Great British female pianists and teachers; Mathilde Verne

Today’s blog continues my series exploring British female pianists and teachers.

Mathilde Verne was born in 1865 and was an English pianist and teacher of German descent. Born Mathilde Wurm in  Southampton, England, the fourth of ten children, all of whom were musically gifted. She was initially a student of Franklin Taylor and was then given the opportunity to play to Clara Schumann, who took her to Frankfurt for further study. Clara also entrusted the musical tuition of her own granddaughter, Julie Schumann, and many other pupils, to Mathilde Verne such was her prowess as a teacher.

Mathilde made her debut in St James’s Hall in London, playing a Mendelssohn piano trio. She taught briefly at the Royal College of Music, and later made regular appearances under Henry Wood at the Queen’s Hall Promenade Concerts from 1903 to 1907. She frequently appeared as soloist under conductors such as Arthur Nikisch, Hans Richter, Sir August Manns and Sir Henry J. Wood, and twice visited the United States, working with Theodore Thomas. She was renowned for her authentic playing of the works of Robert Schumann and in London, became strongly associated with the “Tuesday 12 O’Clock Concerts” of chamber music from 1907 to 1936.

In 1909 the Mathilde Verne School of Pianoforte Playing opened at 194 Cromwell Road, South Kensington, and quickly gained attention with its student performances. Pupils flocked from around the world to study at the school. Her pupils, aside from her sister, Adela, and her nephew, John Vallier, included Solomon whom she discovered and managed from 1910-1915; Dame Moura Lympany, Harold Samuel, Herbert Menges and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (the future Queen Elizabeth, HM The Queen Mother).

Mathilde Verne has been ranked as one of Europe’s greatest music teachers, along with Theodor Leschetizky, Ferruccio Busoni, Isidor Philipp and Tobias Matthay. Another sister, Alice Verne was also a piano teacher and composer.

Mathilde Verne died in London in 1936, aged 71. The novel “Madame Sousatzka” by Bernice Rubens (1962), made into a film in 1988 is partly based on Mathilde Verne’s career

Main Source: Wikipedia


Melanie Spanswick has written and published a wide range of courses, anthologies, examination syllabuses, and text books, including Play it again: PIANO (published by Schott Music). This best-selling graded, progressive piano course contains a large selection of repertoire featuring a huge array of styles and genres, with copious practice tips and suggestions for every piece.

For more information, please visit the publications page, here.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Damian Rogan says:

    You can hear Chopin’s A flat Polonaise played by Mathilde’s sister Adela at this page on my website:
    It’s one of only two 78s recorded by Adela Verne as far as I can tell.

    1. Thanks for that info Damian, I will have a listen! 🙂

  2. Martin says:

    It must be said, however, that “Madame Sousatzka” is a terrible movie that evinces zero understanding of music and teaching.

    1. Hi Martin, I haven’t seen the movie so can’t comment!

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