The three world-famous musically-talented sisters lived at 12 Portland Street in the centre of Southampton. Their parents, John Evangelist and Sophie, were a German couple with the surname Wurm who changed their name to the more Anglicized Verne when they moved to England in c.1866. Both parents were music teachers. The family lived at Portland Street from 1866 to 1892.

Mathilde Verne was born in 1865 and made her name as a teacher of the piano. She taught many famous people, including Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the later Queen Mother.

Alice Barbara, born in 1868, was the most exceptional sister as a composer. Sir Malcolm Sargent conducted a performance of her most famous work, the Mass in B Flat. She died in 1958.

Adela, who was the youngest of ten children, was born in 1877. She was taught piano initially by her sisters Alice and Mathilde and later by the celebrated Ignace Jan Paderewski. She went on to be regarded as one of the greatest woman pianists of her era, ranked alongside the male keyboard giants of the time. She toured with great success in many parts of the world. She died in 1952.

Another daughter, Maria, kept the name Wurm and was better known in Germany as a pianist and composer.
The sisters are commemorated by a plaque on the wall of 12 Portland Street (see clipping below).

Alice Verne

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Photograph, c.1940

Mathilde Verne

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Oil painting by Flora Lion, 1925. In the collection of the Royal College of Music.

Adela Verne

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Photograph, 1908

Newspaper clippings:

Further reading:

Southampton People, by John Edgar Mann, p92-3. (HS/t)
Dictionary of National Biography 2004, Volume 56 (for Mathilde)


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