Rosemarie Wright obituary

By Duncan Honeybourne

My former teacher Rosemarie Wright, who has died aged 88, was a pianist of rare poetry and refinement. Her first international successes came in Vienna, where in 1959 she won the Haydn prize in the Haydn-Schubert competition, and the following year the Bösendorfer prize. Also in 1960 she gave her debut recital in the Golden Hall of the Musikverein, deputising at an hour’s notice for an indisposed colleague to critical acclaim.

Tours followed throughout Europe, the US, the Far East and Australasia as recitalist, concerto soloist and chamber musician. She broadcast recitals from more than 30 European radio stations and performed at the Darmstadt and Vienna festivals, and the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. She played concertos with the London Philharmonic, English Chamber and Vienna Symphony orchestras, the London Mozart Players, the BBC orchestras and those of French and Danish radios.

In Britain Rosemarie was best known through BBC radio recitals over the course of more than four decades from 1954. She premiered Arnold Cooke’s Second Sonata at the 1966 Cheltenham festival, and her chamber music partners included the violinist Yossi Zivoni, with whom in 1985 she gave the London premiere of Edmund Rubbra’s Third Sonata. In 1971 she played Beethoven’s Second Concerto at the BBC Proms with the Philharmonia Orchestra under Sir Adrian Boult.

Born in Coppull, Lancashire, Rosemarie was the daughter of James Wright, a general practitioner, and his wife, Margaret (nee Wilkinson). She attended Oakfield girls’ school in Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria, travelling on the bus to take piano lessons at Sedbergh school. She then trained at the Royal Academy of Music and the State Academy of Music in Vienna, later studying with Wilhelm Kempff and Edwin Fischer.

Rosemarie’s repertoire, grounded in the music of Haydn, Schubert, Mozart and Beethoven, was extensive and enterprising, incorporating many contemporary works. She loved the Second Viennese School, played much Czech and Scandinavian piano music, and made recordings of Edward MacDowell’s piano music and a series of Haydn Sonatas on a 1799 Broadwood fortepiano.

At Southampton University she was resident pianist (1972-80), and she was professor of piano at the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester, and the Royal Academy of Music, London (1978-96). As a teacher she was rigorous yet always kind, gently stressing the importance of honest and humble fidelity to musical truth.

After retiring from the Royal Academy, she gradually stopped performing professionally, but continued to practise and to give informal concerts locally near her home in Hastings, East Sussex.

In 1961 Rosemarie married the conductor Michel Brandt. He survives her, along with their sons, Philippe and Christophe, and grandsons, Tom and Freddie.


This article was first published in The Guardian on 3 June 2020