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- Moiseiwitsch - Myra Hess -


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BENNO MOISEIWITSCH was born on 22 Feb 1890 in Moiseiwitch.jpg - 12227 BytesOdessa in the Ukraine where he later won his first piano prize at the age of 9.

    In 1905 the family settled in England, and Benno subsequently went to study in Vienna with the legendary Theodor Leschetizky. Following his public debut he was soon performing through-out England and, later, the world. He was a popular performer in the Promenade Concerts and on the BBC. During the second world war he gave recitals in factories and military camps throughout the UK. He became a good friend of Winston Chuchill and also of Rachmaninoff whose piano works he promoted.

    He was addicted to poker, a game which he played at every available moment. Moiseiwitsch was a 'master of the poker-face, both at the keyboard and at the card table'; his (piano) playing was described as being 'poised and aristocratic'. He died in April 1963.

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MYRA HESS was born in Hampstead, London in 1890. Her father was a German businessman who had moved to England in 1847. Musically talented she started playing the piano at five, became a pupil at the Guildhall School of Music in London at 7 and won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of music when aged 12. At the Academy she studied under Tobias Matthay, one of the most celebrated teachers of the day.

    In 1907, in a concert conducted by the young Thomas Beecham, she played Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto MyraHess.jpg - 15375 Bytes(with which she would become associated, together with the Schumann Concerto, throughout her career) and the Saint-Saens Second Piano Concerto. Her London debut, however, did not bring her immediate success and it took some years for her subsequent high reputation as a pianist to become established. Her first really successful concerts took place in America in the early 1920s. She returned to play in that country on many occasions in the following years.

    With the outbreak of war in 1939 all public concerts were curtailed. At the same time the paintings at the National Gallery in London were removed to a safe area outside the capital. When public concerts were again permitted, Myra Hess suggested that the gallery building be used for lunch-time concerts. So began the famous series of National Gallery concerts, which ran daily for over six years and continued even throughout the blitz and, later, the flying bomb and V2 rocket attacks. Myra Hess arranged the whole series and also played in many of the concerts. On one occasion a bomb exploded rather too close for comfort. However, nobody moved and the recital continued as though nothing had happened. MyraHessTateGa.jpg - 39819 Bytes

    Hess made many recordings although she never felt at home in the recording studio. One of her most successful recordings was of her piano transcription of Bach’s ‘Jesu, joy of man’s desiring’ which appeared on a 78rpm disc and later became a popular request on the BBC programme, ‘Family Favourites’, during the war. Myra Hess was awarded the CBE in 1936 and became a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1941. She died in 1965.

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