Paul Watt reviews 'Destiny: The extraordinary career of pianist Eileen Joyce' by David Tunley, Victoria Rogers, and Cyrus Meher-Homji

Paul Watt reviews 'Destiny: The extraordinary career of pianist Eileen Joyce' by David Tunley, Victoria Rogers, and Cyrus Meher-Homji

Destiny: The extraordinary career of pianist Eileen Joyce

by David Tunley, Victoria Rogers, and Cyrus Meher-Homji

Lyrebird Press, $55 pb, 219 pp, 9780734037862

Paul Watt

Paul Watt

Paul Watt is a senior lecturer in musicology in the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music, Monash University.

Eileen Joyce’s name is not to be found in books about the great pianists, but a great pianist she was nonetheless. Born and raised in rural Tasmania and Western Australia, she studied in Leipzig and London and eventually found fame as a versatile pianist with an unusually robust technique and a wide repertory (including ninety concertos). The new reissue of her studio recordings (Decca/Eloquence), which includes performances of chamber music and works for harpsichord, will pleasantly surprise listeners with their clarity and vitality of playing.

Joyce was not a specialist in the works of one composer or period. The ten CDs display Joyce’s familiarity with the usual suspects, including Brahms, Liszt, and Mozart, but also her interest in non-canonical repertory, such as works by Bernhard Stavenhagen, Joaquín Turina, Harry Farjeon, and Cyril Scott. Although the recordings date from the 1930s and 1940s, they have been reissued extremely well for CD, and there are few muddy, unclear, or distorted moments.

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Published in May 2018, no. 401

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