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Peter Coleman-Wright and Brodsky Quartet in National Gallery Concert Programme to Celebrate Dame Myra Hess

Issued August 2012

On Friday 5 October 2012, the National Gallery will hold its annual day of music to remember and celebrate the life of Dame Myra Hess, the driving force behind the Gallery’s popular concerts during the Second World War. This year’s concert programme unites music, art, literature and song, and takes its inspiration from Myra’s favourite composers. It includes pieces that both capture the uplifting spirit and demonstrate the calibre of the original concerts, organised by Myra Hess and Howard Ferguson and held in the Gallery between October 1939 and April 1946 during Sir Kenneth Clark’s directorship.

Internationally renowned baritone Peter Coleman-Wright, who has performed in concerts, operas and recitals across the globe including London performances with the English National Opera and the Royal Opera, will perform Gerald Finzi’s 'Let Us Garlands Bring', a work that premiered at the concerts 70 years ago this October. Pianist Sarah Beth Briggs, the youngest-ever recipient of a Myra Hess award, presented to outstanding young musicians, will perform pieces by two of Myra’s favourite composers, Debussy and Mozart, and the Brodsky Quartet will include in their repertoire pieces by Shostakovich, a composer popular with wartime concert-goers.

Staged in the Gallery’s ornate Barry Rooms, adorned with 18th-century paintings, the lunchtime and evening concerts will evoke the wartime era with many references to Myra and to her fellow performers and friends. Sarah Beth Briggs will open the lunchtime performance with two pieces by Mozart, one of the most performed composers in the 1940s concerts. She will also perform 'Pour le Piano' by Debussy (2012 is the 150th anniversary of the composer’s birth). Briggs is a pianist of international standing and a long-time student of Denis Matthews, who played in the wartime concerts on several occasions.

'Let Us Garlands Bring' is a delightful cycle of Shakespeare texts, dealing with love and the passing of time, set for voice and piano by Gerald Finzi, one of the finest British composers of vocal music of his time. The work was composed from 1929 to 1942 and first performed on 12 October 1942. Peter Coleman-Wright will also perform songs by Noel Coward and Ivor Novello, popular figures of the day. Coleman-Wright will be joined by concert pianist Piers Lane, artistic director of the Myra Hess Day concerts.

The evening concert will be performed by the world-famous Brodsky Quartet, whose position at the forefront of international chamber music has been recognised by a Royal Philharmonic Society Award. Celebrating its 40th year, the accomplished string quartet will perform pieces by Shostakovich and Brahms in a programme reminiscent of the original concerts. Pianist Eileen Joyce, the first person to play Shostakovich’s piano concerts in Britain in 1936, went on to perform Shostakovich at the wartime concerts. The programme concludes with a performance of another work popular with the wartime audiences – Brahms’s 'Quintet for Piano and Strings in F minor, Op. 34' – by the Brodsky Quartet and Piers Lane.

Call goes out for wartime concert-goers

As part of a project to create a public, online ‘living memory’ archive that tells the story of the concerts through stories and reminiscences, the National Gallery is interested to hear from anyone who attended the concerts during wartime and would like to share their experiences.

Concert-goers are invited to contact the National Gallery by calling 020 7747 2891, by email to or by post to Lee Riley, The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London, WC2N 5DN.

Full concert programme

Dame Myra Hess Day: Listen, Enjoy, Remember
Friday 5 October 2012

Lunchtime Concert
1–2.15pm, Room 36 (Barry Rooms), £10/£7 concessions
Sarah Beth Briggs (piano)
Peter Coleman-Wright (baritone)
Piers Lane (piano)

Mozart: Sonata in C minor, K. 457
(Sarah Beth Briggs)

Finzi: Let Us Garlands Bring
(Peter Coleman-Wright and Piers Lane)

Debussy: Pour le Piano
(Sarah Beth Briggs)

Songs by Noel Coward and Ivor Novello
(Peter Coleman-Wright and Piers Lane)

Evening Concert
6.30–8pm, Room 36 (Barry Rooms), £10/£7 concessions
Brodsky String Quartet
Piers Lane (piano)

Shostakovich: String Quartet No. 2 in A major, Op. 68
(Brodsky String Quartet)

Brahms: Quintet for Piano and Strings in F minor, Op. 34
(Brodsky String Quartet and Piers Lane)


Tickets may be purchased from the Advance Ticket Desk at the Gallery or online at

Any remaining tickets will be available on the day from the Advance Ticket Sales desk.


For press information please contact Lizzie Phillips on 0207 747 2532 or by email to

Notes to editors

About Dame Myra Hess Day

At the outset of the Second World War, London’s cinemas, galleries and museums shut their doors at the government’s request leaving people without entertainment. Dame Myra sought to remedy this with the introduction of daily concerts held in the empty National Gallery between October 1939 and April 1946. By the time the final performance came to a close, 1,698 concerts had been attended by a total of 824,152 people.

This is the seventh annual Dame Myra Hess Day. The concerts have been devised and directed by Piers Lane, international concert pianist. Lane is Artistic Director of the Australian Festival of Chamber Music, Professor at the Royal Academy of Music and is well known as a broadcaster for BBC Radio 3.

The concerts are supported by The Ernest Hecht Charitable Foundation. The Foundation was set up some years ago by Ernest Hecht, one of England’s major independent book publishers, with the aim of helping the disadvantaged and promoting the advancement of the arts and education.

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