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Myra Hess


Dame Myra Hess DBE (25 February 1890 – 25 November 1965) was a Britishmarker pianist.

She was born in Londonmarker as Julia Myra Hess, but was best-known by her middle name. At the age of five she began to study the piano and two years later entered the Guildhall School of Music, where she graduated as winner of the gold medal. She studied at the Royal Academy of Musicmarker under Tobias Matthay. Her debut came in 1907 when she played Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4 with Sir Thomas Beecham conducting. She went on to tour through Britain, the Netherlands and France. Upon her Americanmarker debut (New Yorkmarker, 24 January 1922) she became a prime favourite in the United States, not only as a soloist, but also as a fine ensemble player.

She garnered greater fame during World War II when, with all concert halls closed, she organised a series of lunchtime concerts at the National Gallerymarker, playing in many herself. For this contribution to maintaining the morale of the populace of London, she was created a Dame Commander of the British Empire (DBE) in 1941; having previously been created a CBE in 1936. Hess makes a brief appearance performing at one of her lunchtime concerts in the classic 1942 wartime documentary Listen to Britain (directed by Humphrey Jennings and Stuart McAllister).[39869]

Hess was most renowned for her interpretations of the works of Mozart, Beethoven and Schumann, but had a wide repertoire ranging from Domenico Scarlatti to contemporary works. She gave the premiere of Howard Ferguson's Piano Sonata and his Piano Concerto. She also played a good amount of chamber music, and performed in a piano duo with Irene Scharrer. She promoted public awareness of the piano duo and two-piano works of Schubert.

She made a well-known arrangement for piano of the chorale prelude "Jesus bleibet meine Freude" (known in English as "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring") from Johann Sebastian Bach's Cantata No. 147 "Herzt und Mund und Tat und Leben". Her protégés included Clive Lythgoe and Richard and John Contiguglia.

She influenced the City Music Society to form from lunchtime concerts organised by her.


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