Long a friend and admirer of the Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos, she performed many of his works and commissioned his Concerto No. 1, giving the premiere (1946) in Rio de Janeiro under the composer's direction. She also gave the US premiere (Dallas SO under Antal Dorati) and the Canadian premiere (CBC Montreal studio performance by the CSM under Désiré Defauw) in 1947, repeating the work in 1951 with the CSM and in 1953 with the TSO. Her other Canadian appearances - those made in the 1920s during North American tours - include recitals in 1928 for the Montreal Ladies' Morning Musical Club and the Women's Musical Club of Toronto and, later that same year, a performance with the TSO. She also performed with both the CSM in 1939 (Sir Ernest MacMillan was guest conductor for Grieg's Concerto in A minor) and 1951 (Villa-Lobos' Concerto) and the TSO in Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Opus 18 in 1942 and appeared on CBC TV's 'Heure du concert'.
Ballon's playing was rhythmically secure and, at its best, full of excitement. If her concert career fell somewhat short of the promise shown by her prodigious childhood, it may have been that she was not under pressure to prove herself - a stimulus which most successful pianists experience. She became a person of considerable wealth and was popular in social and artistic circles. In later life she made important contributions to the Faculty of Music at McGill University (where she established a piano scholarship in her own name in 1928) as a philanthropist, as a fund-raiser, and, for a short time, as a teacher. In the 1950s she initiated and sponsored a series of lectures by musicians of renown such as Gian-Carlo Menotti, Lotte Lehmann, and Deems Taylor. Sir Jacob Epstein did a bust of Ballon. Her papers are deposited at Dalhousie University.
Author Eric McLean
Chopin Concerto No. 2. London SO, Ansermet conductor. (1950). Lon LPS-275/Decca LX-3035
Piano Solos by Ellen Ballon: Bach/Siloti - Schubert - Liszt - Beethoven. (1951). Lon LPS-306
Villa-Lobos Concerto No. 1. O de la Suisse romande, Ansermet conductor. (Ca 1949). Lon LLP-77
- Piano Music: selections. Ca 1950. Lon LS-531 (originally released by Decca on 78s)
- Piano Music: selections. Ca 1950. Lon LD-9095/Decca LX-3075 (originally released by Decca on 78s)
Ballon made a piano roll 'Were I a Bird' for Aeolian ca 1927.
W.S. '"Give us this day our daily Bach" is the prayer of Ellen Ballon, pianist,' Musical America, 30 May 1925
Bauer, John. 'Ellen Ballon,' CRMA, vol 2, Oct-Nov 1943
Hill, H. 'Prodigy's progress,' SatN, vol 68, 11 Apr 1953
A Selection of Items From the Ellen Ballon Music Collection at the Dalhousie University Library (Halifax 1972)
Kirk, Elise K. Music at the White House (Chicago 1986)
Musical Red Book
Musiciennes de chez nous
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