She was born in Brno, Moravia, then part of the Austrian Empire, and came from a family long famous for musical talent. At those times, the violin was not considered a proper instrument for a woman. Her father, Josef Neruda (1807–1875) the organist of the cathedral of Brno, introduced her to the piano but Wilhelmine was caught secretly playing her brother's violin, which she preferred, and finally allowed to play it.
The family moved to Vienna, where she studied with Professor Leopold Jansa (1795–1875). She made her first public appearance as a violinist in Vienna at the age of seven, playing one of Bach's violin sonatas.
She married the Swedish musician Ludvig Norman (1831–1885) in Stockholm in 1864 and had a son, Ludwig Norman Neruda, who became a famous alpinist. Four years later, she moved to London with her son. After Norman died in 1885, she married the German-English musician Charles Hallé in 1888. When he was knighted later the same year, she became Lady Hallé. Given a Palazzo in Asolo, Italy, after her husband's death, she moved there to live with her son Ludwig. He died in 1898 climbing in the Dolomites. After her son's death, she moved to Berlin.
In contemporary culture
Joseph Joachim was a great admirer of Neruda's violin playing; in 1870 he wrote to his wife "I like her very much...Her playing is more to my taste than that of any other contemporary - unspoilt, pure and musical". Joachim and Neruda performed Bach's Double Violin Concerto together at a St James' Hall Monday Popular Concert in April 1892.
James Scott Skinner wrote a tune titled "Madame Neruda" in her honor. Henri Vieuxtemps and Niels Gade devoted musical pieces to her. In A Study in Scarlet, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote of Holmes's attending one of her concerts.
- Neruda, Vilhelmina (Wilma) Marie Františka (Nee -Norman-Hallé) Nordisk familjebok (1913) / Uggleupplagan. 19. Mykenai - Norrpada (in Swedish)
- Neruda, Vilhelmina Salmonsens konversationsleksikon (1915-1930) / Anden Udgave / Bind XVII, : Mielck—Nordland, p821 (in Danish)
- "Court news" The Times (London). Saturday, 23 November 1901. (36620), p. 11.
- Letters from and to Joseph Joachim. Trans. Nora Bickley. London: Macmillan, 1914. Reprint New York: Vienna House, 1972.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Wilma Neruda.|
- New York Times reports her 71st birthday, Sunday, April 17, 1910
- New York Times, October 9, 1898 reports on death of Wilma Neruda's son.
- biography by Henry Charles Lahee