Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Marie Hall

Marie Hall (Marie Pauline Hall) was an English violinist born on April 8, 1884 (Brahms was 51 years old.)  Her claim to fame rests on the fact that Vaughan Williams wrote and dedicated his best known work, The Lark Ascending, for her.  She also (briefly) took lessons from Edward Elgar (1894.)  Her playing was once described as being emotionless.  Her first teacher was her father, a harpist in the Carl Rosa Opera Company (which is still active today.)  It may be (or perhaps not) that a certain Hildegarde Werner also taught her as a very young child.  Other teachers she had included August Wilhelmj (1896) Max Mossel (1898), Johan Kruse (1900), and Otakar Sevcik (1901.)  Early on, being barely nine years old, she had missed an opportunity to study with Emile Sauret because her family did not have enough money to pay her tuition at the Royal Academy (London.)  It has been reported that as a child, she played her violin in the street, in Malvern, England, accompanied by her mother, to help out with family expenses.  Her subsequent music education was financed through scholarships.  Her first concert took place in Prague (where Sevcik taught) in 1902.  She was 18 years old and later said that she had been extremely nervous before her performance.  In January, 1903, she made her Vienna debut and a month later, her London debut.  Physically, she was very petite but possessed great stamina.  She appeared in New York (Carnegie Hall) for the first time on November 8, 1905.  On that occasion, she played the Tchaikovsky concerto and an arrangement of the first Paganini concerto, among other things.  After 1909, she toured far and wide fairly regularly and even recorded, though not nearly as much as most of her contemporaries.  With Elgar conducting, she recorded an abridged version of his concerto in 1916 for the HMV record company.  (Fritz Kreisler, to whom the concerto is dedicated, never recorded it.)  A few of her recordings can be found on YouTube.  She is inextricably linked to The Lark Ascending, which she first performed in 1921, the same way that Franz Clement is linked to the Beethoven concerto, Ferdinand David to the Mendelssohn concerto, Joseph Joachim to the Brahms concerto, Leopold Auer to the Tchaikovsky concerto, and Rodolphe Kreutzer to the Kreutzer Sonata.  In each case, the composition eclipsed the violinist by far.  From 1905 onwards, Hall played what is now known as the ex-Viotti Marie Hall Stradivarius (constructed in 1709 - not to be confused with the ex-Bruce Viotti Stradivarius from 1709 as well, now housed at London’s Royal Academy of Music.)  I do not know how she acquired it.  About thirty years after her death, it was sold at auction for a large sum (more than $800,000.)   She died in Cheltenham on November 11, 1956, at age 72, in hazy obscurity. 


  1. This is violinist profile number 214. The photo came from an old set of trading cards. In the early 20th century, a company issued trading cards with pictures of famous musicians - the same way they featured sports stars later on.

  2. Actually, I miscounted. This is profile number 222, not 214.

  3. One of my favorites. A great shame she did nor record Lark.