Livia Rev is one of the pianistic marvels of our age. She was born nearly one hundred years ago in Budapest, Hungary. A child prodigy, she studied at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music, at the Leipzig Conservatory, and at the Vienna Conservatory. She has performed the world over as a soloist with conductors of the stature of Sir Adrian Boult, André Cluytens, Jascha Horenstein, Eugen Jochum, Josef Krips, Rafael Kubelík, Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt, Constantin Silvestri, and Walter Susskind, a veritable who's who of the great conductors of the 20th Century. She teaches, gives master classes, and as far as I know she may still be playing the piano.
In her prime, Livia Rev was one of the world's greatest interpreters of the music of Chopin. The recordings below of the 24 Preludes Opus 28 are among the finest I have ever heard, and as I write these words I am sorely tempted to place them at the top of my list. They were recorded in 1988 when she was in her 70s, but in these performances she is clearly still at the peak of her technical and interpretative powers. Listen to the third prelude, the one over which I have shed tears of frustration all my life. Her way with the left hand of this prelude is to die for. Her playing is gentle, not at all sentimental, and as dramatic as is called for by the music and not a queenly iota more than is absolutely necessary.
Every Prelude is perfect and the entire collection comes across not as 24 individual pieces but as a lovely whole, a poetic discourse, if you will, on the art of the piano.
Another real treat is the recording of the complete Songs Without Words by Felix Mendelsson, though how many of these might have been composed by his sister Fanny is, sadly, something we will never know. This is a two-hour long video of tenderly gorgeous playing of lovely, and all to infrequently heard, music.
Some of these recordings are from a 90th birthday celebration in 2006. They suffer from an abominable piano and her playing is not what it once was. But the beauty of her conception is still very much there and had the piano not been such a beast .... There is a recording from September of 2009, a better quality recording on a better piano, a Chopin Nocturne that is beautifully played.
Livia Rev recorded the Debussy "Clair de Lune" in 2004 at the age of 88. It is a charming performance, lovingly played and had I not known of her advanced age, I might never have suspected.
I have heard a few short examples from recordings Livia Rev made when she was quite a bit younger. It was piano playing the likes of which one hears only in dreams. Every note sang with the most gorgeous tone imaginable. The sheer perfection of her playing for those few moments has made me want to scour the globe for her records, of which only four seem still to be readily available. But somewhere in a dusty bin I will find her old European LPs, and I will be complete.
Chopin 24 Préludes Op 28 Recorded in 1988
Preludes 1 - 7
Preludes 8 - 14
Preludes 15 - 18
Preludes 19 - 22
Preludes 23 - 24 Prelude in C sharp minor Op 45
Chopin Etudes recorded in 1973
Op 10 n3 in E Major - Op 10 n4 in C sharp minor (04:06) - Op 10 n5 in G flat (06:30) Op 25 n1 in A flat (08:20) - Op 25 n7 in C sharp minor (11:00) - Op 10 n12 in C minor (16:25)
Chopin Nocturnes Op 9
n°1 in B flat minor Recorded in 2009
n°2 in E flat Major
n°3 in B Major
Chopin Nocturne n°4 in F Major Op 15 n°1
Chopin Nocturne in F# minor Op 48 n°2
Chopin Nocturne n°19 in E minor Op 72 n°1
Chopin Scherzo 3 in C sharp minor, Op 39 recorded in 1960)
Chopin Impromptus Recorded live in 2006 at a 90th Birthday Concert in Szeged
n°1 in A flat Major Op 29
n°2 in F sharp Major Op 36
n°3 in G flat Major Op 51
n°4 in C sharp minor Op 66 "Fantasie Impromptu"
Mendelssohn Songs Without Words
Op 19 - Op 30 (15:27) - Op 38 (32:29) - Op 53 (48:22) - Op 62 (01:07:19) Op 67 (01:21:50) - Op 85 (01:35:21) - Op 102 (01:48:33)
Schumann Papillons Op 2 recorded in 1962
In this next example, Livia Rev plays three children's pieces, "The Happy Farmer" and "The Wild Horseman" by Schumann, and "O Polichinelo" from Prole do Bebê, series 1 by Villa-Lobos. These are pieces we all have heard butchered ad infinitum all our lives, and some of us have probably done some of the butchering ourselves as youngsters. In these performances, the music is brought to life in all its simplicity and delicacy.
Schumann "The Happy Farmer" and "The Wild Horseman" from the Album for the Young Op 68 Villa-Lobos "O Polichinelo" from Prole do Bebê, series 1 video recorded in 1959
Debussy "Clair de Lune" Recorded live in 2004
Debussy "Les collines d'Anacapri" and "La sérénade interrompue" from Préludes Book 1 recorded in the early 1970s
Debussy "Feux d'artifice" n12 from Préludes Book II recorded in 1991
Debussy Images Book I
1 "Reflets dans l'eau"
2 "Hommage à Rameau"
Debussy Etude 7 "Pour les degrés chromatiques" (4:05) recorded in 1980 preceded by performances of the same work by Clara Haskil and Monique Haas (2:06)
Bartok "Evening in Transylvania" from 10 Easy Pieces, Sz 39/5) recorded in 1985
Poulenc from Trois Pièces, n3 Toccata recorded c 1947
Mozart Variations on "Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman" K 265 recorded in 1985
Mozart Piano Sonata in D major K 576 Recorded live in 2006 at a 90th Birthday Concert in Szeged
ii Adagio iii Allegretto
Here is my new book, a murder mystery with a musical polemic