Reference Entry

Hess, Willy

Watson Forbes

in Oxford Music Online

Published in print January 2001 |
Published online January 2001 | e-ISBN: 9781561592630 | DOI:

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(b Mannheim, July 14, 1859; d Berlin, Feb 17, 1939). German violinist. He studied with his father, a pupil of Spohr. In 1865 he went to the USA to continue his studies and, at the age of nine, he toured with the Thomas Orchestra. In 1872 he left for the Netherlands, moved to Heidelberg and then went to Berlin in 1876 to complete his studies with Joachim. He led the opera and museum concerts orchestra at Frankfurt (1878–86) and in 1886 became a professor at the Rotterdam Conservatory. Hess moved to Manchester to lead the Hallé Orchestra (1888–95), to Cologne as a professor at the conservatory (1895–1903), and then to London to the RAM (1903–4). From 1904 to 1910 he led the Boston SO. He eventually settled in Berlin and taught at the Hochschule für Musik (1910–28).

Hess was distinguished as a leader, a ‘passionate and inexhaustible’ teacher (according to Flesch), and a quartet player (he played in the Hess Quartet in Boston and the Halíř Quartet in Berlin). An intelligent and sensitive musician, whose playing was strongly influenced by Joachim, he produced a rich, full tone and led with a certain impetuosity of attack. His fine violin was by G.B. Guadagnini....

Reference Entry.  225 words. 

Subjects: Romantic Music

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