When Patricia Routledge was young she saw one of Myra Hess’ famous wartime piano concerts, usually held at the National Gallery; and this charming entertainment involves Miss Routledge seated comfortably at a table whilst pianist Piers Lane enhances the tale of Myra Hess and her concerts with delicately played piano interspersions.
I knew nothing about Myra Hess. In fact, I think I thought with a surname like that she was related to Rudolf and was probably a spy or something. Quite the contrary. Using Myra Hess’ own words compiled by her great-nephew, Patricia Routledge conveys her spirit with superb enunciation in a classically British style. Amongst a number of anecdotes, one particularly comes to mind: Myra Hess tells of the expert performer of German Lieder, who wanted to cancel her concert as she believed no one would have wanted to hear the German language during the war. Myra Hess convinced her to go ahead with the concert and on the day the performer was greeted with the warmest of standing ovations. A simple story, but one that is delicately heartwarming.
Patricia Routledge is, as you would expect, crystal clear of voice, allowing Myra Hess’ very proper and gentle humour to surface 70 years on, commanding the stage even though she is seated to one side throughout. Piers Lane plays the music splendidly, but unobtrusively – it is always Miss Routledge who is in control.
At just an hour without an interval it doesn’t make a complete evening’s entertainment, but it is nevertheless most enjoyable and educational.