On November 25, 1927, Myra Hess made her debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Schumann’s Piano Concerto. Frederick Stock conducted.

November 25 and 26, 1927

November 25 and 26, 1927

Maurice Rosenfeld in the Chicago News commented that Hess performed “in a way that this romantic, tuneful, and particularly pianistic concerto has but rarely been performed in Chicago. Miss Hess has temperament and a musical nature which invests every note that she played with vitality and individuality, and her emotions and feelings as they are affected by the music that she plays are translated into the tones that come forth. . . . She made a distinct success and proved herself one of the finest soloists we have had this season thus far. The Orchestra under Mr. Stock’s sympathetic direction gave her a beautiful accompaniment and it was evident that the members of the band enjoyed the concerto as much, at least, as did the public.”

Hess returned regularly to Chicago until the outbreak of World War II, during which she remained in her native England and inaugurated a series of lunchtime concerts—nearly 1,700 between 1939 and 1946—at the National Gallery in London’s Trafalgar Square. Appearing frequently on the series, she often continued to perform, undaunted, during air raids. King George VI recognized Hess as a Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1941.

Following the war, she resumed her tours to the United States, appearing regularly in Chicago. Her last collaboration with the Orchestra was on March 7 and 8, 1957, in Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto with Fritz Reiner conducting.

“It is a curious thing how a great performance can stir great echoes,” wrote Claudia Cassidy in the Chicago Tribune. “The line of the concerto was constantly reinforced in the mutual serenity of collaboration. Orchestra and soloist spoke the same language. . . . In the finale the gayety was shared, the stature sustained through the fugal flutter to the joyous signing off that set the house roaring its delight.”

Image above: Myra Hess’s program biography for her November 25 and 26, 1927, debut at Orchestra Hall

This article also appears here.