Miss Gertrude Peppercorn’s Piano Recital at Glasgow’s Queen’s Rooms, on Wednesday the 19th of October, 1898

Gertrude Peppercorn (1879-1966), the international concert pianist, was the daughter of Arthur Douglas Peppercorn (1847-1926), a London-born landscape painter. Her recital in the Queen’s Rooms, included selections from Beethoven, Schumann, Chopin, and Liszt, among others. An advertisement, on page six of The Glasgow Herald, on Wednesday the 19th of October, 1898, which was the day of the performance, provides details of the ticket prices.


The review of the recital is on page six of the Herald, on Thursday the 20th of October. Headed “A New Pianist”, it reads:


“Miss Gertrude Peppercorn, the new pianist, made her first public appearance in Glasgow last evening, giving a recital, entirely off her own bat, so to speak, in the Queen’s Rooms. Glasgow gave her the reception which it rarely fails to give to novelty in her line – that is to say, it did not go to hear what she could do. However, as native pianists of real talent are not quite as plentiful as blackberries, Miss Peppercorn should be assured of a good audience whenever she comes back to these apparently inhospitable parts. She made a very good impression indeed upon a select company, and was compelled to add something to what will be recognised as an exceedingly taxing programme. It was really a wonderful feat that was performed by this young lady – she is evidently quite genuinely very young. Of course the ability to go through such a programme without any relief, and to play all these pieces without any relief, and to play all these pieces without book has not any necessary relation to art; but even in this day of pianistic tours de force one cannot but be impressed by it, and perhaps it inevitably affects one’s opinion of the person who accomplishes the feat, however strict the canons one attempts to apply. In Miss Peppercorn’s case, as power is the most obvious of her qualities, the fact that she could endure to the end of a two-hours’ programme and yet be fresh is apt to concentrate attention too exclusively on her purely physical and, so to say, gymnastic accomplishment. However, her equipment is not confined to exceptional muscular power. She has that – one has never heard from a woman such a rendering of the Liszt No. 2 rhapsody – but she also a technique which constantly impresses the hearer as masterly. Her touch is hard – for she is really a masculine player beyond many males known to fame – and as yet the capacity for charming sound out of the piano is not hers; but she can do almost anything on the keyboard short of what requires as an essential condition the keenest sensibility. Miss Peppercorn gives us quite satisfactory contrasts and plenty of variety in expression; but it is only in storm and stress and in the expression of the robuster moods of her composers that she is really first-rate. When she is by way of light in hand she too often gets no result whatever, but rather an appearance of ‘skambling.’ She plays very correctly for all the premature freedom of her style, and altogether convinces one that she has a future. Her intelligence is unmistakable; she does not probably need to be told that she still lacks something which she must acquire before Beethoven or even Chopin yields his secret to her. The sonata was by far the least commendable item in the programme; on the other hand the extract from the Faschingschwank [sic] was uncommonly well played; one felt certain that the pianist was not merely imitating somebody else, but giving a well-thought-out and in the main adequate presentation of the music. Some very ‘slick’ work was done in the intermediate part of the programme, and Paderewski’s little theme was charmingly played. But the Chopin polonaise in A flat and the Liszt rhapsody showed Miss Peppercorn at her best, as she is at present. That is to say, these pieces gave her the best chance of displaying the strongest quality of her technique. The rendering of the rhapsody in particular was marvellous.”


The works played by Miss Peppercorn are listed at the top of the Herald’s review. Unfortunately, the text of the edition I have been using is smudged, but I will look for a cleaner example and add the details when I can.


For anyone wishing to hear Gertrude Peppercorn’s playing, I would recommend an upload by noochinator2 on youtube. This is a private recording, and there are some fascinating comments from Nicholas Brown, whose father, Raymond, studied with Gertrude. The recording lasts for just under 38 minutes. I am indebted to noochinator2, for their interest and support, and for uploading the recording..