If there ever was a pianist who embraced a style of playing that was in the service of sculpted phrases, regardless of wrist-breaking rules, it was Livia Rev. Her playing had choreographic freedom as she responded to the here and now of music-making, crafting phrases with a thoughtful relationship to what unfolded, in the before and after time cosmos. This dual reflective dimension of her artistry synthesized with an understanding of physical flexibility and the singing tone, endowed her performances with a rich emotional and structural dimension.
I had discovered the Hungarian pianist on You Tube where one particular video in her native Hungarian tongue made an indelible impression. While the footage has since been removed from the pianist’s playlist, it memorialized Rev in her home, teaching a young adult student–gently pressing her right wrist atop the piano, plying it like a sponge.
With a lilting voice of reassurance, Maestra Lev redirects the student to the keyboard, prompting her to create wave-like effusions with occasional deep dips of her wrist. It works beautifully, producing a musical landscape that’s flat-line-free.
A subsequent, well-preserved closeup video of Livia’s teaching is thankfully available for mentors and students to study. It fleshes out the pianist’s signature supple wrist/core-centered approach. (Rev’s physical prompts serve musical expression, and are NOT allied to a rigid didactic.)
Livia Rev’s performance of Czerny studies at age 93, (“Pris sur le vif, chez elle, en février 2010 première partie des cahiers de Czerny”) is emblematic of her undulating wrist motions-when-needed approach. They thread through interludes no. 2 and 3. (and well beyond)
If there’s a Eurythmics, music-is-motion revelation, it’s clearly suggested in the rendering of these tableaux. (Note that Rev, though born in Hungary, and having regaled a correspondence with Bela Bartok, relocated to France where she taught at the Université Musicale Internationale.)
Here’s Livia Rev’s artistry wrapped in the time-honored European tradition of soulful pianistic expression.
These Chopin performances date to 1957.
Liva Rev: A brief bio:(WIKI)
“Born in Budapest, Lívia Rév began her studies with Margit Varró and Klára Máthé. Aged nine, she won the Grand Prix des Enfants Prodiges. Aged twelve she performed with an orchestra. She studied with Leó Weiner and Arnold Székely at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music, with Professor Robert Teichmüller at the Leipzig Conservatory, and with Paul Weingarten at the Vienna Conservatory, having left Hungary in 1946.
“Among Rév’s earliest recordings made around 1947 were a series of sixteen-inch radio transcription discs for the Standard Program Library. These included a virtuosic performance of Francis Poulenc’s Toccata. She performed across Europe, in Asia, Africa, and in the United States. She was a soloist with such conductors as Sir Adrian Boult, André Cluytens, Jascha Horenstein, Eugen Jochum, Josef Krips, Rafael Kubelík, Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt, Constantin Silvestri and Walter Susskind.
“Her first United States appearance was in 1963 at the invitation of the Rockefeller Institute. Her recordings vary from complete Debussy Préludes, Chopin Nocturnes and Mendelssohn Songs without Words.
“Rév lived in Paris, with her husband Pierre Aubé, until her death on 28 March 2018, at age 101.
“She was awarded the Ferenc Liszt International Record Grand Prix.”
R.I.P. Livia Rev