Did classical snobs kill this pianist’s career

Did classical snobs kill this pianist’s career


norman lebrecht

December 30, 2017

That’s the case made by Andrew Ford in his assessment of the slow disappearance of Tasmanian-born Eileen Joyce.

A heartthrob in the Second World War, Joyce’s diary got thinner after she played the soundtrack in the movie Brief Encounter. The highbrows of the music business wrote her off, or so Ford contends.

Read on here.

There is, however, an alternative narrative. Joyce, with a safe repertoire, faced tougher competition after the war, both from more adventurous pianists and from the new wave of modernists, whom she never touched.


  • Robert Hairgrove says:

    Yet another narrative can be found on the Wikipedia page about her:

    It mentions strained family relations, chronic ill health, and a breakdown in 1953. The other things Andrew Ford mentions might have contributed to her problems, but I doubt that they were the sole reason.

    It would be interesting to compare her career with that of Leonard Pennario, a brilliant piano virtuoso who was also active around the time she was and played trios with Heifetz and Piatigorsky in spite of doing a lot of work for Hollywood. There are many highly informative clips of his playing on YouTube. I’ve always thought his interpretations were very underrated.

  • Pianophile says:

    The notion that Joyce’s career diminished because she performed for a film soundtrack is pure supposition and does not stand up to close examination. Arthur Rubinstein “ghosted” for several soundtracks and his career was hardly diminished.

  • La Verita says:

    It’s fairly common for a pianist’s career to dry up by the time they reach their mid 40’s, as happened to Ms. Joyce – particularly with a female pianist whose appeal depended so heavily on her youthful beauty, figure, and glamour – qualities that abandon them in middle age, just as the younger & prettier talents come along to replace them. A prominent artist-manager has been heard saying “That “40-thing” is fatal for many a career”. Sad, but so true!


    Her recording of John Ireland’s Piano Concerto is wonderful.

  • Honoré Chassé says:

    Maybe her cousin, Eileen Dover, fared better.

  • Peter says:

    And here’s the irony–because she did perform on that soundtrack, she’s achieved a degree of immortality many others of her generation will never have.

  • Sue says:

    I can recommend this somewhat fictionalized film about Eileen Joyce, which is enjoyable:


    • Sue says:

      Well, I just watched the first sections of the film and realize that I used to work with the actor who played Eileen’s father, Nigel Lovell. We worked together at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in the early 70s and he kept in touch with me for a while after I left.

  • adoss says:

    film about Eileen Joyce