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Norman-Neruda leading a quartet at the Popular Concerts. The other players are Louis Ries, Ludwig Straus and Alfredo Piatti. Engraving from the Illustrated London News, 2 March 1872.

Norman-Neruda leading a quartet at the Popular Concerts. The other players are Louis Ries, Ludwig Straus and Alfredo Piatti. Engraving from the Illustrated London News, 2 March 1872.

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NORMAN-NERUDA, Wilma, later Lady Hallé (b.Brno, 21 March ?1838; d.Berlin, 15 April 1911)
Considered by many to be the equal of her great contemporary Joseph Joachim, this fine and significantly important violinist died one hundred years ago this month.

(Please click the thumbnails below to view larger image)

Programme of Sir Julius Benedict's benefit concert at the Floral Hall, Covent Garden, 31 May 1871.

Programme of a Monday Popular Concert at St. James's Hall, 22 November 1875. Programme of a Monday Popular Concert at St. James's Hall, 29 November 1875.

Programme of Sir Charles Hallé's last concert with the Hallé Orchestra, Free Trade Hall, Manchester, 7 March 1895. (From Batley: Sir Charles Hallé's Concerts in Manchester. Manchester, [1896].)

Programme of Sir August Manns's benefit concert at Crystal Palace, 25 April 1896.

Programme of a private chamber concert at Northlands, Englefield Green, 25 May 1907.

Photograph, c.1880. Postcard photograph by Bassano, London, c.1885. Lithograph after the preceding photograph, from The Magazine of Music, Christmas Number, December 1887.

One of at least five musical children of the organist of Brno Cathedral, Wilhelmine Neruda is said to have taken up the violin almost as soon as she could walk. Already in Vienna at the age of eight she impressed the critic Eduard Hanslick with 'the extraordinary power of her bow, the deep sentiment of her cantilena, and her great execution, notwithstanding the smallness of her hands'. After various continental tours the Neruda Family appeared at London's Princess's Theatre in April 1849 for a month's run of performances, following which the eleven year old Wilhelmine was engaged by the Philharmonic Society to play a concerto at the Hanover Square Rooms. Numerous tours took the family to Russia, Poland, the Netherlands, Scandinavia and all parts of Germany in the succeeding years. In 1864 a successful season in Paris coincided with Wilhelmine's marriage to the Swedish conductor and composer Ludwig Norman and for three years she taught at the Stockholm Conservatory.

It was her divorce from Norman in 1869 which led to Norman-Neruda's return to London and to the start of her long association with the famous Monday Popular Concerts at St. James's Hall, Piccadilly.

In 1888 she became the second wife of the pianist and conductor Sir Charles Hallé, with whom she had frequently appeared at the latter concerts. During the next seven years the couple toured widely (twice to Australia) and became the best-known duo in British chamber music.

As the first woman violinist to achieve international acclaim Norman-Neruda was personally responsible for the extraordinary surge in female violin-playing in late Victorian England and her status in British musical life is further illustrated by the royal gift of a 1709 Stradivarius in 1876, a public subscription in her favour after Sir Charles's death and by her appointment as Violinist to Queen Alexandra in 1901. After Hallé's death in October 1895 she maintained a busy solo career, settling in Berlin in 1900 but continuing to visit this country frequently. The last programme shown above is for a private concert in an annual series organised by Donald (later Sir Donald) Tovey in Surrey. Tovey was also Lady Hallé's duo partner in what may well have been her last British recital, at London's Bechstein (now Wigmore) Hall in January 1908.