Troubador The Musical Life

Released: 28/10/2020

ISBN: 9781838595142

eISBN: 9781838596668

Format: Paperback/eBook

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The Musical Life

Hedwig Stein: Emigrée Pianist


Hedwig Stein was starting to make her mark as a concert pianist in Germany in the early 1930s when she fell in love with a Russian émigré pianist, Iso Elinson. He was half-Jewish, and quickly the pair knew they had little choice but to flee, despite vehement family opposition to that and to their proposed marriage. They chose England as their destination although neither had visited the country or spoke the language. They arrived with  just twelve bags, a very small amount of money, a recommendation about Iso from Albert Einstein, and a few letters of introduction. Bit by bit, they managed to establish themselves in the musical world, encountering warmth, generosity, and friendship wherever they turned, especially in the early days and throughout the War years which they spent largely in West Sussex, away from the Blitz. 

Much later, in Manchester, Helen Marquard’s search for a piano teacher led her to Hedwig. During long evenings, Hedwig related stories of her life – stories about her family, the War, musicians and artists she knew and had known – and shared her knowledge and ideas on art, philosophy, and literature. They were the most vivid of stories, and she was one of the most vivid of people, exhilarating to be with. When, after Hedwig had died, Helen discovered she had written a diary, she resolved that others should get to hear about her.

The Musical Life is Helen’s story of Hedwig, interwoven with Hedwig’s own telling of her history through her diaries and letters. It is a world that has gone. Touching, sometimes wry, always insightful, this is above all memorable reading.

International Piano Magazine

BBC Music Magazine

I was not at all sure what to expect from ‘The Musical Life’, and so I was delighted to find, after only a few pages, that I had been captivated by the warmth and charm of the writing.
The exceptionally fortunate among us may come across someone, often but not always a teacher, who opens up a new dimension in our experience of life, and who makes possible things which we never expected would be within our grasp. The odds against Hedwig Stein coming to fill this role for the author - as she did - must have been extremely high.
The book tells, among other things, the story of Hedwig’s courage, resourcefulness and determination in choosing to leave - for love - a comfortable, music filled life in Germany to create a new life for her and her Jewish husband in England, a country in which they arrived speaking little English, without knowing anyone and with very little money, but where they were welcomed and encouraged by many extraordinary and generous people. The reader will not need to have any special knowledge of music to find her story and personality fascinating. I would have loved to have met her.
‘The Musical Life’ is written with warmth, affection, charm and fluency; the author is clear-eyed, sensitive and perceptive throughout and clearly knowledgeable about the very different worlds in England and Germany to which she introduces us.
This is a wonderful debut.

by Ceol

Marquad's "The Musical Life" is both heart-warming and empowering; fully researched and well-written this biography is one of the best I've read this month.

by NetGalley review

If you like reading biographies and anything to do with pianos and the world of classical music, then The Musical Life is definitely for you. Highly gifted artists have a tendency to make a profound impact on anyone they encounter, and this certainly comes across as Helen Marquard recounts the fascinating life of her piano teacher, Hedwig Stein. The perception of historical events as they unfold, revealed through numerous extracts of Stein’s diaries, tells us much about the struggles of wartime life.
An interesting sub-theme emerges from Marquard’s occasional reflections on the author’s role, reminding the reader that personal perception inevitably plays a part in writing a biography; thus, the way a writer chooses to portray a given subject also portrays to the reader something about the writer.
This is a remarkably well-researched and informative work, written with a clarity of style that makes it an absolute pleasure to read.

by Nicky Gentil

Helen Marquard

Helen Marquard studied in Manchester and has been a research scientist and an environmental policy maker and international negotiator. She has travelled widely supporting sustainable development startups, is a lifelong piano student, speaks fluent German, and loves music, the arts, people and societies. She lives near Farnham in Surrey.

Helen Marquard
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