The National Gallery at Trafalgar Square in London is arranging a Dame Myra Hess Day on the 25th of November (2008). This annual event honours Dame Myra Hess who initiated, directed and performed a series of legendary concerts at the National Gallery during the Second World War.
This year’s concerts will take place in the Barry Rooms (Room 36), where the original concerts were also held. UK-based international pianist Piers Lane is the artistic director of the Myra Hess concerts, and the arrangement is supported by The Ernest Hecht Charitable Foundation.
During the war years and the blitz, Dame Myra Hess organized over one
thousand concerts at the National Gallery. The Gallery had removed all
the paintings, keeping just one on display each month, and thousands of
people (many not regular concertgoers) came to listen, be inspired, and
possibly garner a little hope from these wartime concerts.
The concerts were a cultural oasis for thousands of Londoners during a time when the concert halls and theatres were otherwise closed. For Myra Hess, the concerts were a wonderful opportunity to “give spiritual solace to those who are giving all to combat the evil”.
Legendary English pianist Dame Myra Hess (1890-1965) studied at the Royal Academy of Music. She made her London debut in 1907, performing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 under Sir Thomas Beecham.
She first appeared in the United States in 1922.
Her playing was acclaimed in terms of both its virtuosity and poetic sensitivity.
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 works by contemporary composers.
In this rendition of the first movement of Beethoven´s “Appassionata” Op. 57 from 1945, her modern sense of drive and virtuosity, which never overshadows the poetic vision of drama and contrast, is clear for all to hear.