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It is difficult to think of a more irrepressible virtuoso pianist than Brazilian-born but Paris-based Magda Tagliaferro (1883-1986). ‘Such swagger and sensuality drenched in exotic lyricism,’ enthuses the sleeve-note writer, evoking a boundless zest and joi de vivre. Fauré, Saint-Saëns, Thibaud, Casals and, most of all, Cortot were among her admirers and her friends included Ravel, D’Indy, Poulenc, Milhaud and Rubinstein – a belle époque indeed!

Those of us lucky enough to have heard her will not forget her Wigmore Hall recital given when already in her 90s and virtually blind. Sporting a dazzling belisha beacon hair-do, she stormed through Chopin’s final Etude with unfaltering command.

Reynaldo Hahn’s glittering and romantic Piano Concerto, dedicated to Tagliaferro and conducted here by the composer, was an ideal gift for a pianist who revelled in music of a facile but endearing charm. She is gentle and assuaging in Schumann’s F sharp minor Romance and even when compared with iconic performances by Michelangeli and Anderszewski of the ‘other’ Carnaval (the Faschingsschwank aus Wien), she more than holds her own.

Chopin’s Fantaisie-Impromptu, too, is given with a truly extaordinary dexterity and rhythmic aplomb. Her Mompou may not have the transcendental sheen of Volodos’s recent Gramophone Award-winning disc, but Tagliaferro reminds us of Goethe’s dictum that it is when working within limits that genius declares itself. Debussy’s Jardins sous la pluie and Toccata provide a whirlwind finish, telling us once more of a pianist whose name somehow slipped off the radar and who has been insufficiently recognised.

BRYCE MORRISON Read the full review on Agora Classica


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