Vera Bradford 1904-2004
Vera Bradford, Australian concert pianist, was born in Melbourne on 5 September 1904. Music was always an integral part of her life as her mother, also a fine pianist, would hold her baby daughter on her knees while she practiced. Her father and brother were also musical being accomplished violinists. Vera's destiny would seem to have been inevitable and it is not surprising that she quickly became a famous international concert pianist, enjoyed a career that spanned seventy-seven years.
Her piano studies began at the age of seven, and she graduated from the Melbourne University Conservatorium in 1927, with the highest honours. In 1928 she took up a scholarship with Percy Grainger, then in Chicago, and who became a close friend. She studied with Grainger, Swiss pianist Rudolph Ganz, and Hungarian Alexander Raab for six years . It was Raab who introduced her to the technique that made her famous, the 'arm weight' technique of the Russian teacher Leschetizky. It was this which developed the big tone and control that became a feature of her performances of the works of Brahms, Rachmaninoff and Liszt.
Her successful debut was in 1931 at the Chicago Opera House where she played the brilliant 'Hungarian Gypsy Airs' by Sophie Mentor (now believed to be by Liszt), orchestrated by Tchaikovsky. This was followed by a long and triumphant career as a concert pianist. She played extensively in Australia and with the fledgling ABC before the war and after the war undertook a number of overseas tours.
In 1963 she represented Australia at the 2nd International Music Festival in Seoul, Korea and visited Japan, the Philippines, and Hong Kong. The ABC allowed her to perform the Brahms concertos in 1946, hitherto considered too difficult for a woman. Critic Neville Cardus wrote of this performance: "Miss Bradford put forth a strength which many men might envy or fear . a virtuoso performance of a rare order." (Sydney Morning Herald, 5 September 1946).
Other reviewers at other times also noted Vera's brilliance, one saying she was the greatest artist on the Australian stage today (Radio Times nd.)
Thus Vera's reputation as a concert pianist of the first rank was established and she was recognized and acclaimed by her peers as well as her public. She continued to be active in music well into the seventies, forming the Frankston Symphony Orchestra in 1968 and performing with it on many occasions.
Her death came in January 2004, eight months short of her 100th birthday. Thus ended Vera Bradley's brilliant and sparkling career, founded upon a rare talent and inestimable verve.
Sources: Ivor Morgan The Age, 31 January, 2004. Vera Bradford, 1904-2004, was acclaimed as a brilliant pianist for over seventy years. Her playing was admired for its depth and beauty of tone, classical unity and tremendous power, all delivered in a blaze of dazzling virtuosity. (A.L. Kelly, "Sun", Sydney (nd)
This image appears in WHM 2006: Musical Belles
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