Ballon, Ellen (1898–1969)

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Ballon, Ellen (1898–1969)

Canadian pianist who made many pioneering records of Villa-Lobos' work and introduced it to the concert stage. Born in Montreal in 1898 of Russian immigrant parents; died in Montreal on December 21, 1969. Gave world premiere of Heitor Villa-Lobos' First Piano Concerto under his baton in Rio de Janeiro in 1946.

A child prodigy, Ellen Ballon was six when she won the director's prize at the McGill Conservatory. At an early age, she earned praises from such pianistic greats as Josef Hofmann, Artur Rubinstein and Adele aus der Ohe . In 1910, Ballon made her New York concerto debut. In 1912, President William Howard Taft invited her to perform at the White House; she performed there again in 1934 for President Franklin D. Roosevelt and in 1954 for President Dwight D. Eisenhower. A major European tour in 1927 won Ballon great critical acclaim. Living and performing in Great Britain and the European Continent in the 1930s, she returned to Canada at the end of that decade and settled in Montreal. Ballon was a warm friend of the Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos, from whom she commissioned his First Piano Concerto, and she gave the work its world premiere under the composer's baton in Rio de Janeiro in 1946. She also made a number of pioneering recordings of Villa-Lobos' piano compositions. Enthusiastic about the possibilities of disseminating classical music on a mass basis, Ballon made some of the earliest long-playing recordings (released on the Decca/ London label), and appeared on the CBC French-language television series "Heure du concert." In the 1950s, she initiated and sponsored a series of lectures by noted musical personalities including Gian-Carlo Menotti, Deems Taylor, and Lotte Lehmann .

John Haag , Athens, Georgia

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