Ellen Ballon was a child prodigy, praised by no less a luminary than Joseph Hofmann whose student she later became. Artur Rubinstein is said to have declared her "the greatest pianistic genius I have ever met". She was sent by the Canadian Prime Minister to study with Rafael Joseffy in New York.
She was a child when she made her New York debut in 1910, playing
concertos of Mendelssohn (G minor) and Beethoven (C major) with the New
York Symphony under Walter Damrosch. She continued her studies with Hofmann in New York, and subsequently with Wilhelm Backhaus in Vienna.
The list of conductors with whom Ellen Ballon played is a veritable who's who of 20th century conductors: Antal Dorati, Désiré Defauw, Walter Damrosch, Josef Stransky, Ernest Ansermet, and Sir Ernest MacMillan, inter alia. She played with the New York Philharmonic, Berlin Philharmonic, Vienna Philharmonic, London Symphony, Concertgebouw, and Suisse Romande orchestras. She was invited to the White House to play for President Taft (1912), Roosevelt (1934) and Eisenhower (1954). That she was a pianist of great significance over a span of a 50 plus year career is of no doubt. That virtually no one I know has ever heard of her is a shame.
The few recordings we have to listen to are insufficient to get a really good sense of her playing. I have been able to find several pieces by Villa-Lobos to whom Ellen Ballon was a friend and champion. She commissioned and premiered his first piano concerto in 1946 in Rio de Janeiro under the composer's direction and gave the American and Canadian premieres as well.
There is a Bach Prelude transcribed by Siloti and a complete recording of the f minor concerto by Chopin. But you can be sure that I'll be on the lookout for more.
Bach/Siloti Prelude from Prelude & Fugue in G minor, BWV 535
recorded in 1950
Chopin Piano Concerto 2 in F minor, Op 21
Ernest Ansermet conducting the London Symphony Orchestra
recorded in 1950
iii Allegretto vivace
Villa-Lobos various piano pieces
recorded in 1949
from Book 1 of Guia Pratico: 2 A Mare Encheu (Full Tide)
from Cirandas:7 Passa, Passa, Gaviao (Go, Go Away Hawk)
5 Pobre Cega (Poor Blind Woman) - 9 O Pintor de Cannaby (The Artist of Cannaby)
Choros 5 "Alma brasileira"
For those of you who enjoy murder mysteries, here is my first with a strong musical polemic as background
which is also available as an audiobook.
And this is the more recently published second mystery in the series:
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