A doyenne of string players has died

A doyenne of string players has died


norman lebrecht

July 03, 2014

We have been notified of the death of Kay Hurwitz, widow of the effulgent violinist Emanuel Hurwitz and herself a formidable force in strings education across Europe well into her 80s.

Kay was a formidable viola player and chamber musician who developed her interests away from her husband’s high profile as leader (concertmaster) of the English Chamber Orchestra and Otto Klemperer’s Philharmonia. Both were regulars at Aldeburgh, where Britten relied on Manny for advice on strings technique. Kay played in the Melos Ensemble, under Manny’s leadership.

She encouraged Elspeth Iliff, her former au pair, to found the European Strings Teachers Association (ESTA), and herself set up Youth Music in Hampstead and various summer schools. Many careers began in her teaching studio.

Kay is survived by a son and a daughter.

Do share your memories of this wonderful woman and couple.



  • michael hurwitz says:

    Thanks for mum’s mini obituary! Where did the photograph of the poster come from? I have never seen it !
    I don’t think she ever played in the Melos Ensemble although they were always rehearsing in the family home!

    • norman lebrecht says:

      She’s listed among the founder players of the Melos on their Wiki entry and elsewhere. The poster came up in an online search. Would you like to post a photograph of Kay? Pls send it to norman@normanlebrecht.com. Very sorry for your loss.Norman

      • Jacqueline Mina OBE says:

        My wonderful mother, Kay, taught me to be practical, to live life lightly and to live for the moment – from Manny I learnt to take my art seriously and aim high artistically and not make compromises…. such valuable role-models and such a marvellous legacy, not only to my brother Michael & I and Kay’s three grand-children and great-grandson, but to all those who were touched by their magic. Kay often played viola with the English Chamber Orchestra and we had foreign au pair girls (including Elspeth) looking after us while Kay & Manny were on tour abroad. Although I wasn’t destined to become a musician, my life has been steeped in music thanks to my parents – I was privileged to be present at so many rehearsals, concerts and private musical evenings as I grew up and I continue to appreciate music to the full.

        PS The poster looks like the work of our daughter (see http://www.minalima.com ) and the date was my Dad’s birthday.

    • Walter Reiter says:

      Dear Mike,

      You might not remember me from way back when…

      I wanted to send condolences on the passing of your parents: such sweet people!

      I live in N Finchley now and used to see your parents quite often at the auction house in Lodge Lane sifting through the articles; we chatted every time we met and it was always interesting and pleasurable.

      All best wishes,


  • Tish Roskams says:

    Endless memories of Kay and Manny. My mum and Kay started the Saturday music group in Hampstead but more than that she was always there for me. I remember new year parties and summer schools and in between wonderful impromptu outings. Nothing I say will ever be enough. Much love to all the Hurwitz and Mina family

  • Raph Hurwitz says:

    Norman, thanks so much for the blog post. And what a great poster, any chance I could have that file?

    all the best

  • Ian Lush says:

    So sorry to hear this news, love to all the family, many happy memories of Kay from the Youth Music Centre and the Monterosso string courses in the 1970s. She was truly inspirational.

  • Simon Marks says:

    Very sad to hear this news, which reached me today on the other side of the Atlantic. As others have already said, Kay was a woman of boundless enthusiasm and warmth. An inspiring teacher to all, and an absolutely indomitable spirit. She’ll long be remembered by everyone lucky enough to come into her orbit. Just a wonderful, unforgettable lady.

  • Lucy Theo says:

    I have just in the last few minutes read this and am shocked and saddened to hear that Lovely Kay is no longer with us … dear friends and colleagues of my grandfather , the late William Pleeth and his wife Maggie, Manny and Kay were more than our family friends , as Manny gave me my first viola to try at 14 and Kay became my wonderful teacher . Happy Saturday mornings were spent at YMC in Hampstead Garden Suburb developing a love of chamber music , and despite several subsequent teachers , it was always Kay’s inspirational teaching I returned to in my memory … Her description of position fingerings as “tiddlywinks “(!) remains with me to this day as a professional freelance violist . Kay’s warmth and imagination were infectious and her exuberance and energy, a delight to be around . The last time I saw her , I told her that she never seemed to age and was as striking as When We first met in my teenage years in their beautiful finchley home . I send warm thoughts to Mike and Jaqueline all the hurwitz dynasty descendants .

    Lucy Theo

  • Toni Del Mar says:

    My cellist mother Pauline (Del Mar) and Kay played quartets together- Mike and my brother side by side in prams. Manny found me my first viola, Kay founded YMC and I played in the student orchestra, directed by Manny, Erich Gruenburg and Eli Goren. All the orchestras performed at the Aldeburgh Festival the year the Maltings burned down. Kay was an inspiration, and such fun to share a desk with, which I was privileged to do on a number of occasions. She was modest, awarded the MBE for services to music, and inspiring in so many ways. I treasure time spent with her at Dartington Summer School, where she sat in the sunshine chatting and drawing wonderful portraits while Manny was coaching strings quartets. She was a faithful supporter of my fund-raising Valentine concerts, coming to most of them- especially as they tended to feature viola soloists. Many years ago we travelled together by chance to Devon when she was visiting Jacqueline. My Mum was at the Sinfonia Concertante concert that she and Manny played together. I will ask her more about it. Such a special, wonderful person – thank you Kay for your friendship. My thoughts are with you Mike and Jacqueline, and all your family.
    Toni Del Mar

  • Morwenna Del Mar says:

    Further to the above comments regarding the poster of the Sinfonia Concertante, apparently it appeared on the wall of Hermione Grainger’s wall in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows prt I (and I assume this is thanks to her granddaughter, Mina, as suggested, who worked on the HP design?). See more here: http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Kay_Hurwitz

    Quite a different claim to fame!


  • Helen Imam says:

    I have such fond memories of my aunt (and uncle). Whenever I stayed with them as a child, Aunty Kay would (naturally) go out of her way, beyond the normal call of duty, to be hospitable, taking me to interesting places, introducing me to people, producing lovely food and encouraging me to take my music a step further. Uncle Manny liked to open minds and stoke interest in the wider world and would love to pick out a book from his shelf for me to take home. His honesty was disarming. Kay and Manny would take me to rehearsals, where I would watch and listen from the wings in awe. Love and thoughts to the family.

  • Alison MacArthur says:

    Sadly I only heard today (25 August) about dear Kay’s death. I knew Kay and Manny from childhood as they and my parents were longtime friends. Manny played the violin during the 40s in my grandfather’s (John MacArthur) orchestra in Glasgow, and then he and my father (Cyril MacArthur, bass player) became friends and remained so from then onwards. In fact my parents lived in the basement flat of Kay and Manny’s Finchley House for many many years, until my mother died in 2005. I last visited Kay about 18 months ago, just before her 93rd birthday, and she was well and happy – we had a delightful two hours together over tea and biscuits! I loved her dearly, and she always said she still hoped to come out to Italy to visit me here one day! Love and condolences to you Michael and Jacky and all the family. Maybe one day you will have a beautiful memorial concert like you did for Manny, and we will all meet there? I hope so! With love, Alison

  • Andrew says:

    Several members of my family of various ages went to the saturday morning Youth Music event each week and there was even a parent’s orchestra set up to involve the waiting parents. All this was completely terrific and I remember the amazing Kay Hurvitz and a band of enthusiastic tutors and conductors, including Emanuel Hurvitz that I had incredible respect and admiration for. In searching for this event, I came by this news. We did not have the ability nor talent to become musicians ourselves but they imparted a life-long love for music and we can all still play our instruments and indeed get so much from this ability. All thanks to Kay and Emanuel Hurvitz and all their friends! They made a great impact on our young lives and I want to say a heartfelt thanks, such people are beacons in our society who should be always remembered.