesque, Op. 18 (Schumann)3:31
 27 November 1930; Bb20527-2 (EA1128 Australia; FJ117 South Africa)
11.Etude, Op. 149 No. 5 “Grace” (Mayer)2:01
 25 November 1930; Bb20519-2 (EA1129 Australia; FJ118 South Africa)
12.Menuet, second movement from Sonatina (Ravel)3:20
 2 December 1930; Bb20532-1 (EA1127 Australia; FJ 116 South Africa)

Private recording made at the home of Bruce Hungerford, Ambach, Germany;
26 April 1963

Partita No. 2 in C minor, BWV 826 ((Bach))
13.I. Sinfonia0:54
14.II. Allemande3:11
15.III. Courante3:32
16.IV. Sarabande2:44
17.V. Rondeau1:55
18.VI. Capriccio4:29

Katharine Goodson (1872–1958)

BBC Broadcast, 3 July 1952

Goodson speaks of her lessons with Leschetizky and plays brief musical extracts

19.Goodson spoken commentary 8:34
20.Blumenstück in D-flat, Op. 19 ((Schumann) [extract])2:10
21.Goodson spoken commentary 4:08
22.Impromptu in A-flat, D. 899, No. 4 ((Schubert) [extract])1:38
23.Goodson spoken commentary 0:15
24.Scherzo from Sonata No. 3 in F minor, Op. 5 ((Brahms) [extract])0:59
25.Goodson spoken commentary 0:17
26.Capriccio in B minor, Op. 76, No. 2 ((Brahms) [extract])1:22
27.Goodson spoken commentary 6:30
28.First Movement from Sonata in A, K. 331 ((Mozart) [extract])1:18

BBC Broadcast, 1954

29.Goodson speaks of her friendship with soprano Nellie Melba and plays a few bars from “Song of India” (Rimsky-Korsakov) demonstrating how Melba accompanied herself at the piano 11:15


Producers: Gregor Benko and Ward Marston

Audio Conservation: Ward Marston and J. Richard Harris

Photos: Gregor Benko

Booklet Coordinator: Mark S. Stehle

Booklet Design: Takeshi Takahashi

Booklet Notes: Gregor Benko and Jonathan Summers

This set is partially funded by Marc Rubinstein and major gifts from Dennis Thompson and Stuart Weiner.

Marston would like to thank thank Donald Manildi and Maxwell Brown of the International Piano Archives at Maryland for providing us with the original disc of Elsie Hall HMV EA1127 and EA1129.

Marston would like to thank Douglas Paisley for providing a digital transfer of Elsie Hall HMV EA1128, and Michael Alexandratos for making the transfer.

Marston would like to thank Simon Drake of the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia for providing a digital transfer of Elsie Hall HMV EA1130, and Gerard O’Neill for making the transfer.

Marston would like to thank Cameron Andrews for providing the BBC broadcast of Katharine Goodson speaking about Nellie Melba.

Marston would like to thank Bridget Carr, Curator of the Boston Symphony Orchestra Archive, and BSO historian Kevin Mostyn for lending us the original discs of Jan Smeterlin playing Chopin’s F-minor Concerto.

Marston would like to thank Tim Brooks for providing digital transfers of Nathaniel Dett’s recordings for the Broome label.

Marston would like to thank Michael Quinn for his assistance in locating Elsie Hall's HMV recordings EA1128 and EA1130.

Marston is grateful to the Estate of John Stratton (Stephen Clarke, Executor) for its continuing support.


©2023 Gregor Benko

So much of the greatest piano playing is lost. Heinrich Heine observed that the piano virtuoso’s art was like a camel’s wind in the desert, but that was in 1844, before the phonograph. If it had been invented earlier, we could conceivably have recordings of Chopin and Liszt, Thalberg and Tausig, and so many others; but the talking machine wasn’t invented until it was too late for them. If only. This daydreaming can lead to a useless game I call “Let’s Suppose”: Which historical pianist, which one who could and should have recorded, would you most want to hear on records—if only they had recorded? Rafael Joseffy should be high on anyone’s list, and how about Chopin pupils? Then there are Szumowska, Sliwinski, Franz Rummel, and so many others. There are pianists who did record but the recordings are lost (von Bülow), those who left a recording which is problematic (Brahms), and the ones who may have recorded but the authenticity is disputed (Anton Rubinstein). We also have to deal with piano rolls for, while it’s true that many possible top candidates such as Carl Reinecke, Teresa Carreño, and Fannie Bloomfield-Zeisler did play for piano rolls, there remains the ever-present question of whether piano rolls are satisfactory as recordings at all, or are something else. (I call them “reminiscences” rather than recordings).

There are so many women to include, like Sophie Menter and Adele aus der Ohe. Some of the women in the game are well-remembered like Clara Schumann, while some like Katharine Goodson are almost forgotten today. Goodson was the choice of Harry L. Anderson (1910–1990). I was amazed when he told me this in the early 1970s, as I had never heard of her. Harry was the most accomplished and knowledgeable of pianophiles, and had heard Goodson in concert many times, as he had heard performances of almost all the great pianists who did make records. His memories of Goodson’s playing were vivid, but he lamented that she apparently left no recordings, so we were more than intrigued to learn recently that there are recordings of Goodson, two broadcasts she made on the BBC in which she mainly spoke, but also played. Eight minutes of piano playing are all that survive of this great pianist; these can be heard on CD 2, tracks 20, 22, 24, 26, and 28.

First we present recordings that we consider landmarks (for one reason or another) of five other pianists, beginning with Simon Barere. Lovers of his artistry and virtuosity have wondered if there existed a recording of him in Tchaikovsky’s great concerto. One does, sort of, a concoction for the radio of the famous melodies of the first movement.

Nathaniel Dett was a composer and an accomplished pianist. His recordings are important, especially because they show a composer playing differently from his score. His rarissima acoustic disc was well recorded, capturing wonderfully his appealingly beautiful piano tone and his discrete use of jeu perlé.

Jan Smeterlin, the beloved Polish artist, did make commercial recordings, but none of concertos. Here he is in a live performance of the Chopin F minor from 1936, in fairly good sound, although some of his intimate moments are more difficult to hear because of the crude embossed aluminum disc recording. Smeterlin’s performance seems faster than anyone plays it now. Koussevitsky seems to alternate between sculpted fluidity and matter of fact and even, once or twice, heavy-handed conducting, although mostly letting Smeterlin’s ideas carry the performance. It is lovely piano playing, individual and fluent, delicate, not too much pedal, with poetic passages interspersed with metronomic ones. We can notice more in the slow movement that the piano was slightly out of tune.

We present two women connected to the Clara Schumann school, one an actual pupil, Adelina de Lara, who plays in a very old style, although her Schumann concerto still adheres to a pulse without being metronomic, quite authoritative for an eighty-year-old. Her second movement begins brusquely like Fanny Davies’s recording, the ending measures particularly individual and poetically played, the whole performance beautifully paced.

The other woman, perhaps a greater pianist, is the little-known Elsie Hall. She was a stubborn, outspoken artist whose career was not accelerated when she had disdained the Clara Schumann cult, and refused to study with the old widow of Robert Schumann. In conversation with Bruce Hungerford, Hall said that Clara Schumann’s daughter Marie was “a most unpleasant woman ... extremely disagreeable to me.” Hall’s effortlessly beautiful playing and crystalline tone bring everything to life on the piano, including compositions written for the harpsichord.



As the eleventh of thirteen children, Simon Barere was already supplementing the family income by the time he entered the Imperial Academy in Odessa. By the age of sixteen, both of his parents were dead, so he made his way to the St. Petersburg Conservatory where director Alexander Glazunov took the boy under his wing. Barere studied piano with Annette Essipov until her death in 1914, then continued with Felix Blumenfeld, the teacher of Vladimir Horowitz, and it is Horowitz with whom Barere has the most similar pianistic attributes. He settled in various unstable places (Riga and Berlin) before fleeing from Sweden to London, where he made some justly famous discs for HMV, thence to the United States in 1936 where he settled three years later. During the 1940s he appeared regularly at Carnegie Hall and often garnered rave reviews but somehow, even though he played similar repertoire, Barere never achieved the same public recognition as Horowitz. He died young, at fifty-five, and had made only a few LPs for the small U.S. label, Remington, which were posthumously issued, including some live recordings taken at his recitals.

There are no commercial recordings of Barere in a piano concerto (although live recordings of Liszt’s E-flat and Rachmaninoff’s C-minor concertos have been issued). Here is our opportunity to hear him again with orchestra, albeit in an arrangement of the first movement of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1.



Born in Canada, Dett’s mother was from Ontario and his father from the U.S. He said of his early years: “Both my father and mother were educated and both were musical. Father played the piano a little and the guitar very well, and he also sang baritone … my mother played the piano, sang soprano … and as a regular part of the entertainment interest of the town, was fond of getting up concerts of local talent …”

Some of his earliest memories were of hearing his older brother’s piano lessons given by a Mrs. Marshall. Afterward he immediately played by ear what he had heard his brother play, often adding fancy endings of his own to the pieces. She heard him and offered to give him lessons for free. The family moved to the United States when he was eleven years old, and at the age of fourteen he became a bellboy at the Niagara Falls (New York) Cataract Hotel, where there was a Chickering grand piano that he played upon. John Weiss, an Austrian guest at the hotel, heard him, and became his next piano teacher. Once, when Dett attended a piano recital and the electricity failed, putting the house in darkness, he was able to slip onto the piano bench in the dark and play the same pieces that had been scheduled and no one knew until the lights came back. In 1901 he began studies with Oliver Willis Halstead at the Halstead Conservatory in Lockport, New York; repertoire studied at this time included Beethoven sonatas, Chopin Nocturnes, Aufschwung of Schumann, and MacDowell’s Sea Pieces.

In 1903 Dett began studies at the Oberlin Conservatory from where he was the first African American to graduate with a Bachelor of Music degree, with a double major in piano and composition. His first teacher there was Howard Handel Carter (1855–1930) and then George Carl Hastings (1877–1925) both of whom had studied in Germany. Dett was heard by Frederick H. Goff, President of the Cleveland Trust bank, who assisted him financially. One of his vivid memories as a youth was hearing the Kneisel String Quartet play the slow movement of the Dvorˇák ‘American’ Quartet. He taught for nearly twenty years (1913–1932) at the Hampton Institute of Music in Virginia where he founded the Hampton Choral Union, Musical Arts Society, Hampton Institute Choir, and its School of Music.

Barcarolle comes from Dett’s Characteristic Suite titled In the Bottoms of which the five movements are Prelude, His Song, Barcarolle, Honey (Humoresque), and Dance (Juba). Published by Clayton F. Summy in 1913, the vitality of the Juba Dance appealed to Percy Grainger who recorded it for Columbia in February 1920. Dett had met Grainger in 1915 and their mutual admiration led the Australian to call Dett “a real genius”, beginning his letters “Dear friend and genius”, while Dett said that Grainger was “the best friend that ever was.”

The two sides recorded for the Broome company in 1919 show how the composer Dett does not actually play what he notated. Firstly, Barcarolle is abridged with about twenty-four bars cut. In the middle section the semi-quavers (16th notes) are played dotted rather than as written.

The other side recorded by Dett is of Mammy, the fourth piece from his Suite titled Magnolia published by Summy in 1912, and in London by Weeks & Co. The movements are Magnolias, The Deserted Cabin, My Lady Love, Mammy, and The Place where the Rainbow Ends. Again, Dett does not play the work as notated. The left-hand rhythm is written crochet (quarter note), minim (half note), crochet (quarter note). Dett plays the fourth beat in left hand far too early, sounding more like seven quavers (eighth notes) per bar. He does not play this rhythm as notated until the penultimate bar when it coincides with the melody. The right-hand melody has a group of two triplets with beats five and six tied together, sounding like a group of five, but this is often difficult to discern. Any musician worth his salt knows that the score is just the starting point for the interpretation of music, and this is an important example of the rhythmic interpretation by the composer being so free that it deviates noticeably from their score. A previous CD release of Mammy was pitched incorrectly in C Major, a semitone below its correct pitch of D-flat Major.



Jan Smeterlin had an important career and played with the greatest conductors of the day. Before the First World War he studied in Vienna with Leopold Godowsky and, possibly due to his Polish heritage, he became known as a Chopin player. He toured Europe during the 1920s and settled in England in 1934, taking British citizenship. At his Carnegie Hall debut in 1930 his program included Chopin’s Preludes and Godowsky’s Künstlerleben. A year later a Boston critic wrote:

His Chopin is somehow different from the Chopin of all other pianists this writer has heard, not a matter of technique, but of spirit, style and feeling, of elasticity in the rhythm and phrasing, of lightness in the texture of the music. Above all, a regard for poetry and sentiment that keeps well clear of even the faintest trace of exaggeration.

Smeterlin apparently made no commercial recording of a piano concerto, so it is wonderful to find him in a live 1936 broadcast of the Chopin F-minor Concerto with the Boston Symphony under Serge Koussevitzky. This recording of the performance was produced by a company that offered clients custom-made 78 rpm recordings using a system of embossing grooves onto blank aluminum discs, ultimately purchased by Boston Symphony historian, Kevin Mostyn, from an English Ebay seller. Perhaps the recording was originally made at Smeterlin’s request, and the discs brought by him to England. The earliest surviving Koussevitzky broadcast is from November 1935; this is the first complete broadcast recording of a concerto with the conductor. The complete program of the concert was Three Jewish Poems by Bloch preceding the Chopin Concerto, with Schumann’s First Symphony in the second half.

Writer Pauline Warren (Boston Herald, February 8, 1936) described the excitement the performance created:

Dr. Koussevitzky was greeted enthusiastically and given a regular ovation at the end of the concert with everyone banging the backs of their seats and applauding until he had to return to the platform several times. Mr. Jan Smeterlin, who played a Chopin concerto, was hailed with almost as much enthusiasm.

In the same paper that day the auxiliary music critic, twenty-seven-year-old Alexander Whiteside Williams, had a curious view of one of Chopin’s greatest works:

Mr. Smeterlin is an excellent pianist and a particularly clear and persuasive player of Chopin. His performance of the solo part yesterday was one of perfect grace. His tone was never forced, always singing and varied with great subtlety; his phrasing was a joy to hear. All the same the F-minor Concerto is not a great example of this form and is not even great Chopin. There really is not much point in reviving it for a symphony concert.

Smeterlin gave a solo recital in Jordan Hall a week later which included works by Beethoven, Bach-Busoni, Albeniz, Chopin, the Brahms Paganini Variations, and Ravel’s Valses Nobles et Sentimentales, leaving another critic of the Boston Herald (the so-far unidentified “W.T.C. Jr.”) grasping for superlatives and noting that Smeterlin “played at the very top of his powers yesterday before the largest audience that has ever heard him in recital in this city.” He continued to remark upon Smeterlin’s “electrifying interpretations of Chopin. Both the Etude Op. 10 No. 8 and Ballade Op. 47 were repeated … the brilliancy and accuracy displayed in the Ballade could not have been excelled by any living pianist.” High praise indeed and another explanation of Smeterlin’s way with the music of Chopin.

Mr. Smeterlin is justly noted as a performer of Chopin. His simplicity of manner and his obvious enjoyment, as well as an approach that is stimulating and perfectly adapted to the changing moods of the composer, enables him to make the music of Chopin seem vitally alive.

W.T.C. Jr., Boston Herald,
February 16, 1936



The story of British pianist and composer Adelina de Lara unfolds like a melodramatic novel. Born Lottie Adelina Preston, she inherited musical talent from her mother and was a prodigy forced by her father to perform in public to support her family, growing up in decidedly bohemian circumstances and deprived of a normal childhood. In 1878 a local Staffordshire musician convinced her father that she should assume a professional name, one that was less English sounding, so she took her mother’s maiden name and became Adelina de Lara—she was six and a half years old. She got a job playing at a wax museum that featured music, playing twice a day, two hours each recital, for four pounds a week, although she was shy and hated being exhibited. “But the family has to eat,” her father insisted, since he wasn’t capable of providing steady income. Many began to patronize the place just to see and hear her. She was a success, and her salary was increased. She occasionally also played selections as part of variety shows in nearby towns and cities and received wonderful notices as “a musical phenomenon.” Playing everything from memory, her gift of memory served her well and lasted her life. Both of her parents died when she was ten and her older sister Nellie became the head of the family. Very soon Nellie committed suicide. There was nothing to save Adelina and her remaining sister Penelope than for Adelina to go on the stage. A professional manager signed her and for two years she played recitals and orchestral dates, often learning new pieces in hours. “I cannot think how I did it. I do not remember learning to read music at all! I am convinced I knew it when I was born,” she wrote. She had two hundred pieces in her repertoire at age twelve. An engagement in London’s Piccadilly Hall in November 1884 was none too prestigious. It was a program in conjunction with “Harvey’s Midges—an extraordinary exhibition of diminutiveness, the smallest perfectly proportioned English people.” While she was tiny, de Lara was the classy part of the presentation, the “marvelous child pianist.”

A chance to play before the Prince of Wales swiftly led to bigger things. Well-placed friends brought her to a recital by pianist Fanny Davies (1861–1934), just returned from Frankfurt after her studies with Clara Schumann. It was a revelation for de Lara, hearing her first great pianist, and soon she was auditioning for Davies, who recognized her talent and insisted she must also go to Germany to study with Frau Schumann. Money was subscribed from well-wishers, but first she studied with Davies for a year in London to prepare. Clara Schumann came to London to play and heard de Lara and agreed to teach her. With her sister Pen she went to Frankfurt in September 1886 and began her lessons with Robert Schumann’s widow, studying with Clara Schumann until 1891. Brahms was often visiting and coached her in his own music while she studied all of Schumann’s piano music with one of history’s great pianists.

Adelina de Lara unfortunately did not make any commercial recordings when she was in her prime. Those we do have are a few privately made discs from 1949 and then others mainly recorded by amateur enthusiast Michael Thomas. However, de Lara did broadcast for the BBC; indeed, in January 1933 she broadcast a large amount of Schumann—the Etudes Symphoniques, Davidbündlertänze, Humoreske, and Faschingsschwank aus Wein—but none of those have survived. Fortunately, however, one important broadcast did survive. Nearing eighty years of age at the time, de Lara gave a performance of the Schumann concerto brimming with attributes of the Clara Schumann school. We can compare this to the commercial recording of the same work by Fanny Davies, and find the same authority of conception, leisurely pace, old world charm and a wonderful sense of real music making. She prefaces her performance with some remarks about her studies with Clara Schumann and speaks of previous performances of the Schumann Concerto under nineteenth-century conductors August Manns (1825–1907) and Sir Charles Hallé (1819–1895), as well as being accompanied at the second piano by Marie, the daughter of Robert and Clara, whilst studying in Frankfurt.

Since then, life and lessons with Clara Schumann have been much romanticized, as we can see from a picture of Clara at the end of her life left by her grandson Ferdinand Schumann, who lived with her for two years from 1894 when he was nineteen. In his diary he remembered that grandma Clara was so deaf by May 1894 that she could only hear the orchestra in a performance when it was forte or louder. She had to use an ear trumpet in conversation, but when the conversation wasn’t loud enough for her to hear she became irritable and suspicious. She used a wheelchair for outings because of her arthritis, but, when greeting visitors, was able to make a regal, grand entrance down her staircase, unaided by a cane. Like her father, she had great will power, and had come to greatly resemble him in both looks and disposition.

Clara said that as a composer Brahms was much superior to Anton Rubinstein, who, she claimed, became violently jealous whenever he heard Brahms music praised. She herself thought it a pity that Rubinstein, a great performer, was not a great composer. Clara sometimes criticized Brahms’s piano writing to the composer himself, who always told her, “Well, dear Clara, suit yourself and always play it your way.” She said he was a poor pianist who often, when he came to a difficult passage, just left it out. Clara had never been paid more than 1,000 marks for a performance, although she had once earned 2,400 marks from one London concert. Hearing that Brahms received 2,000 marks from the Gewandhaus for a performance, she considered this an enormous fee. In 1895 Ferdinand wrote in his diary that “Grandmother has the greatest difficulty with the English pupils to get them to play with expression. They seem devoid of feeling.” It is unlikely that she had felt this about Fanny Davies or de Lara. (Let us hope Clara still had her hearing when she taught de Lara.) Throughout her life, de Lara carried with her the invaluable insights on Robert’s compositions that had been imparted to her as a young girl by Clara. In her autobiography Finale, published in 1955, de Lara says this of the Schumann Concerto:

When teaching the Concerto, Clara Schumann was rigorously exacting. She insisted that in the opening theme each finger of both hands should produce tone of absolutely equal value and that the liquid second subject should never be hurried, but played strictly in time with careful attention to the diminuendo in the left hand. The cadenza is too often misunderstood. Thought, not technique, must be the basis of its interpretation, according to the true Schumann tradition; it should be played very calmly, pensively and peacefully, with humility and love helping in a task that is far from easy, for to express beauty through simplicity is harder than any conceivable technical problem. In the second movement, Frau Doktor would have none of it if we tried to be at all sentimental. She said it was an impassioned conversation between the orchestra and the soloist, though at times the ‘talk’ was very gentle and kindly.



Another pianist with a different Clara Schumann connection, Elsie Hall, was an Australian who made few commercial recordings and retired from performance when she married and had a family. Born in Toowoomba, Queensland, the family moved to Sydney in 1882 when her father was appointed to the Sydney Morning Herald. Another prodigy, at the age of nine Hall performed the first movement of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3. Two years later her mother enrolled her at the Stuttgart Conservatory, but the teaching regime of Sigmund Lebert and Ludwig Stark caused muscle strain in her hands. Thence to Paris where she was offered a scholarship to the Conservatoire, but this was declined as her mother was keen for her to go to London. There, young Elsie studied with John Farmer, organist of Balliol College, Oxford, who visited London to teach at the Harrow Music School. She also attended Clapham High School where Bernard Shaw’s mother was a singing teacher and Elsie came to know Shaw who later visited her in South Africa.

The traveling life continued as Hall was taken under the wing of Mendelssohn’s eldest daughter Marie Benecke (1839–1897), staying at her home in Potters Bar where Mr. Beneke “grew roses, played the cello and drove very high-stepping horses.” She was offered a scholarship to the Royal College of Music but again this was declined due to an anticipated return to Australia. The homeward return did not transpire, so Mrs. Beneke recommended that Elsie study with Clara Schumann in Frankfurt. However, Elsie did not want to do this.

After hearing the quality of musicianship of the Joachim Quartet at St. James’s Hall in London, Elsie had decided that the only person she wanted to study with was Joseph Joachim. Under the strict chaperoning of a certain Frauline Hiller, Elsie was allowed to go to Berlin where she studied piano at the Hochschule with Ernst Rudorff, whom she described as “a very delicate, charming man, often very sick and frightfully nervous.” With him she studied the Konzertstücke Op. 92 of Schumann, and a great deal of Bach, Beethoven, and Chopin—studies, preludes, ballades, scherzos, and the B-minor Sonata. At the Hochschule she was not allowed to play anything by Liszt nor mention the name of Wagner. Hall remembered meeting Brahms and Joachim together and hearing the composer rehearse his Tragic Overture where he spent a long time getting a perfect legato with the opening string figure.

At eighteen Hall won the Mendelssohn Prize (playing the first movement of the Schumann Fantasie) and played Chopin’s E-minor Concerto with the Berlin Philharmonic under Joachim on the 18th of April 1896. What must have been a long concert also included the violin concertos by Mendelssohn and Brahms and the double concerto by Bach. At this time Hall visited Clara Schumann either at the request of Mendelssohn’s daughter or Joachim, so Clara’s eldest daughter Marie, who protected her mother, had to allow Hall to enter. Hall related that Marie may have heard that she did not want lessons with Clara and she would never have forgiven that. Hall saw Clara on the last day that she was well and able to receive visitors and played for her—Beethoven’s Piano Sonata Op. 78, a Chopin Etude in A flat, and the one in thirds from Op. 25. Hall was disgruntled when Clara declared that she was much too delicate to become a concert player, telling her “you haven’t got the stamina for it.”

In 1903 she returned to England and was struck by the large and appreciative audiences at the Coliseum theatre, thinking that they would be a wonderful audience to play for. However, later Elsie related that impresario “Mr. Stoll” would have nothing to do with her at all. She was offered twelve weeks at the less desirable Hippodrome theatre where she played works such as Chopin’s Berceuse and the Variations Brillantes Op. 12. After deputizing for an indisposed singer at the Coliseum, Hall was offered many engagements at her preferred venue where she often played with the orchestra under Mr. Dove—such works as the first movement of the Grieg Concerto or Liszt’s Hungarian Fantasy. She gained further employment when she was sent on Stoll tours to theatres around the U.K. Hall continued this for two years until the time of her marriage. Other artists on the bill at the time of her appearances included Maurice Chevallier Sr., the Lupinos, and Sarah Bernhardt. During this period in London, Hall was also engaged to give piano lessons to the fourteen-year-old Princess Mary. Her marriage in 1913 to Dr. Freidrich Otto Stohr (1871–1946) resulted in her settling in South Africa where she brought up her three children and later performed until the age of 93.

Hall advertised in the London Times on the 4th and 11th of October 1930 offering instruction in music, singing, and elocution. She announced that she was “In town for the Autumn Season” and could be found at 128 Westbourne Terrace where she could “accept engagements for concerts etc.” While in London she gave a thirty-minute broadcast for the BBC on the afternoon of Sunday, the 30th of November. The repertoire was interesting and unusual:

Tscherepnine: Three Bagatelles from Op. 5

Liszt: Au bord d’une source

Medtner: Fairy Tale in E minor

Albeniz: Sous le Palmier

Balfour Gardiner: Noël

The purpose of Hall’s visit to England was to record for His Master’s Voice. The resulting discs are among the least known and rarest piano records. She had three sessions at the company studios at Hayes on the 25th and 27th of November and 2nd of December. She had been asked to make recordings of some of the examination pieces on the syllabus for Trinity College of Music and two takes were recorded of each of the eight sides. For the Diploma section Bach and Ravel, and for the Senior section Bach and Schumann. More unusual repertoire was included in the Intermediate section—a Bagatelle by Clara Schumann’s half-brother Woldemar Bargiel (1828–1897), and Charles Mayer’s (1799–1862) Etude Op. 149 No. 5 “Grace”, while the Junior section included works by Schumann, Mendelssohn, Handel, and Gade. According to Australian press reports, “Miss Hall has made these four records with the approval of Mr. E. Stanley Roper, principal of the college, and music teachers in Brisbane who have heard them have expressed their appreciation of them as an aide to both students and teachers.” Roper (1878–1953) was Principal of Trinity College of Music in London from 1929 to 1944 and the examinations were popular throughout the world, particularly in the commonwealth countries. What is curious is that the discs were only issued by HMV in Australia and South Africa, perhaps giving students in those areas an advantage the others did not receive.

The Bach Partita was recorded by fellow Australian pianist Bruce Hungerford (1922–1977) in 1963. His piano may have been slightly out of tune, but in this performance by an eighty-six-year-old, the line is never lost nor pulse slackened. It is a complete performance by heart with no pauses or retakes and Hall never faltering in any way delivering a discretely Romantic conception that draws one in, breathtaking in its sureness and command.



Katharine Goodson is another of those pianists who are forgotten today, most likely because she made no commercial recordings. She played with a force, command, and power not seen since Teresa Carreño and she had, starting before the First World War, a great international career.

She also was a prodigy, born with “a perfect piano hand.” She was enrolled at the Royal Academy of Music at the age of twelve where she studied piano with Oscar Beringer (1844–1922), himself a pupil of Ignaz Moscheles and Carl Tausig. Paderewski heard her in 1892 and told her, “You have a divine touch, your gift is straight from God.” He sent her to his teacher Leschetizky, who saw her talent but recognized it needed training, and told her she played like a young lioness, “… as wild as your hair looks.” After four years study with him in Vienna (where classmates included Gabrilowitsch and Schnabel), Leschetizky brought her to conductor Artur Nikisch with a letter of introduction: “Miss Goodson, although English, is gifted with a brilliant temperament …” Nikisch was so impressed that he took her on tour with his orchestra, and later arranged for her debut with the Boston Symphony in 1907. After their first performance together he was quoted saying she was in the same league as Paderewski and Eugen d’Albert. She soon became one of the day’s top pianists and played regularly all over the world. J. A. Fuller-Maitland described her playing in Grove’s Dictionary of Music: “… marked by vigour and animation … a great command of tone-gradation, admirable tonal finish, taste and individuality of style.” She became a favorite of music lovers, and in England, with the aristocracy as well. When she played two Mozart concertos under Beecham’s baton there in the early 1930s, reviews noted that the audience included Lords and Dowager Ladies, Viscountesses, Baronesses, Arthur Schnabel, Jan Smeterlin and “about everyone musical that is in London.”

At the height of her success, when she was in Vienna she continued often to visit and play for Leschetizky. Goodson later said, “He tried to curb my temperamental nature … I realize … how immeasurably Lescehtizky helped me.” At one of these visits he showed her some pedal effects in the Chopin second sonata, then presented her with a set of ruby jewelry and told her “You have something special. Individual. You must not change.” He almost mothered her after that, forbidding her to use her hands to write too many letters, from carrying a heavy suitcase or opening a window, even from mountain climbing. (“I can’t think why,” she wrote her husband, the composer Arthur Hinton.)

In the 1952 radio talk Goodson describes her lessons with Leschetizky and illustrates his principles by playing excerpts from five compositions. The recording of this talk was preserved by the BBC, which had already broadcast her in regular concert format many times on radio and television. Perhaps the reason why she didn’t play any work complete for the Leschetizky program was that the producers felt a few excerpted examples were quite sufficient in a talk about her teacher. It is the compelling and vigorous Brahms F-minor Sonata extract that gives an idea of what a performance of this work, so associated with her, must have sounded like. When she performed the sonata in Budapest a critic of Pesti Napló noted that:

The piano playing of Katharine Goodson is a genuinely monumental art, which we today, among the names of women pianists, can only associate with those of Teresa Carreño and Sophie Menter. Our eminent guest played the F-minor Sonata of Brahms in such a broadly conceived spirit and with such a gripping rhythm and power as would have done honor to d’Albert.

The 1954 talk, about her visit to soprano Nellie Melba and their friendship, was recorded off the air by an amateur and found among Goodson’s effects. Goodson does more to “humanize” Melba than some of the diva’s biographers. It is a charming souvenir during which Goodson plays a bit of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Song of India to illustrate how Melba sang the aria, emulating her vocal quality on the piano. The two performed together in about twenty joint concerts at the end of World War One.

A first impression of Goodson’s playing is “What beautiful piano tone!” linking her to recordings of Moiseiwitsch and other Leschetizky pupils. Experts will ponder her tempi. The two talks contain about eight minutes of music, not much, but better than nothing, enough to offer evidence for musicological study, and enjoyment. Of her legendary performances of the Brahms D-minor Concerto, we can only dream.