I found myself searching for other recordings by Keene, and after listening to her Bach and Hummel performances, and after all these years of having heard these recordings, I find myself compelled to add to the small list of American-trained pianists who have always been considered among the truly great musicians. Kapell and Perahia have for years been considered, generally, as the top two; however, I must consider Keene, from my view, as their equal in terms of raw unadorned pianism. To explain:
Obviously, the late William Kapell and Murray Perahia must be considered virtuosi by way of their considerable repertoires, let alone their performance powers. Keene, at least from the public performances she had given, did not, perhaps, have the size of repertoire that Kapell and especially Perahia are known for; however, in terms of pianism, and especially in her legendary 1964 recording of the Rachmaninoff Preludes, I cannot imagine any one playing them any better. And Rubinstein himself was overwhelmed at this recording, stating that he could not imagine Rachmaninoff himself doing any more with these compositions.
I would urge you to listen to what this woman gives to us and the history of recordings. Her infallible technique and the beauty of her ways in dealing with this magnificent form of absolute music by the great Russian composer are, in my view, a revelation.
If she had not decided to turn to teaching, which she did in New York for at least thirty years; indeed, until her passing, and had remained primarily as a performer, where would she have taken herself? Her selflessness and interest in young people have deprived the ages of a talent cut short by a fateful decision to give of herself in a manner that few great artists have done.
Keene enhanced the lives of many young hopefuls, and in doing so deprived History of a name that would have been in league with the others the world knows so well.
A beautiful and fateful decision.
Labels: Constance Keene