Mayra Hess

Mayra Hess

English pianist
Date of Birth: 25.02.1890
Country: Great Britain

  1. Biography of Myra Hess
  2. Awards and Repertoire

Biography of Myra Hess

Myra Hess was an English pianist who began learning to play the piano at the age of five. She studied with Julian Pascal and Orlando Morgan at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and later with Tobias Matthay at the Royal Academy of Music. In 1907, she made her debut performance in London, playing Beethoven's Fourth Concerto and Saint-Saëns' Fourth Concerto with an orchestra conducted by Thomas Beecham. A year later, she made her debut at the Proms concerts. Over the years, she formed ensembles with violinists Fritz Kreisler and Joseph Szigeti, as well as singers Nellie Melba and Lotte Lehmann, with whom she frequently performed in the United Kingdom.

Myra Hess achieved international success after performing Robert Schumann's piano concerto in the Netherlands in 1912 under the baton of Willem Mengelberg. By the early 1920s, she was giving 100 concerts per year in Europe. In 1922, she made her first appearance in the United States, where she was also warmly received by critics and audiences. During the onset of World War II, when all concert halls in London were closed, Hess began performing at the famous "Lunchtime Concerts" at the National Gallery. Throughout the war, she gave a total of 146 concerts, all of which were sold out.

After the war, Myra Hess resumed her concert career, particularly in the United States, where she performed fourteen solo concerts at Carnegie Hall from 1946 to 1954. Her last public performance took place in 1960, after which she significantly reduced her musical activities due to a heart attack.

Awards and Repertoire

In 1941, Myra Hess was appointed as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Her repertoire was extensive, with a focus on the works of Viennese classical composers. Notable pieces in her repertoire included Beethoven's Fourth Concerto, his last three sonatas, numerous piano concertos by Mozart, and Bach's chorales arranged for piano by herself. Although Hess did not enjoy making recordings, stating that "When I listen to how I play, it feels like attending my own funeral," several compact discs of her performances exist.