Lelia Gousseau - Paris Radio Recital

Lelia Gousseau - One of the true bright lights in French piano playing.

Lelia Gousseau - Paris Radio Recital
Lelia Gousseau – One of the true bright lights in French piano playing.

Back over to Paris this week for part of a radio recital given by the renowned Pianist and teacher Lelia Gousseau from 1951. This one features a seldom heard work by Paul Dukas – the Variations, Interlude and Finale on a theme by Rameau (Variations, interlude et finale sur un thème de Rameau).

Primarily a distinguished teacher, Gousseau was a major performer from the 1930s to 1950s. As a celebrated pupil of the icon Lazare Levy, Gousseau won many prestigious competitions in the 1920s, and beginning in 1952 embarked on an international career, playing with such orchestras as the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra and Boston Symphony while touring the U.S.

Born in Paris, the daughter of pianist Fanny d’Almeida (disciple of Elie Delaborde) and organist William Gousseau (1870-1939), maître de chapelle at Saint-Nicolas-du-Chardonnet (1893-1938), Gousseau entered at a young age in the Conservatoire de Paris where she won a first prize in piano in the class of Lazare-Lévy (1925) – who regarded her as one of her best disciples along with her contemporary Monique Haas – as well as a first prize in Music History in Maurice Emmanuel’s class (1926)

Récipient of the Claire Pagès Prize (1928), laureate of the International Chopin Piano Competition of Warsaw (1937), Gousseau also received the Albert Roussel Prize (1939), a composer of whom she was the privileged performer (even today, her recordings of the Concerto, the Suite Op. 14, the three Pieces Op. 49 etc. are authoritative)

Soloist with major national and international ensembles (debut with the orchestras of Boston, New York and Philadelphia in 1952), Gousseau particularly distinguished herself in the French music of her time: Chausson, Dukas, Ohana, Schmitt, creating, in particular, the Passacaille by Marcel Mihalovici (Op. 105) and the étude Pour les sonorités de la main gauche by Henri Martelli, two pieces of which she was the dedicatee – although she played and recorded Brahms, Chopin, Schumann and Falla.

Lélia Gousseau taught at the Conservatoire de Paris (1961-1978) as well as at the École Normale de Musique de Paris, where her teaching was distinguished above all by an extreme attention paid to fingering, pedalling, deep playing and legato. Anne Queffélec, Émile Naoumoff, Jean-Pierre Ferey, Maria Tortelier-de la Pau, Alain Raës [fr], Pascal Devoyon and Kaoki Kimura were among her numerous pupils.

Sadly, she recorded very little commercially, primarily music of Albert Roussel for the Philips and Vega labels in the 1950s (although a box set of live performances by the Boston Symphony featuring her concerts with Charles Munch is currently making the rounds).

This radio recital hasn’t been reissued in any form, and most likely hasn’t been heard since the day it was broadcast. A rarely performed work by a rarely heard artist.  And so goes another Sunday of rarities.


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