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Jürgen Hess

Last updated on January 7, 2024

Jürgen Hess was a violin player, part of The Delmé Quartet, whose members played on several recordings by The Beatles or Paul McCartney. From Wikipedia:

The Delmé Quartet, aka The Delmé String Quartet, was a String quartet, founded in London in 1962. In 1967, it became the first string quartet to be attached to a British university as Artist-in-residence—in this case, the University of Sussex. The quartet also spent four years as performing Fellows at Lancaster University, and taught the art of quartet performance at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. They toured extensively and released 30 albums.


The Delmé Quartet was founded by former London Symphony Orchestra lead violinist Granville Delmé Jones, former English Chamber Orchestra violinist Jürgen Hess (violins), John Underwood (viola) and Joy Hall (cello), who came up with the idea during a cab ride over London Bridge. Their plan was to play for their own pleasure but when the BBC asked them to play in a concert series of international chamber music at Royal Festival Hall, they were ‘discovered’ and were immediately booked into a concert schedule. Jones died in 1968; he was replaced by Galina Solodchin. John Trusler and Jonathan Williams replaced Hess and Hall in the 1970s; Hess left to become Leader of the London Bach Orchestra. Painter joined the quartet in 1981.

The quartet collaborated with many notable composers, particularly with Robert Simpson—they recorded ten of his quartets, one of which (No. 9) they commissioned, plus his String Trio, the Clarinet Quintet (with Thea King), and the two-cello Quintet (with Christopher van Kampen). They also worked with John McCabe, Christopher Headington, Wilfred Josephs and Daniel Jones, whose quartets they performed regularly at Jones’s Gower Festival.

Members of the Delmé Quartet played on several recordings by The Beatles. Hall can be heard on “Strawberry Fields Forever“; Hess played on three Beatles albums: Revolver, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Yellow Submarine. On the latter album, Hall, Hess and Underwood are the notable strings performance on “Eleanor Rigby“, and on “She’s Leaving Home” from Sgt Pepper (among other songs). Solodchin played on three solo albums by Paul McCartney: Tug Of War (1992), Pipes Of Peace (1983) and Off The Ground (1993). […]

Jürgen Hess played the violin on “Eleanor Rigby” and “A Day In The Life“.

“A Day In The Life” session

The orchestra overdubs for “A Day In The Life” were recorded on February 10, 1967. The Beatles decided to use a symphony orchestra to fill the 24-bar gap between the two sections of the track. To allay concerns that classically trained musicians would not be able to improvise the section, producer George Martin wrote a loose score for the section. It was an extended, atonal crescendo that encouraged the 40-piece orchestra to improvise within the defined framework.

Paul McCartney had the idea to turn this unconventional session into a sort of happening. The musician were asked to attend in full evening dresses and were given accessories like red false noses, flowery paper spectacles or large gorilla paws…

In addition, the session was filmed for use in a planned television specialBut given the BBC’s ban of “A Day In The Life, because of what they assumed were drug references, the idea was abandoned. In 2015, portions of the film were released in the “A Day in the Life” promotional film, included in the three-disc versions of the Beatles’ 2015 video compilation 1+.

The orchestra and George Martin had been asked to attend in full evening dress, which the Beatles also promised they would wear. The Beatles did not keep their word but the orchestra and George Martin looked very smart in their tuxedos. In order to get them into the mood to play something unconventional and to encourage in them an element of playful spontaneity, the Beatles went among the players handing out party favours. Mal Evans had been sent to a joke shop on Great Russell Street and returned with plastic stick-on nipples, plastic glasses with false eyes, rubber bald pates, some with knotted handkerchiefs balanced on them, huge fake cigars, party hats and streamers: David McCallum, the leader of the London Philharmonic, wore a large red false nose; Erich Gruenberg, the leader of the second violins, had on a pair of flowery paper spectacles and held his bow in a large gorilla paw; the bassoon players, Alfred Waters and N. Fawcett, had balloons attached to their instruments which inflated and deflated with each note, raising a laugh from George Martin.

From “Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now” by Barry Miles, 1997

And if that wasn’t unorthodox enough, they were even more bemused, if not downright aghast, by Paul’s instructions that they all play as out of tune and out of time as possible. This twist was added during the taping of “A Day In The Life”‘s cosmic crescendo, for which Paul had assumed – with obvious relish – the role of “conductor.”

Pete Shotton – From “The Beatles, Lennon, And Me“, 1984

It was quite a chaotic session. Such a big orchestra, playing with very little music. And the Beatle chaps were wandering around with rather expensive cameras, like new toys, photographing everything.

Alan Civil – Horn player – From “The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions” by Mark Lewisohn, 1988

Only the Beatles could have assembled a studio full of musicians, many from the Royal Philharmonic or the London Symphony orchestras, all wearing funny hats, red noses, balloons on their bows and putting up with headphones clipped around their Stradivari violins acting as microphones.

Peter Vince, studio engineer – From “The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions” by Mark Lewisohn, 1988

Recording sessions Jürgen Hess participated in

Albums, EPs & singles which Jürgen Hess contributed to

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