The legendary, though somewhat forgotten French pianist Monique Haas this weekend. Born in 1909, she studied at the Paris Conservatoire under Joseph Morpain and Lazare Lévy, taking a Premier Prix in 1927. She went on to study with Rudolf Serkin and Robert Casadesus. As a performer she toured all over the world, winning much praise for her performances of 20th-century music.
Like many of the French pianists who grew up in the aftermath of the First World War, Monique Haas’s repertoire was characterised by an avoidance of Romantic composers and a significant representation of French music. Pieces by François Couperin and Jean-Philippe Rameau appeared regularly on her programmes, as well as that of Mozart and Haydn. The music of Schumann was the significant exception to her neglect of romanticism, though she also included Chopin’s studies in her repertoire.
However, it was as a performer of twentieth-century French music that Haas is best remembered. Her recordings of Debussy include the comparatively neglected Douze Études, which won a Grand Prix du Disque, and the Préludes. She also recorded both of the Ravel concertos, the G major twice, as well as his complete solo piano music.
She was a noted interpreter of Bartók’s music, and performed his third piano concerto only a few days after its world premiere by György Sándor. Another non-French composer whose works appealed to her was Hindemith; she made a valuable recording of his Suite for Piano and Strings The Four Temperaments. She also recorded his Konzertmusik For Piano, Brass & Harp with Hindemith himself conducting.
This recording, of Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin was part of a larger radio session done in Paris around 1952. No exact dates or details and it’s somewhat doubtful if this broadcast performance has been reissued. There are other works recorded here and I will post them in the coming weeks.
One of the great interpreters of 20th century music, who left us in 1987. If you aren’t familiar with the work of Monique Haas, have a listen and go on a search – her complete recordings for DGG are available in a box set as well as many of her other live concert performances.