Friday, July 24, 2015

Clara Haskil & Mozart

No. 206  of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages can be found in our archives at


This week, not only Mozart gets my GOAT, but in some small way, our soloist this week gets all my respect.

The Romanian pianist, Clara Haskil began, her career as a child prodigy and entered at the Bucharest Conservatory when she was 6. At age 7 she was sent to Vienna and profited from the tutelage of Richard Robert (whose memorable pupils included Rudolf Serkin and George Szell) and briefly with Ferruccio Busoni. At age 10, she was sent to Paris to continue her training with Morpain, and, at 12, entered the Paris Conservatoire, officially to study in Alfred Cortot's class, graduating in 1910, age 15, with the Prémier Prix.

The bulk of Clara Haskil's career was beset with health issues - a disease kept her in a body cast for four years. Frequent illnesses, combined with extreme stage fright that appeared in 1920, kept her from critical or financial success; most of her life was spent in poverty.

With the outbreak of World War II, Clara Haskil was trapped in occupied Paris, but was able to escape to Marseilles. There she survived a surgical procedure to remove a tumor from her optic nerve. In 1942 she sought refuge in Switzerland, smuggled to Vevey, where she settled for the rest of her days. In 1949 she became a naturalized Swiss citizen.

It was not until after World War II, during a series of concerts in Holland in 1949, that Clara Haskil began to win the acclaim she deserved. Thereafter enjoyed her greatest successes with a busy concert and recording schedule that took her around the world. She appeared as a soloist with the foremost orchestras and as a recitalist.

A celebrated interpreter of classical and early romantic repertoire, Clara Haskil was particularly noted for her performances and recordings of W.A. Mozart. Many considered her the foremost interpreter of W.A. Mozart in her time. She was also noted as a superb interpreter of Beethoven, Schubert, Robert Schumann, Frédéric Chopin and Scarlatti. As a pianist, her playing was marked by a purity of tone and phrasing that may have come from her skill as a violinist. Transparency and sensitive inspiration were other hallmarks of her style. With Clara Haskil, musicianship came first and technical matters were irrelevant; she had enormous hands and reputedly had an amazing memory,

One of her most prominent performances as a soloist with an orchestra is a recording of Mozart's Piano Concertos Nos. 20 and 24 in November 1960 with Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureux conducted by Igor Markevitch (featured in our podcast); this recording features an unusually slow, pensive performance of K.466's third movement and a very subtle, highly lyrical and yet, in some way, vigorous playing of K.491's second movement. The montage is completed with a performance of the concerto no. 27.

I think you will love this music too.

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