Myra Hess

(1890—1965) pianist

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British pianist who was created CBE in 1936 and DBE in 1941 in recognition of the lunchtime concerts she organized at the National Gallery during World War II.

She began her musical education at the Guildhall School of Music under Julian Pascal and Orlando Morgan, winning a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music (1902), where she was one of the earliest and most distinguished pupils of Tobias Matthay (1858–1945; author of a method of pianism based on relaxation). Her debut under Beecham at the Queen's Hall in London (1907), playing Beethoven's fourth piano concerto, was enthusiastically acclaimed. She quickly became known for her interpretations of the major concertos and for her playing in recitals and in chamber ensembles. She also formed a piano duo with her cousin Irene Scharrer (1888–1971), another Matthay pupil. In the 1920s she toured Europe and the USA, where she became a welcome and regular visitor. Her repertoire was wide and, in her early days, adventurous in the field of contemporary music.

From 1939 to 1946 she inaugurated, organized, and frequently played at the National Gallery lunchtime concerts as a regular musical feature of wartime London. Dame Myra Hess made numerous piano transcriptions of baroque music, of which ‘Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring’ from Bach's Cantata 147 achieved great popularity. Her playing combined a brilliant technique with great warmth of feeling. Among her pupils were Stephen Bishop-Kovacevich and Yonty Solomon.

Subjects: Music.

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