"In my experience, the best recordings are always miniature recitals; and part of any ideal program in my book is placing works which shed light on each other or on the overall theme of the program in ways which enhance our understanding of these connections. If the idea of “piano music from Leipzig” seems silly in some ways it still sheds light on our understanding of a certain time and place (perhaps Bach has more to do with the 19th century’s understanding of him in this recital). To enhance that experience further the pianist here, Eleanor Meynell, has also chosen to use an instrument which originated in Leipzig: a 1909 Feurich piano that was bought by her mother-in-law in 1954, and subsequently rebuilt in 1954–55 and again in 2013. Its rich tone only adds to the musical experience.
Meynell’s approach is both unfussy and straightforward in a good way: Where other pianists project themselves first and the composer second, Meynell never shies away from her own personality, but she puts the composers’ ideas first and forward. Her Bach is especially noteworthy: The Fantasy is taken at a slightly slower clip, allowing one to relish the numerous dynamic shadings, the careful voicing, and the ebb and flow of the passagework. Her Mendelssohn is also lovely: The melodic line is carefully etched; the accompaniment is appropriately fluid....Grieg’s Lyric Pieces are too made charming in her hands, especially ones such as “Halling,” which is both quirky in its rhythms and acciaccaturas and evocative in especially the beautiful quiet she finds in the most pianissimo of passages. (One can almost imagine oneself sitting in the front parlour of a charming Victorian house listening to a home pianist—albeit a very good one!—perform such a work.) The Gade pieces are fascinating for their sprightly rhythms, their quirky exotic flair, and for Meynell’s obvious delight in playing them: The last one especially is a fascinating work, sounding in her hands like a mazurka co-written by Mendelssohn and Chopin. And she also makes quick work of Brahms’s treacherously difficult early E-Minor Scherzo; here it sounds less like a torrent of orchestral fury and more like a light-hearted drawing room work.
Recorded in fine sound, though perhaps a bit close for some, the overall aura is that of a salon and less of a reverberant concert hall. That works well especially for this program. If these are not my benchmark recordings of these works—most of those performances occur in boring discs devoted to one composer—then I should at least say that this disc has given me more listening pleasure than any other this month. What else is there to say? Charming music, in uneccentric yet musical performances, delightfully presented in the spirit of the 19th-century salon, recorded in beautiful sound and all on a warm-toned Feurich. Grab it and enjoy!"
Scott Noriega, Fanfare magazine
"From the excitement of the new to the reassurance of the familiar – our next CD is a celebration of composers who flourished in, or were inspired by, the city of Leipzig. This compilation, commencing with J.S. Bach’s Chromatic Fantasy, also includes Mendelssohn’s enchanting Songs without Words and works by Grieg and Niels Gade. Pianist Eleanor Meynell guides the listener through this timeless garner of miniature masterpieces. The Opus 38 Grieg Lyric Pieces are evidently personal favourites of the soloist. Familiar to Radio 3 audiences, and having made her Wigmore Hall debut in 2015, Eleanor performs on a 1909 Feurich piano, from Leipzig – Feurich having founded his piano manufacturing company there in 1851.
Brahms gave numerous piano recitals in Leipzig, having been introduced to the city by an associate of Schumann. This new CD concludes with Brahms’s Scherzo, Op. 4 in E flat minor, an early piece with intimations of the brilliance yet to come. Eleanor Meynell plays this work with joy and élan."
Stuart Millson, Classical Music Editor of Quarterly Review
"I found Eleanor Meynell’s playing so lively and rhythmically alert that, I just couldn’t resist. She also makes the piano sing, not only in the Mendelssohn Songs Without Words (too often played in a strictly pianistic style without lyricism) but also in the Bach Chromatic Fantasy & Fugue. Meynell doesn’t distinguish the Mendelssohn pieces much from those by Grieg and Gade, but she doesn’t have to. They’re all of a whole: lightweight, tonal, Romantic salon music designed to entertain rather than enlighten the listener, and she certainly makes them entertaining. Her rhythms fairly bounce and she sounds as if she’s having a ball playing them, as if they were her favourite Beatles songs. All in all, then, a very fine recording. ....these are now my favourite recordings of the Mendelssohn pieces."
Lynn René Bayley The Art Music Lounge.
"Nimble, delicately pointed playing from pianist Eleanor Meynell"
Anna Picard, The Times
“Immensley enjoyable... Eleanor Meynell has a voice of obvious quality and colour... First-rate performance.”
Classical CD Review
“Meynell devoted her flexible soprano to settings of W.H.Auden’s poetry – pieces from Britten’s mid-twenties were perfectly suited to her lively personality. But her gently floated tone at the end of the Maconchy’s Elegy to Yeats was when she really began to beguile.”
Martin Dreyer, The Press
“Excellent soprano Eleanor Meynell.”
Pauline Fairclough, The Guardian
“Delivered with lovely attack and finely calculated dramatic effect. Eleanor Meynell has physical glamour and a pure, warm tone with considerable power... A young singer of whom we shall, I predict, hear a great deal more...”
Michael Church, The Scotsman
“It was the achingly beautiful vocal of soprano Eleanor Meynell that left the deepest impression.”
Paul Conway, The Independent
“Eleanor Meynell – wonders of clarity in the sprechstimme of Pierrot Lunaire.”
Paul Driver, The Sunday Times
“Pierrot Lunaire does need a soprano of brilliance, and found it in Eleanor Meynell... She held her audience rapt (and enabled her to enjoy herself rasping out the spookier verses).”
Robert Beale, Manchester Evening News
“The performances are first rate – Eleanor Meynell is outstanding.”
Andrew Mayes, The Recorder Magazine
“The songs enabled Eleanor to show off her prodigious range. She is a captivating performer and each song took on a life of its own. Her smile was infectious, her face so expressive and the songs were not just sung but performed with great professionalism.”
Martin Booth, Watford Observer
“Her top notes are clear and open, she has no problem in the lower registers and her middle range has a sweetness and depth which is a delight to the ear. Her choice of haunting songs by Francois Poulenc gave ample scope to illustrate this quality and her controlled delivery captured the world-weary metaphysical yearnings of the composer perfectly... The selection of Spanish songs suited her striking looks and personality. They were ... joyful and sung with great feeling.”