Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Hall, Elsie Maude Stanley (1877–1976)

by Peter Burgis

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

Elsie Maude Stanley Hall (1877-1976), by unknown engraver

Elsie Maude Stanley Hall (1877-1976), by unknown engraver

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, IAN01/05/90/22

Elsie Maude Stanley Hall (1877-1976), pianist, was born on 22 June 1877 at Toowoomba, Queensland, elder daughter of William Stanley Hall, reporter, and his wife Mary Ann, née Sadgrove, piano-teacher. The family moved to Sydney in 1882 when her father was appointed mining editor with the Sydney Morning Herald. Taking to the piano before she was 3, Elsie proved a child prodigy and by 1884 was appearing in concerts. From the age of 5 she was taught by Josef Kretschmann, a fine German violinist; her first major recital was on 16 October 1886 when she played the Beethoven C Minor Concerto at the University of Sydney.

In 1888 Elsie, with her mother and sister Muriel, travelled to Germany where she enrolled at the Stuttgart Conservatorium. In 1889 she performed at the Australian kiosk at the Paris exhibition and next year moved with her family to London where she won a pianoforte scholarship at the Royal College of Music. Anticipating a return to Australia, she declined the award and when her trip home was cancelled she became a pupil of John Farmer at the Harrow Music School. Through the patronage of Mendelssohn's eldest daughter, Marie Benecke, she subsequently attended the Royal High School for Music in Berlin, studying under Ernst Rudorff and Rudolf Joachim; in 1895 she won the coveted Mendelssohn State Prize and next year made her public début playing Chopin's E Minor Concerto with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.

In November 1897 Miss Hall returned to the Australian colonies in spite of a warning from Ada Crossley that to do so would be 'suicide'. Accompanied by Muriel, now a proficient violinist, she toured outback and cities for several years before accepting a teaching appointment at the Elder Conservatorium of Music, Adelaide. About 1903 she returned to her concert career in England; in 1908 she pioneered classical entertainment at the Coliseum and Hippodrome theatres, London. She also did a little teaching, her most notable pupils being Princess Mary (aged 14) and George Lambert's sons, Maurice and Constant.

On 22 November 1913 Elsie married Frederick Otto Stohr whose medical career took him to South Africa where the couple made their permanent home; they had one daughter and two sons. During World War I Miss Hall served at the Anzac Buffet, London, and toured the French war zone with Lena Ashwell's entertainment party. In 1919 she gave her first recital with the Cape Town Symphony Orchestra and continued to play with leading South African orchestras until she was 93. An outstanding interpreter of Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Schumann and Chopin, she periodically returned to Europe to work and made occasional visits to Australia. In June 1957 she was awarded an honorary doctorate of music from the University of Cape Town. Her autobiography, The Good Die Young, was published in 1969. Miss Hall made broadcasts for both the South African and British Broadcasting corporations and gramophone records for the Pathé company (1910), His Master's Voice (early 1930s) and Decca (late 1930s); a limited edition long-playing record was issued in South Africa in 1970. Well into old age, she performed on television. She died at Wynberg, South Africa, on 27 June 1976 in her one hundredth year and was buried in Hout Bay cemetery; one son survived her.

Select Bibliography

  • Argus (Melbourne), 8 Feb, 12 Apr 1890
  • Sydney Mail, 25 Dec 1897, 22 May 1935
  • Cape Times (South Africa), 1 July 1976
  • Times (London), 28 July 1976.

Citation details

Peter Burgis, 'Hall, Elsie Maude Stanley (1877–1976)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/hall-elsie-maude-stanley-6525/text11203, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 25 November 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2017

Elsie Maude Stanley Hall (1877-1976), by unknown engraver

Elsie Maude Stanley Hall (1877-1976), by unknown engraver

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, IAN01/05/90/22