There are, and have been, so many, and because their playing style is so personal and individual, I can’t use the word ‘best’ to describe any of them. I loved John Escosa, Jack Nebergal, Verlye Mills, Mimi Allen, Liza Re, of course Deborah Hansen-Conant, Park Stickney, Elenor Fell, Ray Pool, Jan Jennings, and so many others. I love them all.
Casper Reardon, and Ruth Berman Harris, to be sure. I have never heard anyone approach what they did. If their music had been available long ago, I think everyone would be playing differently. Miss Lawrence endorsed Verlye Mills in every sense.
Sorry, I must correct someone. Classical was never the pop music of its day, in our sense. There was folk music, ballads, romances and dance music all along. Familiar themes from classical music and the most famous classical pieces made it into home music-making as long as that was popular. The romance genre is the closest classical historically got to being popular, in my view. One of the most famous romances is “Plaisir d’Amour”, and if you think about the melody with a simple arpeggiated accompaniment suitable to piano, harp or guitar, you can see how it blended into pop ballads and Broadway.