MARK HAMBOURG

(b. Bogutchar, S.Russia, 1879; d.Cambridge, England 1960)

Mark Hambourg
See also portrait of Mark later in life

The most famous of the Hambourg family, pianist Mark Hambourg was known throughout the world. As a 12-year old boy just arrived in London, he impressed musical society immediately as a great talent. Ignace Paderewski sent Mark to study with his own great teacher in Vienna, Theodore Leschetizky, to whom he ascribed his own success and who was also the teacher of Arthur Schnabel, Ossip Gabrilowitsch and Benno Moisiewitsch. Paderewski was so delighted with Mark that he insisted on financing Mark’s tuition for two years.

From that time on Mark Hambourg became the idol of the British public as a concert pianist. In 1895, having completed his studies with Leschetizky, he embarked on a tour of Australia, which was to prove an unqualified success. On one occasion the French virtuoso pianist Raoul Pugno became ill and was unable to play the newly composed Cesar Franck Violin Sonata with Eugene Ysaÿe – (Franck’s wedding present to Ysaÿe). Mark was invited to step into the breach, and they subsequently toured Europe and the British Isles, introducing this beautiful work to the musical public.

In 1907 he married the Hon. Dorothea Muir Mackenzie, at one time a pupil of Eugene Ysaÿe. Their daughter Michal Hambourg became a well known concert pianist in her own right.

The renowned European conductor Hans Richter chose Mark to play the Brahms piano concertos at the beginning of Mark’s adult career. Ferrucio Busoni composed and conducted his Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 39, with a chorus of male voices with piano in 1908 and dedicated it to Mark. Later that year they performed this work at Scarborough, England. Perhaps Mark’s warmest supporter and friend was the great Maurice Rosenthal. This friendship endured through their lifetime. The conductor Arthur Nickish was another staunch colleague. Maurice Moszkowski dedicated his Concert Etude in E-flat, The Waves, to Mark. Cyril Scott and Arthur Benjamin also dedicated compositions to Mark.

When the Hambourg family moved to Toronto, Mark played in that city many times, both as soloist and with orchestra, culminating in 1935 with the memorable Massey Hall concert together with Jan, Boris. Sir Ernest MacMillan conducted the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Back in London, Mark performed at lunch hour concerts during the war, sharing the platform with Myra Hess and other well known artists. Mark’s last visit to Toronto was made in 1949, when he gave a master class at the Hambourg Conservatory and presented a solo recital at Eaton Auditorium. He also appeared at a Promenade Symphony Concert with Reginald Stewart conducting at which he performed Tschaikowsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor.

Many early recordings for R.C.A. Victor and His Master’s Voice, documentaries for British Gaumont Educational, and a delightful film in 1942 sponsored by Lady Yule entitled The Common Touch, which won an Oscar in the United States. He also played on television broadcasts throughout the world. A recently released CD by Arbiter features Mark and Michael playing both solos and piano duos.

Mark died in Cambridge, England in 1959. He wrote two lively books based on his own life – How to Play the Piano, and The Eighth Octave, also two striking compositions for solo piano—Chant Khirghiz and Pandemonium. He was a beloved member of the Savage Club of London.

Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No 1 in B-flat minor — first movement: Allegro non troppo e molto maestoso — Allegro con spirito
— The Royal Albert Hall Orchestra, Landon Ronald, conductor, with Mark Hambourg, soloist | Listen  

Address given by Gerald Moore at Mark's Memorial Service, October 5, 1960


Notice of a performance in London, 1954 from the Arts and Letters Club newsletter, Sept.1954

descended from Beethovan

Mark's music training lineage can be traced right back to Beethoven - click this image for an extraordinary family tree of musicians at full size (opens in a new window).






Cartoon from a Programme of the Savage Club, London, U.K., 1906, courtesy Arts & Letters Club of Toronto


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