ADELA VERNE (1877-1952)

Adela Verne was, judging from the only performance that I have heard, a magnificent pianist.  She was thought to be one of the finest women pianists of her age and the equal of any of the reigning males.  As a very young girl, she played for Clara Schumann who was so impressed that she wanted Adela to come to study with her in Frankfurt, But Adela's parents felt she was too young and refused to let her go.

She made her debut at the age of 13 playing the Tchaikovsky first concerto and was so acclaimed that word of her brilliant performance reached the composer who expressed a desire to meet her.  A year later she played for Paderewski, so impressing him that he predicted for her a wonderful future.  This led to her becoming his pupil and studying the works of Chopin with him, as well as those of his own devising. 

Adela Verne had a hugely successful international concert career, performing to unanimous acclaim all over North and South America, Australia, Europe, and Great Britain.  After hearing her at a concert in Vienna, Leschetizky was so impressed that he invited her to give a recital for his own students, a rare homage to be bestowed by the great master.

She gave the first performances in Australia of Tchaikovsky’s B minor Piano Concerto and the Saint-Saëns G minor Piano Concerto in 1898; the first performance in the UK of César Franck's Symphonic Variations; the first performance at London's famous Promenade Concerts of Brahms's B major Concerto, and was the first woman to perform this concerto at all in the UK; previously, it was believed to be so demanding that it was not advisable for a woman to attempt it.)

Adela Verne recorded very little in spite of a very important career that was concurrent with masses of recordings by the great male pianists of her time, quite a number of whom were considered to be her inferiors.  There is evidence of two discs recorded on the English Columbia label in 1917 consisting of  Ignacio Cervantes: Three Cuban Dances; Moritz Moszkowski: La Jongleuse; and Chopin: Polonaise in A♭ major, Op 53 and the possibility of a third disc that was never released.  She apparently also made piano rolls in 1920/21 of the Cervantes: Three Cuban Dances; the Tchaikovsky: Meditation in D major, Op 72, n 5, and the Mendelssohn: Prelude and Fugue in E minor, Op 35, n 1.  Not very many examples of her art considering her stature.  And where, but for the Chopin Polonaise which is among the most exquisite performances of that work I have ever heard, are these recordings?

There is no question in my mind that had she been a man, we would be luxuriating in her recorded output.

Chopin  Polonaise in A♭ major, Op 53 "Héroïque"

recorded in 1917

Adela Verne had a son with whom she often played music for four hands and two pianos.  His name was John Vallier (his father was Jean Vallier the French basso) and lived from 1920 to 1991.  He was an excellent pianist and a composer.  As a pianist he was prominent during the 1940s and '50s and was best known for playing all over the UK in places where performances of classical music were few and far between.  As a composer, he is largely known for his Toccatina for piano solo, a fabulous and fabulously difficult piece, certainly difficult enough to have attracted the recorded attention of Marc-André Hamelin of "I don't care how difficult it is, I can play it" fame.  Below is a recording of this piece as played by the incomparable Benno Moiseiwitsch.

John Vallier  Toccatina (1950)

recorded by Benno Moiseiwitsch, piano

The following recording is of a piano transcription of Adela Verne's "Queen Elizabeth's March" composed for the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, the current Queen's mother, in 1937. The transcription and the performance are by Verne's son, John Vallier.

For those of you who enjoy murder mysteries, here is my first with a strong musical polemic as background

Murder in the House of the Muse

which is also available as an audiobook.

And this is the more recently published second mystery in the series:

Murder Follows the Muse

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