A Truly Grande Dame ......and are there kippers still for tea?
Tertia Liebenthal. Now there’s a name! To some of her closest friends she was Liebe Tertienthal, a cleverly affectionate spoonerism coined by Ben Britten. Though I didn’t know it at the time, the part ( in a supporting role) that Tertia played in the jigsaw of my future, and in facilitating my passage to Russia, was fatefully serendipitous. And the role that she played in the musical life of post-war Edinburgh was enormous. In her later years Tertia had something of the Edith Sitwell about her - an impossibly long nose in the middle of a face which frequently expressed hauteur, fierce intelligence, and a kind of knowing sense of herself. There are some outstanding photographs of her in later life by the photographer Paul Shilabeer, which superbly capture her and her cat Chloe Pushkin, both fixing the photographer with a look that exudes confidence, even disdain, as though he had strayed, poor man, into their joint territories without realising that he had entered a court of imperial power. David Michie, painter, and son of Tertia’s friend, the distinguished Scottish painter Ann Redpath, talks of her looking at you with “a glare in her eye” (and that goes for the cat as well !). Tertia didn’t so much live as reign. Joe Kidd, an Edinburgh civil servant who was her lodger for thirteen years, talked of the “easy imperiousness” of her style. She carried her elegant figure with regal poise, and, brought up in a household with a resident cook, housemaid and nurse, Tertia continued to believe that by right of her birth she could expect other people to do things for her. She was lucky to have had her “people”, the Hulberts, who lived in the basement, to look after her and the house, right up to her death. But Joe remembered how, even when she was ill, if he offered to do something for Tertia she would decline, only to capitulate a day or two later. In this way she could convince herself, if nobody else, that she was not accepting favours. Although she had friendly rivals in concert-promoting, (the colourfully named Ruth D’Arcy-Thompson, with her Saltire Society Concerts, amongst them) she occupied an unassailable position in the musical heirarchy of post-war Edinburgh, and continued to do so right up until her death in 1970. Ronald Stevenson, Scottish pianist and composer, who also referred to her as Liebe Tertienthal, described her as the last “grande dame” of Edinburgh. Tertia was indeed a rather mythical character, around whom legends had accumulated, one of which was that she was of aristocratic Austrian lineage. Her father was, in fact, a Russo-German-Jewish grain importer from Königsberg, who settled in Scotland and set up a business importing grain for Scottish distillers, but her mother, Agnes Shillinglaw, was true blue Scottish, from Fife. It was lucky her parentage was that way round, otherwise she would have ended up with a much less exotic name, though to be fair, Shillinglaw is not exactly a very common name either, even in Scotland. True to her name, Tertia was the third daughter of Louis Liebenthal, ( perhaps her name indicated that he was tiring of the need to find names for his female progeny ) and she was born ( in 1890 ) and lived all her life in 34 Regent Terrace, a magnificent New Town house designed by William Playfair overlooking Arthur’s Seat. Her birth actually took place in the bedroom which she was to occupy for the rest of her eighty years. The house was one of the first in Edinburgh to display a Christmas tree with real candles in its drawing-room window - Louis brought this tradition with him from Germany, which also suggests that he was not at all orthodox in his religion. He used to have a telescope mounted on the roof of the house, from which elevated position he could look out for his ships coming into the Forth with their cargo of wheat before docking in Leith. Then, presumably, he could make the short journey down Leith Walk to meet them. The father was by all accounts a formidable character. His only son ( later killed in the war ) was afraid of him, and one night came home late from a party the worse for drink. He decided that his best option would be to remove his shoes and leave them outside the front door so that his father wouldn’t hear him creeping up the stairs. Unfortunately, the next morning, while Louis junior slept off his hangover, father Louis discovered the incriminating evidence outside the front door. Posterity doesn’t record what his reaction was. If her early years were not marked by any particular achievement, Tertia’s background must have afforded her a cultural diversity that helped to shape her future, even if her parents had in mind for her a conventional marriage. Regent Terrace had been home at different times to many distinguished Edinburgh citizens, mostly ether merchants or in the “professions”, but there were also comings and goings of luminaries of Scottish cultural life. In 1932, the same year that Tertia’s father died, the Scottish colourist Francis Cadell took up residence at No 30, and later the sculptors Norman Forrest and Sir Edward Paolozzi had studios at No 16. Tertia’s own home ( when I saw it many years later) was full of striking canvases by various prominent Scottish artists, including William MacTaggart, Anne Redpath and Joan Eardley. Another distinguished neighbour at that time was Sir Herbert Grierson, Regius Professor of Rhetoric and English Language, who shared his domain with a wife and five, by all accounts, lively, daughters. One of the daughters, Janet, was a pupil of Sir Donald Tovey, who was known to escort her home sometimes across the gardens. From 1930 until his death Tovey lived in Royal Terrace which “backed” on to Regent Terrace with the large “communal” private gardens in between. Janet Grierson recalled in 1980: " I like to think our house still echoes with Tovey playing the piano, and my father and also W B Yeats reading poetry, and the conversation of all the exciting people that came to the house, and, last but not least, G K Chesterton reciting Hilaire Belloc’s Cautionary Tales for Children when we were still young adolescents. " Tovey, had, in fact, a mesmerising effect on his audiences, combining scholarship with popularisation in the best sense( and thus being, according to Ronald Stevenson, unique in his ability to forge a “town and gown” partnership). The story goes that in the middle of a lecture to a packed Sunday-night audience in the Usher Hall, when he played the Hammerklavier Sonata, he stood up at the end and continued the sentence which he had broken off mid-way to demonstrate the music! The reign of Tovey really opened up Edinburgh’s future as a cultural centre. So Tovey, who liked to mix “in society”, was a regular visitor to Regent Terrace, and Tertia, as one of his circle, was greatly influenced by him. One can imagine the grand soirees that must have taken place in some of those magnificent drawing rooms. The greatest stars of the classical music world were often house-guests of Tovey, and in return they took part in musical evenings to which the cream of Edinburgh society would be invited. Thus Tertia, on account of her social rather than musical prowess, was able ro rub shoulders with the likes of Joachim, Suggia, Casals, the Busch brothers, and Jelly D’Aranyi ( dedicatee of Ravel's Tzigane and "re-discoverer" of the Schumann Violin Concerto ) and her sister Adela Fachiri. The exotic world of these international musical stars must have given Tertia a sense of an intoxicating life well beyond the cultural domain of Auld Reekie. It’s likely that Tertia herself harboured ambitions as a violinist, and to that end she did study in Berlin. But she had to settle for being an amateur violinist, ( though no doubt she would have been horrified by this description), and played for eight years in Tovey’s Reid School Orchestra. In itself this did not really betoken any level of accomplishment, and Kitty Gregorson’s impression was that she was pretty bad. Someone said after hearing her play, “It’s such a shame that Miss Liebenthel always seems to play in the cracks”. June Brebner, who worked for the British Council in Edinburgh, more candidly described Tertia as blissfully unaware of many things, and her violin playing as “absolutely ghastly”! Later on in life Tertia herself would have you think very much otherwise of course, and her piano was festooned with photographs of herself with the icons of her past musical life, including Tovey, Casals and Busch. She loved to name-drop about all these people, who were safely dead, so could not deny that Tertia might have shared the same concert platform with them, even if it was only at the back desk of the second fiddles. Other pictures showed her in high society, posing with the likes of Anna Neagle. Unable to achieve distinction herself as a violinist, but armed with a formidable sense of culture, Tertia must have realised in herself a gift for organisation, probably inherited from her autocratic father. Whereas during the First World War her loyalties had been divided, by the Second, disillusioned by the plight of Jewish relatives in Germany (whom she had visited to try to help in the 30’s), she was firmly pro-British. And apart from running her local National Savings Group, Tertia realised that she could do something to redress the dearth of good chamber-music concerts in Edinburgh during the war. In her contribution to Scottish musical life ( for which she was awarded the MBE in 1955) Tertia occupied a position analogous to Myra Hess ( born in the same year as Tertia ) with her wartime National Gallery concerts in London. Tertia’s, at the National Gallery of Scotland, came slightly later, starting in 1941, but lasted for many more years. The London concerts were every weekday, and though they were planned by Myra Hess, much of the administration was carried out by Ibbs and Tillett. Tertia, on the other hand, ran her weekly concerts with single-minded determination and administration - what there was of it. Tertia’s “administration” was wonderfully eccentric. She had a table in her sitting room piled high with letters. Amongst these would be programme details from her own artists, from would-be performers, agents, promoters and the like. Most of these letters were probably ignored after a cursory read-through, and Tertia herself preferred to do business on the phone. She kept her letter-writing for her personal friends. And though she was capable of being very charming, and was fiercely loyal to her close friends, there was also a streak of the general in her. Tertia was probably aware of the conservative nature of most of the concert-going public in Edinburgh, and decided early on that they should be challenged with a contemporary work in every concert. In part this was an attempt to counter what she was always ready to ctiticise as the cultural philistinism of the general politico-cultural scene, represented by the city fathers, but on the other hand it was also a genuine desire to break down barriers between tradition and innovation. She earnestly championed post-war contemporary culture when many people were shying away from it. She also saw, shrewdly, that it would earn her a place in the good books of like-minded afficionados who were her allies in the political corridors of bodies such as the Arts Council. But most significantly, she had a genuinely patronistic ( as well as matriarchal ) interest in encouraging and supporting young composers. The pianist Ronald Smith, ( with whom much later on I had the pleasure of playing and recording the Alkan Sonata) got Tertia “hooked”, as he said, on Alkan, when it was still considered rather peripheral to the rest of the Romantic repertoire. This willingness to try new things and take some risks was very much part of her nature - and she gave you the impression that she might very well know what was best for you ( or her audience ) even if you didn’t know yourself. This was sometimes even a challenge to some of the performers, but Tertia insisted that the inclusion of a contemporary work was a condition of an offer of a concert. And it meant that the programmes were much more wide-ranging in repertoire than the London National Gallery Concerts, which were solidly based on the classical repertoire. On other occasions it was a challenge to the National Gallery officials, such as in the case of one concert given by Ronald Stevenson, whom Tertia asked to play his 80 minute Passacaglia on DSCH. Nornally the concerts were between 50 minutes and an hour, but on this occasion Tertia insisted that the concert would last just as long as it had to, and the authorities could lump it. Eybrows and hackles were raised, but the lady got her way. The start of the concerts, however, was never open to discussion. It must surely have been the only concert series in which every concert started with the firing of a gun, even if it was several hundred metres away on the Edinburgh Castle ramparts! I swam into Tertia’s ken in 1966. In June, I had made my “debut” recital in Edinburgh at the Reid School of Music , and the programme ( with my mother playing the piano ) had included the Britten Sonata. In a review in The Scotsman by composer and poet Robert Crawford headed “Playing of Virtuoso Quality”, the performance of the Britten had merited special mention. Not very long after that I had a phone-call from Tertia. It was rather as though the godfather ( or, in her case, godmother) had called. Prior to that, Tertia’s name, never mind her voice on the other end of a telephone line, was enough to cause a small earth tremor. Obviously curious as a result of the Scotsman review, and slightly irritated that she hadn’t been at the concert herself ( as she liked to feel that she “discovered” her artists before anybody else ),Tertia wanted to hear me, and proposed that I come to her house to give her a private concert, or as I perfectly well understood, an audition. On July 19th, with my mother in tow to play for me, I presented myself at No 34 Regent Terrace. Regent Terrace still provides a magnificent glimpse of the formal elegance of Georgian Edinburgh. As you walk along the cobbled street with its converted gas street-lamps, it is very easy to be transported back into a scenario of fashionable Regency Edinburgh life. The elegant figure who answered the door fitted perfectly into her surroundings, graciously showing us up to the first floor L-shaped drawing room with the Bechstein grand piano in one corner. The Turkish carpet, which followed the shape of the room, had been specially woven for it , and deep mirrors and chandeliers added to the sense of oppulence. Downstairs, the sitting room, furnished with armchairs in viridian green, and a velvet sofa, provided the perfect backdrop for Tertia. She used to perch herself towards the front of a chair, perfectly upright, with one foot ( not leg!) slightly crossed in front of the other, one hand cupping the other in her lap, palms upwards. She was of that generation whose daughters were sent to be " finished ". Blink and you could have been in the presence of the Queen! Like the rest of her body her fingers were long and slender, and her whole appearance had a Bloomsburyish astheticism about it. Tertia moved rather slowly and with consumate poise, and it was immediately obvious to me that for a woman of her age - at the time 76 - she was in good shape, with an extremely long straight back. I imagine that she could have been a sprinter in earlier years. She was of the era when “carriage” was a mark of breeding. At that time, I knew nothing of the stories surrounding Tertia, and it was only much later that I heard from various friends about how she could transfix an audience, like a queen-bee surrounded by her admirers (usually male ). In spite of her regular attendance at the Kirk of St Giles, there was decidedly an unorthodox streak in Tertia which often manifested itself in her libertarian views, and she even expected her performers to be unconventional in their behaviour. She was said to have no cavills whatsoever about unmarried performers sleeping together, “because they’re artists!”, and she was completely unphased by male partnerships such as Ben Britten and Peter Pears. On this occasion however, my playing rather than my behaviour was under scrutiny. I remember being slightly overawed by the feeling of this “Royal Command” performance, but at the same time I had the feeling that Tertia was not as fierce as some of the stories might have led one to believe. Joe Kidd also stood somewhat in awe of her but for different reasons. He occupied what must have been one of the most desirable “digs” in Edinburgh, on the top floor of the house, with magnificent views of Salisbury Crags, so he was very anxious not to offend Tertia. This was rather easier than one would imagine, as frugality was a quality Tertia particularly admired, especially in someone who was living in her house. She constantly fretted about his gas consumption, as she wouldn’t consider having a meter installed, and on at least one occasion he was summoned one morning and ticked off for having left a hall light turned on the previous night. A few days later, having worked out how much the electricity would have cost, he tried to placate her by offering her sixpence, but she was offended by this rather unsubtle response to her admonition. I witnessed another example of her parsimony. On one occasion when I went to the house to play, her great friend Philippa Parsons was making one of her periodic visits from London, when she would look after Tertia for a week or so. As I was about to leave, Tertia asked me to post a letter for her. As I put the letter in my pocket, Tertia noticed that there was no stamp on it. I had a wallet full of stamps so proffered a stamp. But no! In spite of my offer, she triumphantly announced "Philippa owes me a stamp!”, and the ceremony was not complete until Philippa had to go up three flights of stairs to fetch the stamp. This meticulous sense of quid pro quo was innate to Tertia, and as she told Philippa, though she was aware that she was powerless to affect the way the world went, she felt that, if by her example something of her “standards” rubbed off on somebody else, she would have achieved a little. But she could be daunting, in the way that people who know what they want (and how to get it) often are. One of Tertia’s most remarkable achievements was that throughout twenty nine years of concerts, few of the artists were paid, and if they were, as Ronald Smith ( who played four times for Tertia ) recalls, it was a very small fee. The cue for this may have come from the fact that Myra Hess played at her concerts for no fee; and, with the war effort to support, what was good enough for London was good enough for Edinburgh. But it became a “tradition” of these concerts that artists played for expenses, a bed and a meal ( sometimes, provided by Tertia, it could be rather frugal), and “kudos”. For this reason Tertia was not popular with concert agents, and she preferred to bypass them, considering them parasites, without whom she could run the most prestigious concert series in Scotland, thank you very much! This was a matter of no little pride to her. There is a story that one day Joan Ingpen ( from the concert agents Ingpen and Williams) was going to catch a bus in Wigmore Street when she saw Tertia approaching. In order not to have to meet Tertia, so the story goes, she is said to have got on a bus going the other way! The royal command performance which I had been summoned to give proceeded in spite of the woefully out-of-tune piano with which my mother battled, and Tertia seemed to be satisfied with my offering. As a result of my “audition”, I was awarded my first National Gallery recital in March 1967. I followed in the footsteps of many distinguished “newcomers” who had not yet “made their names”, to whom Tertia gave early exposure. The list of performers who played for her reads like a lexicon of British musicians for three decades, and included names such as Kathleen Ferrier, who first appeared early in her career in 1943, John Ogden, David Wilde, Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears, and many more. She was also concerned to promote Scottish musicians and composers alongside their more “famous” English or foreign counterparts, making sure that “her” artists were considered equally. At the second concert I did for her in December 1968, she asked me to include a movement from a solo cello Sonata by the Scottish composer William Wordsworth ( a descendant of the poet’s brother Christopher ), for his 60th birthday, lest the Sonata by Elliot Carter, who was also 60, should overshadow Wordsworth’s birthday. William Wordsworth’s music, of which Tertia was a great supporter, including the darkly brooding Cello Concerto which I also later added to my repertoire, deserves not the total oblivion which has engulfed it since his death. A shy man ( and incidentally also a pupil of Tovey ), even during his life his reticence kept his music in the shadows. After that first occasion when I played at the house, I was occasionally rung up by Tertia asking me to come and play again for her. This may have had the dual purpose of both entertaining her when she was bored, and keeping her up to date with my progress, which she liked to monitor, in her role of patroness. But she was genuinely interested in young people, and had that knack,( even in old age, though she also never seemed “old”) of being very “in tune” with the culture of her day, and of keeping abreast of everything that was new. If these impromptu recitals in her house happened to fall in cold weather, the experience was more pain than pleasure, as the drawing room, seldom used (or heated ) by Tertia, was like an ice-box. Though South-facing and well placed to get plenty of sun in summer, the snell winter winds of Auld Reekie could whip and curl round the Calton Hill, creating an Arctic climate in that room. Tertia seemed, like a lot of stalwart Scots of an older generation, to have become inured to the cold. But it was hardly easy to get one’s fingers moving freely in such coldness, and worse for my mother, who described the piano keys as like blocks of ice. During these audiences, Tertia herself used to hover near a one-bar electric fire. We were usually rewarded with tea - often consisting of Battenburg cake ( a Tertia favourite ) or a simple meal, usually along the lines of smoked salmon and scrambled eggs. According to Philippa Parsons, Tertia had two or three “dishes” that she could prepare, but it was always very simple, and what I think of as Scottish - no sauces or frills. Potatoes, if you had them, were boiled, and looked rather forelonely from a plate devoid of any mitigating succulence such as gravy. Sometimes during the Festival Tertia was prevailed upon to “put up” Festival artists, and on one occasion she provided accomodation for Hans Stuckenschmidt, the distinguished Schoenberg scholar. He later described to June Brebner his horror at being given Loch Fyne kippers (which he loathed ) for breakfast, and, to avoid embarassment, having to eat them, which was pure torture for him. But contrary to her rather ascetic home cookery, Tertia herself liked to dine out at the Oyster Bar of the Café Royal where she became an habitué. She would meet up there with various gentlemen friends, including the artist Willie Wilson, or John Kingsley Cook, head of the Royal College of Art, and sometimes, if she knew he was at a loose end, she would announce to her lodger Joe Kidd “ Tonight Joe, you will take me out to the Café Royal”, which of course meant that in return for shaperoning Tertia, she paid the bill. After one such visit to the Café Royal with the distinguished art historian Sir John Summerson, Tertia, who had obviously had rather to much to drink, was alarmed to see a polar bear on the pavement otside her house . She rang the doorbell of her neighbours, Lord and Lady Duke, to tell them this somewhat surprising news. What they found the next morning was a pile of rubbish for the refuse collection on to which someone had thrown a sheepskin rug! This story was conveyed to me from two different sources in slightly different versions, which suggests to me that Tertia, enjoying its comic potential, had probably embellished the story in the retelling herself. After another party, coming home late in a taxi with her great friend Anne Redpath, in high spirits and probably again somewhat the worse for wear, the women hugged each other and embraced warmly, if somewhat drunkenly. Tertia remonstrated with Anne, saying “ You can kiss me but I’m not going to let you kiss the taxi driver”. The bemused taxi driver probably hadn’t a clue that they were two of the high priestesses of Scottish culture. Tertia’s piano had been used for practising (usually in the summer!) by many distinguished pianists, probably the most famous being Sviatoslav Richter. Stephen Bishop-Kovacevich had heard about this, and was fascinated to know from Tertia how he practised. Surprisingly, Tertia said she hadn’t a clue, as she hadn’t bothered to listen, but she did notice when she hadn’t heard any sounds for a while. She went into the room to find Richter gazing out of the window at the panoramic view of Arthur’s Seat and Holyrood Park - just such a scene as was painted by Francis Cadell from No 30. Tertia asked if anything was wrong. Richter said to her “ Who needs to practice when you have such a magnificent view as this to look at?” Rostropovich and Richter also came to rehearse when they played all the Beethoven Sonatas at the 1964 Festival. Richter was shy and quiet, but Rostropovich swept Tertia off her feet with his volubility. She said later to Ronald Smith that he had come into the house like a thunderclap, and Richter had crept in like a mouse. Later an enormous bouquet of flowers was delivered from Richter. The florist, who was a personal friend of Tertia, later told her that a large Russian man had come into the shop, and himself selected every flower in the bouquet, driving everybody in the shop mad with his fussiness. Such chivalrous gestures gave Tertia enormous pleasure. But the friendship that gave her most pleasure was that of Ben Britten and Peter Pears. She had visited the Aldeburgh Festival several times, and in the course of many visits to the EIF, they in turn had visited her and rehearsed in her drawing room. She had corresponded with both of them and was a stalwart supporter, at a time when Britten’s music was still sometimes met with indifference. Knowing, latterly, that she was less able to travel or to entertain, they made a special point of calling on her at home, sometimes with little forewarning, and giving her a private run-through of one of their programmes. Pears and Britten were scheduled to give the 700th concert at the Gallery. Thus it was that the timing of Tertia’s leave-taking had a biblical synchronicity. During the interval of the 699th concert, on March 4th 1970, in which my teacher Joan Dickson was playing as part of the Scottish Piano Quintet, Tertia stood up to announce that the 700th concert was to be given in her honour by her dear friends Britten and Pears. Having made the announcement, Tertia collapsed and was taken to hospital. The performers finished the concert, with the Dvorak Eb Piano Quintet, and by the end of the concert it was known that Tertia had died. The 700th concert took place as a memorial to her. But it was back in the summer of 1968 that Tertia played a trump card for me. In typically voluble style her letter to Philippa Parsons of September 6th sets the scene: “It has been an amazing Festival, though I was trying not to dread it, knowing I couldn’t face the crowded halls or parties. Ben and Peter have made it for me one of the most wonderful Festivals in quite a different way. Their affectionate consideration for me has been so heart-warming. Peter ringing up nearly every morning - sending a car for me and welcoming me in the quiet halls for nearly every rehearsal. Rostropovich running down the steps from the platform to greet me, and he and Vishnevskaya coming to the drawing room and letting me sit while they worked at their recital ( he at the piano ) for the next morning in Leith Town Hall. Ben and Peter left last night after the first half of the performance when Ben was conducting his Piano Concerto ( Peter Frankl playing it instead of Richter) and after a great ovation for Ben, they went off to Kelso staying the night. Then, on to Aldeburgh today where they have a concert ( broadcast thank goodness) at 8.30pm tomorrow, Saturday, from the Maltings. Peter came and had an hour with me yesterday afternoon, and then we had tea in the kitchen with Thelma and Fiona Douglas Home and her husband Gregory Martin, who were staying with us last night, and all at this moment enjoying their kippers in the kitchen. Ben took a very affectionate farewell of me at the rehearsal yesterday morning, and as for dear Peter, well they have been just so much what they are. I am so grateful for their lovely friendship, and the War Requiem was quite superlative on Sunday night. It should have been broadcast ( unimaginative of the BBC ) as there will never be a finer performance as I think “The Times” of Tuesday - William Mann - said. I of course was not at the hall in the evening, but at the rehearsal in the morning, and what a glorious rehearsal! Giulini conducting it for the first time, but with what sensitivity, and Vishnevskaya, Fiescher-Dieskau and Peter as soloists, Ben conducting the Melos Ensemble and our splendid Scottish Festival Chorus and the boys of St Mary’s Cathedral under Arthur Oldham singing like angels. Now send me a typed letter - the exhilaration of the last weeks ( carefully planned and the doctor positively directing it all) has done me a lot of good. Now will come the anti-climax; but I must not think of it in that way. One must come down from the heights to the mundane, and try and think lightly.” Finishing with a recommendation of two books of a “spiritual” nature, this letter was typical of Tertia’s enthusiasm - for kippers - as well as for Ben and Peter. Significantly, for me, it was written five days after I had my first lesson with Rostropovich, and later Tertia told me that she had also spoken with Britten that week about me. I was, of course, flattered and thanked her, but I had little idea at the time that it was probably her intercession that cemented the support from Britten that was to follow in the ensuing months when I was applying for a British Council Scholarship. In many ways Tertia was an enigma. She rarely spoke to her friends about her family background, and it may have been that it was painful for her to do so. Her one brother Louis, six years older, was killed in the First World War, and she conveyed to Joe Kidd that, while she had been much admired in her youth, her lover was also killed in the war. She was of that generation of women whose lives were blighted by the loss of so many potential husbands. Phillipa Parsons felt that, in spite of all her friends, she was for many reasons a very lonely person. The autocratic and haughty demeanor that some people felt was typical of her was in all probability a carapace, and with her friends ( to whom she was fiercely loyal and protective ), she could be surprisingly girlish with a wicked sense of humour that was characterised by a quick wit. Surprisingly, to June Brebner, Ann Redpath once said “ You should be kinder to Tertia. You have everything, she has nothing.” And Ronald Stevenson felt, that inasmuch as she had the best characteristics of both male and female, Tertia was bi-sexual, or androgynous. This might explain her loneliness, and at the same time her espousal of “artistic” people whose eccentricities or unorthodox life-styles could thus be explained and accepted. But her background had given her a stiff upper lip as well as a straight back, and however much she might like to have emulated her “artists”, her own life-style, outside her passion for music and the arts, ( and painting in particular ), was in many ways ascetic. The object of Tertia’s adoration was her cats, and sometimes it seemed that she preferred them to humans. Her last cats, Lily and Lucy, which both looked as though they were permanently plugged into a live electric cable, seemed to inherit a deal of Tertia’s imperiousness, and she had built them a palatial enclosure in her back garden to make sure that they were protected (as she said) from possible harassment from birds and other local marauding pussy cats. These imperious moggies enjoyed a lifestyle far and beyond the average Edinburgh tabby. David Michie recalled that Tertia put around the legend that they had been sired in a nocturnal encounter in Rothiemurchuss forest between a Scottish wild cat and a local tabby ( almost as interesting a background as Tertia’s own ), but whatever the truth of their genetic nature, by nurture they were most definitely the feline royalty of Regent Terrace. It was also said that periodically Tertia used to go on nocturnal forays to gather up local stray cats (and sometimes - perhaps by mistake, perhaps not - neighbours’ cats that happened to stray across Tertia’s territory, God help them). She would then deposit them at the local cat home, as she would have it “for their own good”, but actually to prevent any unwanted fraternisation with her own darlings. Once during an evening with Joe Kidd at the Café Royal, she interrupted the meal to go in search of the restaurant cat, which she claimed was underfed, but not before the hapless waitress was subjected to a detailed and accusatory cross-examination about the pathetic animal. + + + According to her will, Tertia had wanted 34 Regent Terrace to be left as a house for visiting artists, but her wishes were never fulfilled, as it proved too complicated, and was the subject of disagreement amongst her nieces and nephews. She had, however, meticulously marked her paintings with the names of the beneficiaries. It was also her wish that the concerts should not continue after her death, as she felt that no-one else would run them with the same single-mindedness, dedication, and economy, which was of course true. And she retained a degree of optimism in the here and now which is rare in people of any age. On the occasion of her eightieth birthday, her friend Robert Reid QC ( later Sheriff Principal of Glasow and Strathkelvin ) penned the following lines: Tertia! Let no one say these eighty years Were bad and sad and saw an old world pass Where men drank wine where now we drink the lees. For you yourself reject such gloomy fears. On you they lie as light as sun on grass On summer evenings underneath dark trees. And Sir Clifford Curzon wrote after her death to her great friend Isobel Dunlop: “To revisit the house where I spent so many happy hours rehearsing and practising, and chatting in between times to Tertia on every imaginable subject, from food to be bought at Marks and Spencers to late Beethoven, was for me, as it always had been, a Proustian experience. But if the house was the personification of time standing still, Tertia herself moved eagerly and youthfully forward.” Whatever her eccenticities - and these were many - Tertia was in many ways a pioneer, who cared passionately about the enriching qualities of the arts, and of contemporary artistic activity as well. She was one of a rare breed who sought to promote other people’s work without gain to herself. And she held true to her goals even when confronted with the mundanities of beurocracy. And maybe from the cosmopolitan influences of her background she inherited an ability to distinguish sharply between the things that were, in her opinion, worth fighting for, all guns blazing, and those which she could happily ignore. And she was not without a humourous sense of her own qualities, physical as well as mental. Tertia was no great beauty in her youth, but she was one of those people who acquired beauty with age. Being daughter No 3 hadn’t scotched her self-confidence, and even in later life, when she still breathed elegance, she was known to flirt with whomsoever might be the object of her attention, whether admirer or potential ally in the arts-funding arena. And in the court of Tertia, those whose attendance the lady desired usually capitulated. Ever the flatterer who knew how to get what she wanted (subtly, of course!), Liebe Tertia would raise her skirts and, pointing to her shapely long legs, enquire rhetorically, “Not bad for a woman of un certain age, no?” Her style, redolent of another age, was uniquely her own, and with her passing went one of the grand characters of Scottish musical life.
Tertia's Palm Print
( Made by Philippa Parsons )