Her life of music was an extraordinary and fascinating one, encompassing memories of Sir Hamilton Harty; playing for Barbirolli, Beecham and many others; a lengthy period in Washington's National Symphony Orchestra; her marriage to the composer Kurt Roger and, after his death, to Heinz Hammerschlag. Joy died on 21 March 2014. She was 96 (born 4 August 1917). For more on Kurt Roger, see here.
I have retained all the original material, including Joy's cues for musical items. The actual music is included here, but only as half minute MP3 sound clips, along with the product details, so that you can buy or download the discs.
To break up the lengthy text, I have added the photos and my own section titles which are linked to the following headlines:
My Life of Music
for the Extra-Mural Department of Queen’s University Belfast, on 13 May 1985
However, my inhibitions arose in a rather paradoxical way. Far from having little to say, I felt that there was too much and that, were I alone to mention all the famous musicians I have had the privilege of meeting, it may seem like a shameless chronicle of egotism.
Nobody likes ‘name-dropping’, least of all myself. In my experience as a player, I quickly learnt that you are on trial every time you play, and people aren’t so much interested in what you’ve done in the past or whom you have met. I really feel less than worthy of the many wonderful experiences I have had in music.
I told Michael of these inhibitions, but he has a power of persuasion and he assured me most kindly of his personal interest, making it appear that if he alone were sitting in the hall this evening I would be letting him down by not speaking! So I may say I was ‘gently forced’ to take up, what I call, my ‘mental telescope’ to look back on my life.
I have tried to condense it as much as possible.
On one of Sir Hamilton Harty’s visits I had to play a little piece by Handel for him, and he advised me to stay with the viola. ‘It’s a beautiful instrument,’ he said, ‘and players are in demand.’
When my younger sister Norah was old enough, it was a cello which was placed in her hands, and eventually we were all sent to private teachers for lessons in Belfast – Betsy and me to Margaret Huxley, who played in the BBC Orchestra, and Norah to Carrodus Taylor and later to Claire Mathews.
This formed the nucleus of chamber music in our home and, as our father had an instinctive love of good music, we acquired a reverence for the great composers naturally, without distractions from pop music or television. In a sense, our parents had an easy time – we had nothing to rebel against!
We accepted the values and standards set by them, undisturbed in the non-commercial and gentle society in which we lived.
We were strictly forbidden to ride his bicycle, which was too high for us to mount. However, one day, when he returned from Belfast, he found me practising the violin arduously, with my back carefully turned towards him. The truth was revealed when I was obliged to sit down at the tea-table, with a grazed nose and chin and my front teeth broken!
Likewise, my sister Betsy never practised harder than the morning after my father had found her being kissed goodnight by a student of divinity.
The first thing one must somehow learn to control, is one’s nerves, and being exposed at an early age to such agonies at least makes one familiar with a disease which is going to plague one in varying degrees for the rest of one’s life – and there are no antibiotics against it.
He described her looks and the unspoilt purity of her voice and bearing, but when she returned to her seat within earshot of the adjudicator’s stand, she said to her relatives, ‘Jesus, I was sweatin’ like a pig!’
‘Don’t worry’, answered Perlemuter, ‘it may still come!’
BBC work, Belfast and Kurt Roger
– Cue for Mozart Overture: The Magic Flute –
Mozart Magic Flute.mp3
I also sang in the Ulster Singers, which was formed by that fine musician John Vine, and I learnt some of the great choral music, including the heavenly chorales from Bach’s St John and St Matthew Passions.
One of the most thrilling song recitals of all, in the Ulster Hall, was that of Paul Robeson, the incomparable bass. The depth of feeling in his singing of Negro Spirituals, stirred my young idealistic soul to its core, and when he finished his many encores by reciting William Blake’s The Little Black Boy, it made such a deep impression on me, of nobility, that I carried this ideal with me throughout life and my many years in the United States, where I so often came face to face with racial prejudice.
My sister Betsy had married the young artist and poet Patric Stevenson, who was also a great music lover. It was he who introduced me to the music of Anton Bruckner and Gustav Mahler, long before these two Austrian composers were fully appreciated in Britain. Patric had a wonderful collection of records, including much of Elgar and Delius. Through him, I came to know Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth) which, years later, I was to play in the Hallé, with Kathleen Ferrier singing the contralto solo and Barbirolli conducting.
The composer, Kurt Roger, was virtually on his way to America, with a visa in his possession, when we met. A week later the war broke out, and I was not to see him again for eight years, after which we were married. The Viola Sonata was finished in New York, and dedicated to me, as well as some beautiful songs.
NI war-time concerts and auditions for the Hallé
Pic from The Music Makers by Norman McNeilly, published 1976 by the Friends of the CBYO.
I felt that I wasn’t temperamentally suited to join the Women’s Forces, but rather to use whatever musical ability I had to help preserve the importance of art during our nation’s darkest years, and so I decided to apply for a position in the Hallé Orchestra, Manchester. It is sad that some social benefits come about only because of the advent of war: conscription solving unemployment, and certainly the emancipation of women players, who had been barred from our symphony orchestras, were born through the pangs of war.
In 1940, John Barbirolli had been persuaded to return from New York (where he had succeeded Toscanini as conductor of the New York Philharmonic) to re-form the Hallé Orchestra. He accepted the challenge and in so doing appointed a young woman, Livia Gollancz, (daughter of the publisher), as Principal Horn; his first oboe and timpanist were also women.
Perhaps he would tell me I was wasting his time. What would his attitude be? I needn’t have been afraid. I was in the presence of a warm-hearted, deeply human, musician, who immediately put me at ease. When I mentioned that I had had very little orchestral experience, he exclaimed, ‘That doesn’t matter, I’ll give you the experience.’
Shortly after my return to Belfast I received a wire asking me to join the Orchestra on tour, in Brighton, and so I left my native Ulster at the beginning of 1944, never to return to live here for the next 20 years.
Working with Barbirolli
Rehearsals were long and intensive, but never ever dull – and whilst his fiery Latin temperament often boiled over and he would throw the score away in a tantrum, and call us ‘imbeciles’, he was basically a patient man with a great talent for training an orchestra. I never knew him to be insulting to an individual player.
After Barbirolli’s death in 1970, Michael Kennedy, for his authorised biography of the conductor, invited personal reminiscences and was kind enough to publish mine, which also touched on the difficult war-time conditions under which the Hallé Orchestra worked.
The grimness of those narrow mean streets of poverty-stricken houses, combined with the privation of war and the constant danger of air-raids, contrasted sharply with the magical sounds conjured up by Barbirolli’s baton, which transported one spiritually to another plane where physical comfort became unimportant. And if it wasn’t an air-attack, it could be a Manchester fog.
More than once I was obliged to ‘crawl’ home on foot, the two or more miles to Levenshulme, clutching my viola, without seeing more than an inch before my eyes, colliding against strangers all the way. And when the Orchestra returned from out-of-town concerts in the small hours of the morning, I was regularly dropped off at the nearest point to where I lived, which meant walking in the total black-out, with only a small dimly-lit torch, for half-a-mile, passing underneath a bridge. I always felt my heart thumping loudly when my footsteps echoed beneath the bridge. However, one seemed less aware then of civil crime, than now, in the so-called peace-time of 1985!
When I am asked by parents of musical children if I think life of an orchestral player is worthwhile, I can only say ‘Yes’ a hundred times! I know of no other profession with so much freedom, the possibility of choosing an orchestra, one’s city, or even changing one’s country, and not only is one involved with music of the great composers but one can find oneself constantly on the same public platform as the most eminent soloists of the day, an exalting experience in itself.
I never ceased to be thrilled, to be part of a performance with artists such as Kathleen Ferrier, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Myra Hess, Max Rostal, Clifford Curzon, Ginette Neveu, William Primrose, Denis Mathews, Solomon, Szigeti and many others who appeared regularly with the Hallé, and there were always the little personal touches. I remember writing home to my parents, ‘Yesterday I met our soloist, the great French violinist Thibaud, on the street on the way to the concert hall, and he carried my viola as well as his violin’. Just imagine!
I remember writing home to my parents, ‘Yesterday I met our soloist, the great French violinist Thibaud, on the street on the way to the concert hall, and he carried my viola as well as his violin’. Just imagine!
Barbirolli’s special affinity to the music of Elgar and Vaughan Williams is well known, and I would like to play the fourth movement of Vaughan Williams’ Eighth Symphony in D minor which was dedicated to Barbirolli, the composer having written on the score,‘To glorious John’, something of which Barbirolli was naturally enormously proud.
In Ghent, where the Belgian violinist Arthur Grumiaux played the Mendelssohn Concerto to the sound of ‘buzz’ bombs overhead, there was an amusing incident: our superb Irish clarinettist, Pat Ryan, was arrested on the street, on his way to a rehearsal, suspected of being an enemy parachutist. He had a hard time convincing the police that he was an innocent musician who was already late for the rehearsal, and he was detained for several hours.
These concerts were of course very emotional experiences, and our encores always included The Londonderry Air and other folk tunes from the British Isles for the ‘boys’. At the final concert in Brussels, on Christmas Day, the great pianist Solomon played the Tchaikovsky B flat Concerto to a tumultuous crowd, ending with the singing of Auld Lang Syne.
More Barbirolli memories
‘Crikey’, said a player in the orchestra, ‘he’s got them in the right order.’
Imagine then a situation in Bradford, where my friend Posy and I, engrossed in conversation in the ladies’ room several floors above the concert platform, failed to hear our manager’s signal to return to our seats after the interval. When he ran upstairs to shout us down, we were appalled to find Barbirolli actually standing at the stage door, awaiting our pleasure, before he could return to the podium! I wanted the floor to swallow me up, but as we passed him I sneaked a guilty glance at his face, and saw that his eyes had a merry twinkle, and he muttered ‘Trust the Irish’! Our punishment was complete when the audience, who had observed two vacant seats in the middle of the Orchestra, and who had also suffered the delay, broke into applause as we bashfully went to our chairs. This was a performance I was careful never to repeat!
Picture our travel-weary colleagues, uncertain of where to eat between rehearsal and concert, now, having nowhere to sleep. Fortunately, Barbirolli and some principal players were re-instated, but others had to walk the streets in search of alternative accommodation. I felt that we Irish had suffered a definite set-back in popularity.
When Casals appeared on the podium one was struck by the simple, modest demeanour of the little man. He and Barbirolli embraced. Casals played like a God, and of course Barbirolli was an accompanist of the most refined sensitivity who delighted the Latin-blooded Casals in every way. After the rapturous reception of that first concert, the great cellist played as an encore the Sarabande from the Suite No.5 of Bach. It was a model of beauty, eloquence and nobility.
Worth recording too, I think, is my recollection of a performance of Richard Strauss’s Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme suite, in Sheffield. Sensing a lack of enthusiasm in the applause which followed, Barbirolli made a speech. He told the audience they obviously had no idea of the preparation that went into a performance of this rarely-heard masterpiece, and he proposed to play the whole work again from beginning to end. This uncalled-for encore was greeted with tumultuous applause! I remember how he muttered, as he walked off, ‘That’ll teach ’em’.
‘I don’t know’, replied Buxbaum, ‘but we’re playing Beethoven’s Fifth’!
The enthusiasm of this old man for chamber music was most impressive. He himself suggested playing string quartets with me and two young Hallé Orchestra colleagues. I shall never forget how he arrived in a snow-storm, in a taxi, with his cello on one of these occasions. We played together until he left for London, where he later died. I cherish the letters he wrote to me from there which are a testament to his life-long dedication to music.
I decided to confide in him, because, after all, he had always enjoyed the role of father-figure to his players, showing how he cared what happened to them, and he was very well aware of the strain the Orchestra was subjected to. So instead of merely handing in my notice, which would have been unbearable to me, I was able to receive his blessing and understanding.
Amongst my collection of musical ‘treasures’ is the handle of Beecham’s baton which snapped during the excitement of the Brahms Symphony No.2, in the Leeds Town Hall. It fell at my feet! And I also have an equally valued broken baton of Barbirolli, from a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet. Neither batons were, I hasten to add, smashed over my head!
My Manchester days were, however, coming to an end.
Kurt Roger and life in the USA
‘What’s a quandary?’ asked the girl.
‘A predicament’, he answered.
‘What’s a predicament?’ she asked.
‘Well, a dilemma’, said he.
‘What’s a dilemma?’ she asked.
‘Don’t tell me you don’t know what a dilemma is. Have you never heard of' The Doctor’s Dilemma by Bernard Shaw?’
‘Who’s Bernard Shaw?’ she asked.
‘Well! You were in a tight spot!’
‘Gee, why didn’t you say that in the first place?’
It was in New York City that I heard all 77 Haydn string quartets, played in chronological order, although not on one night! Memories of Carnegie Hall bring to mind the old doorman, when the film of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables was being shown in the small Carnegie Hall on a Sunday afternoon, at the same time as the Philharmonic Concert in the large hall. As the public entered, he was calling out: ‘Philharmonic Concert on your right, the less Miserables to your left, upstairs’!
I would like to play here a movement from her marvellous recordings of the six solo suites of Bach, the Bourées I and II from the Suite No.3 in C Major.
We came to Salzburg many times to enjoy the festival and my husband was also invited to lecture at the Mozarteum on American music; on one occasion specifically on Vanessa, the new opera of Samuel Barber. I wish that every musician could experience the romance of Mozart’s birth-town, even once in a lifetime!
Kurt Roger's music and conductors from Buffalo to Washington
However, this was to be a short-lived pleasure. We performed a concert version of The Flying Dutchman and as William Steinberg said, in the words of the Dutchman, ‘The seven long years have ended’, applied also to himself. He had been in Buffalo for seven years and this was his last season.
As Buffalo was a whole day’s journey from New York City, and I couldn’t envisage living there, his leaving made mine easier.
We also travelled to Rochester, New York, to hear Erich Leinsdorf perform the Concerto with the Rochester Philharmonic. After a performance in Montreal, my husband was still under the spell of having heard his music, when our Canadian host, at a private reception, asked him: ‘Scotch?’ (meaning ‘What can I get you to drink?’). My husband answered, ‘No, I am Austrian, I am from Vienna.’
We had fallen in love with Washington on our first visit, with its spacious avenues and cherry trees, so the temptation was great! A good omen at my audition prompted my acceptance: the American conductor pointed out that they had scheduled my husband’s Trumpet Concerto for performance that season!
I think it would be appropriate now to play at least the slow movement of this work, which I have referred to several times, especially as it is the National Symphony Orchestra’s performance in which I played, but I must beg your indulgence as it is an old tape and the quality is poor. It is Op.27, a very early work.
– Cue for Kurt Roger Slow movt., Concerto Grosso No.1 for Trumpet, Timpani and Strings –
The National Symphony Orchestra had 95 players, and the conductor, Howard Mitchell, had been the first cellist under its founder, the German, Hans Kindler.
Still handsome at 77, with intense eyes and soft speech, his presence was one of great dignity, and the nobility of his musical intentions found immediate response in the Orchestra. Only a year earlier I had heard him at the piano, accompanying Kathleen Ferrier in her last lieder recital at the Edinburgh Festival, a deeply moving experience as she died too young of cancer.
Unlike Bruno Walter, he was known not only for his sharp ears, but for his sharp tongue and acrid temper. So we were on guard. His visit coincided with the bicentenary of Mozart’s birth and I had the privilege of playing in a chamber orchestra concert which he conducted in the Library of Congress. The programme included Mozart’s Concerto for flute, harp and orchestra.
As the band major marched by, throwing the mace above his head, the child had asked, ‘Daddy, why does he throw that thing up in the air?’
‘Well,’ said Stokowski, ‘that’s what conductors do.’
A few days later he found the child sitting in front of the television watching Bernstein conducting the New York Philharmonic. He asked, ‘Daddy, why doesn’t he throw that thing up in the air?’
Beecham and Barbirolli in the USA
I acquired a private tape recording of this, which 20 years later I gave to the BBC for its archives.
It was deemed ‘the music broadcast of the year’ by the BBC.
Suddenly he stopped the orchestra and roared back-stage: ‘Turn that heat off! What do you think this is? HELL?’ ‘I’ll take my trousers off.’ ‘We had hoped to waken them up with our music, but they’re stifled, stupefied.’
And before beginning the last piece on the programme that afternoon (Richard Strauss’s Salome’s Dance), he lifted his baton and said to us, ‘Give it hell, let’s get home to our tea and crumpets.’
This may not seem the most artistic approach to a masterpiece, but to play for Beecham was an electrifying experience. When he lifted the stick, something happened. He had spark and life and genius and, above all, he was UNIQUE!
Psychology is so important for a conductor. Beecham said that a conductor had to act all the time in the belief that his was the first word and the last word on any piece of music. I remember the time he learnt his lesson. At the end of the concert there was the usual tremendous applause and he was taking his bow when someone in the audience shouted out, “Get the orchestra on its feet – it did all the work!”
He actually came twice to Washington, his second visit being in 1960 when he was 81, and when he signed my birthday book he said: ‘If you think that I enjoy being reminded of my birthday …!’ This was his last visit to the USA.
The handwritten inscription along the top reads: "To dear Kurt and Joy. In affectionate remembrance of our reunion. John and Evelyn, Dec.1958."
And it was lovely to see Evelyn Rothwell, whose oboe playing was so well known and admired from recordings, surrounded by our woodwind players seeking advice.
One of the most cherished memories will always be the Barbirolli’s visit to our home when, placing my Italian viola between his knees, he played, cello fashion, the wonderful viola theme on the A string from the first act of Tristan and Isolde.
When I embraced him after the concert, I felt that I wouldn’t see him again. I think if I had had no other musical experience in my life, I would still feel enriched by having worked for him so closely in those years.
On tour, soloists, Presidents and Stravinsky
We were in the middle of the last, deeply emotional movement of Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique Symphony, with our conductor pulling at our heart strings and extracting the last ‘drop of blood’ so to speak, when suddenly in an anguished pause, following
At the end of another concert, when the applause called for an encore, he dashed back on the rostrum and called out to us: ‘Tchaikovsky Waltz’, forgetting that we had two Tchaikovsky waltzes on our music stands. The result was that half of the orchestra played The Sleeping Beauty and the other half Swan Lake. A pity Beecham had to miss that too!
Actually, I played at the Inauguration Concerts of three presidents in Washington, and I cherish a copy of the programme from that of John F. Kennedy at which Mischa Elman was the soloist.
Now I would like you to hear a little of his opera The Nightingale from that recording in which I played.
Return to Belfast
Our dream was to live in Salzburg, where I could be within reach of my family in Ireland. This plan was altered in I964 by an invitation from Professor Philip Cranmer, Professor of Music at Queen’s University, to my husband to take the place of composer Raymond Warren as a guest lecturer in the Music Department for a year. We decided to spend the winter in Belfast and the summer in Austria.
This was due in large measure to the kindness of Dr Havelock Nelson, who involved me in so much rewarding music-making and with him I took part in the first annual music festival of Queen’s University.
During those years I enjoyed a great deal of chamber-music playing, in concerts, broadcasts and television, thanks to those people I have already mentioned, including David Byers, and to Alan Tongue who contributed to my opportunities within the BBC. It was a great honour to take part in a trio programme on television with James Galway and Havelock Nelson. I have had the pleasure of performing piano quartets with Michael Nuttall at the University and of joining many other colleagues in ensembles, including our illustrious Derek Bell, and as these musical relationships are enduring, I hope that my life of music has not entered its coda!
In many ways it seems to me that my life too has formed a circle: a circle enhanced throughout by music in all its facets. For this I am deeply grateful.
Noon Day Witch.mp3
The following note is a transcript of an additional document, also written by Joy. It's dated 1998.
A World Orchestra with Rudolf Barshai
The Conductor, Rudolf Barshai addressed the orchestra in five languages, but Verdi’s music spoke to us in one!
This script © Joy Roger Hammerschlag, 2013
Appendix: Joy in performance, 1970
The music is the 1879 Piano Quartet No.1 in C minor, Op.15, by Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924).
Please click on the thumbnail to see the Radio Times billing. The PDF below it features some fascinating information about violinist and RAF fighter pilot Peter Gibbs, including his confrontation with Herbert von Karajan and the Great Mull Air Mystery.
Faure first movement.mp3
Faure second movement.mp3
Faure third movement.mp3
Faure fourth movement.mp3
Faure closing announcement.mp3