Marjorie Hazlehurst (1908-2003)

Marjorie Hazlehurst, pianist, was born on November 8, 1908. She died on August 14, 2003, aged 94

Marjorie Hazlehurst was a leading musical figure: a distinguished performer and a teacher who became one of the longest-serving piano professors at the Birmingham School of Music (now the Conservatoire). Her professional solo career spanned more than 70 years and she was a familiar BBC broadcaster with a penchant for promoting neglected works.

Marjorie Elizabeth Hazlehurst entered the Birmingham School of Music, where she was taken under the wing of the principal, Sir Granville Bantock. Bantock encouraged her to develop a professional career in music and conducted her concerto debut at the age of 17, playing Mozart (K488) in Birmingham Town Hall. A feature of her early career was her regular appearance at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, where she gave recitals in the intervals of the current plays, choosing repertoire to match the period of the play. It was at the "Rep" that she first met the actress Rachel Gurney and this led to her taking lessons in London with Gurney's mother, the pianist Irene Scharrer. Her later piano studies were in Oxford with Leonie Gombrich, a renowned teacher who had studied with Leschetizky in Vienna.

Hazlehurst's prolific broadcasting career began in the early 1930s and encompassed numerous recitals and concerto performances, including the first UK performance of the Variations for Piano and Orchestra by Franz Schmidt. Her later broadcast of the Seven Pieces by Kodaly elicited a handwritten letter of warm praise from the renowned Hungarian composer.

Hazlehurst appeared frequently as soloist with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and the BBC Midland Orchestra under a succession of distinguished conductors. As a recitalist, she championed composers including Villa-Lobos, Smetana and Christopher Edmunds, whose Fantasias in Fugue were dedicated to and premiered by her.

She taught at the Birmingham School of Music part-time before being appointed on a permanent contract in 1949. As a teacher she was admired for her quiet perspicacity and shrewd eye for drawing the best out of each individual pupil. Several notable professional pianists of today were her pupils, among them Mark Bebbington and Michael Jones. Hazlehurst retired from the BSM in 1982, although she continued to be much in demand as a teacher and adviser, and as a recitalist, throughout her eighties.

Duncan Honeybourne

The Times, London, 26 September 2003