Yella Pessl - Harpsichord

Yella Pessl - One of the key figures introducing 18th century music to a 20th century audience. (Getty Images)

Yella Pessl Plays Music Of Alexander Reinagle – 1945 – Past Daily Sunday Gramophone

Yella Pessl - Harpsichord
Yella Pessl – One of the key figures introducing 18th century music to a 20th century audience. (Getty Images)

The music of American composer Alexander Reinagle performed by the legendary Austrian Harpsichordist Yela Pessl from this radio broadcast, Music Of The New World from January 1945.

The Austrian-born American harpsichordist, pianist and organist, Yella Pesssl (real name: Gabriella Pessl Sobotka), studied at the State Academy of Music in Vienna. Before immigrating to the UUSA in 1931, she had a busy career performing in Europe.

Known for her interpretations of J.S. Bach, Yella Pesssl was an active performer for more than half a century. As founder and director of the Bach Circle, a New York group specializing in lesser-known works of J.S. Bach and other Baroque composers, she helped introduce 18th-century music to a wide audience.

In America, Yella Pessl toured extensively, playing solo recitals and with orchestras under conductors like Arturo Toscanini and Bruno Walter. In 1938 she accompanied the Trapp Family Singers, whom she had known in Vienna, at their Town Hall debut. She had her own radio program on WQXR, made recordings for the RCA Victor label and was on the faculty of Columbia University.

Yella Pesssl died of a heart attack at her home in Northampton, Massachusetts, 85 years old Her husband, Dr. Harry Sobotka, a biochemist at Mount Sinai Hospital, died in 1970.

Alexander Robert Reinagle (23 April 1756 – 21 September 1809) was an English-born American composer, organist, and theater musician. He should not be confused with his nephew of the same name, Alexander Robert Reinagle (21 August 1799 — 6 April 1877), also a composer and organist, who lived all his life in Britain. He was a close friends with a young Mozart when he visited London. He was influenced by Haydn, Mozart and Clementi.

One of Reinagle’s admirers was American President George Washington. In 1789, Reinagle composed a “Chorus”, which was performed for Washington at Trenton, New Jersey, during Washington’s journey to his inauguration. Later, in Philadelphia, Nellie Custis, Washington’s step-granddaughter, was one of Reinagle’s music students. Washington was a frequent concertgoer, and could often be seen in the audience at Reinagle’s concerts. On Washington’s death in 1799, Reinagle composed a Monody on the Death of George Washington.

In Philadelphia, Reinagle worked closely with Thomas Wignell in producing opera ballets with the New Company, at the Chestnut Street Theater. Reinagle and Wignell produced over 75 programs with the New Company. At Wignell’s death in 1803, Reinagle moved to Baltimore, Maryland, where he became associated with the Holliday Street Theater. He died in Baltimore in 1809 and is buried in Old Saint Paul’s Cemetery there.

Here is Minuet and Gavotte by Alexander Reinagle, performed by Yella Pessl in 1945.

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