Inconceivable as it may appear today that the daughter of a Connewitz publican could rise to become an international mezzo-soprano, at the start of the 20th century the world was a very different place.
And Elena Gerhardt was the women in question.
Born in 1883 Elena Gerhardt studied at the Königlichen Konservatorium der Musik in Leipzig from 1899 – 1903 where she, or better put her talent, was discovered by the Leipzig composer Arthur Nikisch.
With a repertoire deliberately restricted to the Lieder of Brahms, Hugo Wolf, Schumann, Schubert and Richard Strauss, Elena Gerhardt became an international star, completing regular tours of Russia, France and even the USA. A recording contract with HMV resulted in some two dozen releases that helped underscore the success of her live performances.
In 1934 Elena Gerhardt fled Nazi Germany to London where she not only continued to sing, but also started a long teaching career at the Guildhall School of Music. Elena Gerhardt died in London in 1961.
In her later years she wrote her autobiography, in English, under the title Recital. The London based musicologist and author Jutta Raab Hansen has now translated “Recital” into German, and expanded the work with additional background information and photographs.
On Thursday September 13th Carla Weingarten will read from “Elena Gerhardt: Mein Lieder-Leben. Memoiren” accompanied by music and song fitting to the occasion. And so help us all understand the women and artist Elena Gerhardt.
“Elena Gerhardt: Mein Lieder-Leben. Memoiren” takes place in the Grassi Museum for Musical Instruments on Thursday September 13th at 6pm.