Myra Hess

When the National Gallery closed during the London Blitz, Dame Myra Hess persuaded the gallery’s director to reopen for an immensely popular series of lunchtime classical concerts that gave the war-weary British an infusion of culture and beauty. Hess began studying piano at Trinity College of Music at age five and became the youngest pupil to earn a certificate two years later. At age twelve, she won a scholarship to study at the Royal Academy of Music with Tobias Mathay, who remained a lifelong influence on her performance. Her teachers at the Guildhall School of Music, Julia Pascal and Orlando Morgan, later dedicated compositions to her. She debuted in 1907 at the Aeolian Hall, toured Europe, and gave her first American concert in 1922. While known mainly for her interpretations of Mozart and Beethoven, she also championed Schubert’s compositions for two pianos. Her beloved wartime luncheon concerts, which lasted from 1939–1946, took place every Monday through Friday despite the bombings, for a total of 1,698 performances. Hess, who had been made a Commander of the British Empire in 1936, was made Dame of the British Empire in 1941.

Topics: World War II, Music

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Photo of pianist Myra Hess in 1937, courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Date of Birth

United Kingdom

Date of Death

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Dame Myra Hess." (Viewed on January 20, 2021) <>.


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