Great British female pianists and teachers; Adela Verne

My blog post today continues the series examining British female pianists and teachers. The pianist in the spotlight last week was Mathilde Verne and this week, we focus on her sister, Adela.

Adela Verne was born in 1877 and was an important English pianist and composer of German descent. She was considered one of the foremost female pianists of her generation and she frequently toured the world playing in all the major concert halls. Adela was born into a musical family, she had nine siblings altogether, and three of her sisters were also notable pianists or composers: Mathilde,  Alice  and Mary. Mathilde and Alice, like Adela, adopted the surname Verne, whereas Mary kept the family’s original surname, Wurm.

Clara Schumann heard Adela play when she was a small girl and was so impressed that she wanted to take her to Frankfurt for study, as she had done with Mathilde, however her parents would not permit this. Instead, she was instructed by Mathilde and Alice, and later by Clara Schumann’s daughter Marie Schumann.

At age 13 she made her debut with Tchaikovsky’s Concerto No.1 in B flat minor, conducted by Sir August Manns at the Crystal Palace concerts series. Tchaikovsky himself heard of this astonishing young prodigy and wanted to meet her. The following year she was introduced to Ignacy Jan Paderewski. He was so impressed with her playing that he predicted a great future for her and subsequently taught her at his home in Switzerland.

Adela Verne was hailed as the successor to Teresa Carreño, and was equally praised by North and South American, Australian, European and British audiences and critics. In Vienna, after hearing her play four concertos in one evening, Theodor Leschetizky gave her the rare honour of asking her to give a recital to his own pupils.

Her wide repertoire included a large amount from the Eighteenth and Nineteenth centuries, but also much from the Twentieth century. She often appeared in chamber music recitals at the St James’s Hall concerts, alongside artists such as the violinist Joseph Joachim and the cellist Alfredo Piatti.

She toured Australia with Dame Nellie Melba, and was associated with other singers such as Luisa Tetrazzini, Amelita Galli-Curci and John McCormack, and violinists such as Mischa Elman, Eugène Ysaÿe amongst others. She appeared regularly at the Proms, and was the first British artist to give a solo recital at the Royal Albert Hall.

Adela was the first woman in England to play the  Brahms’s Second Piano Concerto in B flat major; it had previously been considered too demanding for women! She gave the first performance of the Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No 1 B flat minor Op. 23 in Australia, the first performance in the United Kingdom of César Franck’s Symphonic Variations and the first television performance of Mozart’s Concerto for Two Pianos K. 365, with her son John Vallier, also a noted pianist and composer.

In 1952 she broadcast a special programme of works by Paderewski for the BBC and her last public appearance was at the special Jubilee Concerts celebrating the Wigmore Hall. She was preparing for her first recital at London’s new Royal Festival Hall, when she died, on 5 February 1952, aged 74.

She also composed a variety of works, including a Military March dedicated to Queen Elizabeth, later the Queen Mother; her sister Mathilde’s pupi..

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.

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