Adela Verne (27 February 1877 – 5 February 1952) was a notable English pianist and minor composer of German descent, born in Southampton. She was considered one of the greatest woman pianists of her era, ranked alongside the male keyboard giants of the time. She toured with great success in many parts of the world.
Adela (or Adèle) Verne was born into a musical family named Wurm. Three of her sisters (of her nine older siblings) were also notable pianists or composers: Mathilde and Alice both also adopted the surname Verne, but Mary retained the family name Wurm.
Clara Schumann heard Adela play when she was but a small girl. She was so impressed that she wanted to take her to Frankfurt for study, as she had done with Mathilde, however her parents would not permit this. Instead, she was instructed by Mathilde and Alice, and later by Clara Schumann's daughter Marie Schumann.
At age 13 she made her debut in Tchaikovsky's Concerto No.1 in B-flat minor, conducted by Sir August Manns at the Crystal Palace. Tchaikovsky himself heard of this astonishing young prodigy and wanted to meet her. The following year she was introduced to Ignacy Jan Paderewski. He was so impressed with her playing that he predicted a great future for her. At his home in Morges in Switzerland, she studied Chopin with Paderewski, as well as most of his own works, including the Sonata in E-flat minor, the Polish Fantasy and the Concerto in A minor, the work with which she made her orchestral debut in New York.
Adela Verne was hailed as the successor to Teresa Carreño, and was equally praised by North and South American, Australian, European and British audiences and critics. In Vienna, after hearing her play four concertos in one evening, Theodor Leschetizky gave her the rare honour of asking her to give a recital to his own pupils.
Her wide repertoire included a large amount from the 18th and 19th centuries, but also much from the 20th century, including works that were very modern for their day. She often appeared in chamber music recitals at the St James's Hall concerts, alongside artists such as the violinist Joseph Joachim and the cellist Alfredo Piatti.
She toured Australia with Dame Nellie Melba, and was associated on stage with other singers such as Luisa Tetrazzini, Amelita Galli-Curci and John McCormack, and violinists such as Mischa Elman, Eugène Ysaÿe and others. She appeared regularly at the Proms, and was the first British artist to give a solo recital at the Royal Albert Hall.
Her premiere performances were many:
- the first performance in Australia of Tchaikovsky's B-flat minor Piano Concerto (1898)
- the first performance in Australia of Saint-Saëns's G minor Piano Concerto (1898)
- the first performance in the United Kingdom of César Franck's Symphonic Variations
- the first performance at the Prom Concerts of Brahms's B-flat Concerto (and the first woman to play this concerto at all in the UK; previously, it was considered so demanding that it was not advisable for a woman to attempt it. This attitude prevailed until after the Second World War in Australia, when Vera Bradford became the first woman to play the concerto in that country)
- the first television performance of Mozart's Concerto for 2 Pianos, with her son John Vallier, also a noted pianist and composer.
At the request of the BBC, in early 1952 she broadcast a special programme of works by Paderewski. Her last public appearance was at the special Jubilee Concerts celebrating the Wigmore Hall. She was preparing for her first recital at London's new Royal Festival Hall, when she died, on 5 February 1952, aged 74.
Adela Verne composed a variety of works, including a Military March dedicated to Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother; her sister Mathilde's pupil).
Adela Verne's recorded legacy is meagre. There were two issued discs for English Columbia:
L1213 - Frédéric Chopin: Polonaise in A flat, Op. 53 (Recorded 1917, matrices 75979-2, 75980-1, available from December 1917 to May 1928)
The matrix numbers suggest an unissued recording was made on matrix 75982.
Verne also recorded a number of piano rolls for Aeolian UK, around 1920/1.
03 - Cervantes: Three Cuban Dances
42 - Tchaikovsky: Meditation in D, Op. 72, No. 5
217 - Felix Mendelssohn: Prelude and Fugue in E minor, Op. 35, No. 1
- Keyboard Giants.com: Verne & Vallier
- Eric Blom, Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 5th ed, 1954
- Harold C. Schonberg, The Great Pianists
- Taylor, Ronald (1994). Columbia Twelve-Inch Records in the United Kingdom 1906-1930. Symposium. p. 119. ISBN 0-9524361-0-8.
- "International Association of Mechanical Music Preservationists". Roll database.
- Adela Verne's Chopin recording
- Verne plays Three Cuban Dances (Midi transcription of piano roll)
- Verne plays Tchaikovsky's Meditation (Midi transcription of piano roll)