Playing to the end, a musical dynasty takes its final bow

We have been informed of the death of Beryl Rubens, an accomplished violinist and viola player and member of a musical family. Before migrating to the US, she played in the orchestra of Welsh National Opera.


beryl rubens

portrait by Norma Procter


Beryl’s brother Harold Rubens was a piano prodigy and close friend of Nelson Mandela.

Brother Cyril was a violinist in the London Symphony Orchestra. Sister Bernice was a novelist who won the Booker prize for The Elected Member and wrote a profoundly true story of music teaching, Madame Sousatzka, based on Harold’s boyhood instructor.

Beryl spent much of her life on an agricultural commune in the American heartlands. She talks about it here.

Beryl’s family tell us she was playing string quartets to the last day of her life.

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  • “portrait by Norma Procter”. Would that be the much undervalued contralto from the 50s and 60s whose career was rather overshadowed by Janet Baker? She was also appallingly treated by Britten over a recording – allegedly. A magnificent voice and a compelling presence on the platform. Is it the same person?

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