Sunday, May 19, 2019

Wilma Neruda

Wilma Neruda (Wilhelmine Maria Franziska Neruda aka Madame Norman-Neruda aka Lady Halle) was a Czech (Moravian) violinist and teacher born (in Brno) on March 21, 1838.  (As far as I could determine, her year of birth is still in question - it could be 1838, 1839, or even 1840.)  She was very famous and influential in her day but now – even among serious music enthusiasts – is largely forgotten.  However, her name will be immortal in music history for the fact that she married one of the best known names in the conducting world, Charles Halle, founder of the Halle Orchestra.  She began violin studies with her father, Josef Neruda, at age 4.  At age six, Neruda began studying with Leopold Jansa, in Vienna.  Jansa was also the teacher of Composer Karl Goldmark.  At age 7, she made her public debut in Vienna, with her sister at the piano, playing a Bach violin sonata.  In 1848, she made her English debut in London – she was 10 years old.  (One source gives the date as June 11, 1849.)  In 1852, she presented a series of concerts in Moscow.  It has been said that none other than Henryk Wieniawski considered her one of his main rivals.  In 1859, Neruda formed the Neruda Quartet, comprised of three of her siblings and herself as first violinist.  She was 20 years old.  She subsequently enjoyed a very busy and successful career.  In 1864, she married F. W. Ludwig Norman, a well-known Swedish musician, and subsequently presented herself as Wilma Norman Neruda.  The couple separated after four years and she soon moved to London – she had not returned to England since 1848.  She was now 30 years old.  In 1869, she was named professor of violin at the Royal Music Academy in Stockholm.  Many years later, in 1888, Neruda married Charles Halle and, after Halle was knighted that same year, became Lady Halle.  She and Halle, who was an accomplished pianist, had participated in many chamber music concerts together before their marriage and continued to do so afterward.  In 1890, they toured Australia.  In 1895, they toured South Africa.  Shortly after her husband died in October of 1895, she was gifted a palace in Italy (near Venice) by several members of the aristocracy.  She resided there for a while.  In 1899, four years after Halle died, she toured the United States and Canada.  Although she retired from concert life at age sixty, she continued to perform sporadically.  In late 1898, she moved to Berlin to teach, but continued to live part of the year in London.  In 1907, she played at the memorial concert for Joseph Joachim.  Neruda played a Stradivarius violin from 1709 (or 1710), known as the Vieuxtemps Strad.  The violin was a gift to her made (by several members of the aristocracy) in 1876.  She also owned several other violins.  Neruda died on April 15, 1911, in Berlin, at age 73.