Who was Diana Kurzman? Donor leaves £1m for classical music

Posthumous gift to Arts Council England comes 10 years after mysterious piano-lover’s death

A posthumous £1m donation from a woman who lived alone in an unremarkable block of brown-brick flats in North London has left the art world stumped.

A decade ago, Diana Kurzman died alone in a flat in Windsor Court, close to Brent Cross tube station in Golders Green at the age of 59. She was unknown in the arts world, and leaves little record behind. Yet her substantial donation to Arts Council England to back classical music will see her legacy marked later this year.

At least one of the beneficiaries has attempted to dig up more information about Ms Kurzman’s life, but beyond her dates of birth and death, and the fact that she had a passion for the piano, little has come to light.

The £925,000 donation, which took Arts Council England completely by surprise, was “to be used at its discretion for the benefit of orchestras and the performance of chamber music and opera,” according to her will.

The Arts Council revealed last week it had distributed the funds, dubbed the Kurzman legacy, to Music in the Round, Orchestras Live and Aldeburgh Music, which is working with the Royal Opera House and Opera North.

Paul Allen, chair of Music in the Round, the largest promoter of chamber music outside London, said: “Given that one of the few things we know about her is the love of music, it is very important that we mark it.”

He added that the Sheffield-based organisation, which received £150,000 from Ms Kurzman, is considering an event in May “partly because of my suspicion that she didn’t have many friends or relatives in her lifetime. She may have had an unhappy life in which the piano was her salvation.”

Ms Kurzman was born in Camden in November 1944, an only child, to a mother who was 40. “It seems she may well have had a lonely childhood,” Mr Allen said. “The one thing we know was that having a piano near her was the one single thing that was most important in her life.” She moved to Windsor Court three years before her death, but when The Independent called at the block of six apartments yesterday, nobody there remembered her.

One of the residents, who did not want to be named, said they had heard that Ms Kurzman was suffering from mental illness and had killed herself. The block’s property management group, HML Hathaways, did not respond to a request for the records of when she lived there.

It took almost 10 years to settle Ms Kurzman’s will, due to “special circumstances” that her solicitors Clarke and Son declined to elaborate upon. The firm said it had little information about their client, as the partner who settled her affairs, a personal friend, had since died. Those who subsequently worked on the will did not know her personally. Ian Kershaw, wills, trusts and probate partner at the firm, said hers was “an unusual case”. The belief is that Ms Kurzman’s money was inherited.

Alan Davey, chief executive of Arts Council England, called the donation a “kind and generous gift” and added: “This legacy is a great example of how charitable legacies are the foundation for many good causes in the country.”

Mr Allen added: “It was a welcome surprise, apart from anything else.”

Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne with his Screen Actors Guild award for Best Actor

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rowan Atkinson is bringing out Mr Bean for Comic Relief

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment
V&A museum in London

Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'

Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle in ITV's 'Foyle's War'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt will be starring in Dominic Savage's new BBC drama The Secrets

Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project