Unknown photographer, Yella Pessl (b. 1906 Vienna, Austria – d. 1991 Northampton, MA). Digital print from scan. Western Regional Archives, State Archives of NC.
Yella Pessl (b. 1906 Vienna, Austria – d. 1991 Northampton, MA)
Austrian-born American harpsichordist, pianist, and organist Yella Pessl (born Gabriella Pessl Sobotka) studied at the State Academy of Music in Vienna and enjoyed a successful performance career in Europe before emigrating to the United States in 1931. Pessl was a visiting performer at Black Mountain College during the first Summer Institute of 1944, with a full-size harpsichord in tow. She became the founder and director of the Bach Circle, a New York group specializing in lesser-known works of J.S. Bach and other Baroque composers. Pessl toured extensively in the United States, playing solo recitals and with orchestras under conductors like Arturo Toscanini and Bruno Walter. In 1938 she accompanied the Trapp Family Singers, whom she had known in Vienna, at their Town Hall debut. She had her own radio program on WQXR, made recordings for the RCA Victor label and was on the faculty of Columbia University.