She was born in Düsseldorf, where her mother was a music instructor and her father was a registrar. Her grandmother introduced her to the works of Beethoven, and supported her piano playing. She studied at Cologne with Isidor Seiss and Karl Bötcher. After winning the Mendelssohn Scholarship in 1901, she studied in Vienna with Theodor Leschetizky, with whom she only had two lessons, and Emil von Sauer. She taught at the Cologne Conservatory for three years, then became a touring virtuoso. In 1927 she was given the honorary freedom of Beethoven's birthplace Bonn. In 1932 she founded the Elly Ney Trio with Wilhelm Stross (violin) and Ludwig Hoelscher (cello): in quintets the group recorded with Florizel von Reuter (violin) and Walter Trampler (viola). She traveled to many parts of the world, including the USA, playing in Carnegie Hall in New York City.
During the Third Reich she joined the Nazi Party in 1937, participated in "cultural education" camps, and became an honorary member of the League of German Girls. She held anti-Semite views. Ney was awarded the War Merit Cross, 2nd Class for care for troops. After the war, the city of Bonn imposed a stage ban on her. In 1952 a request for lifting the ban was rejected, stating that Ney was a "pronounced National Socialist". Nevertheless, she was named Honorary Citizen of Tutzing in 1952. She continued touring until her death, increasingly concentrating on Beethoven's piano works.
Elly Ney was married twice; first, in 1911, to the Dutch conductor Willem van Hoogstraten.They had one daughter, Eleonore (1918–2007). They divorced in 1927 and she married Paul Allais, an American coal dealer from Chicago. This marriage didn't last long and later in life Ney reconciled with Van Hoogstraten.
Ney died in Tutzing in 1968.
- Finscher, Ludwig; Blume, Friedrich (1994). Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart. ISBN 978-3-476-41022-1.
- Elly Ney entry at Deutsche Biographie (German)
- Vor 125 wurde die große Beethoven-Interpretin Elly Ney geboren. In: Leipziger Volkszeitung. 9/28/2007. p. 10
- Romantikerin am Klavier. Deutschlandfunk 09/27/2007
- Internationales Biographisches Archiv. No. 21 (5/13/1986). ISSN 0020-9457.