The Hungarian Quartet play Beethoven and Bartok | Testament SBT21461

The Hungarian Quartet play Beethoven and Bartok


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Label: Testament

Cat No: SBT21461

Barcode: 0749677146122

Format: CD

Number of Discs: 2

Genre: Chamber

Release Date: 4th January 2011



The title Hungarian Quartet was borne by two great Budapest string ensembles in the first three-quarters of the last century. The first, led by Imre Waldbauer, was formed in 1910 to play the chamber music of Béla Bartók, Zoltán Kodály and Leó Weiner – the trio of composers who, in addition to the slightly older Erno” Dohnányi, were to carry the flags of Hungarian music and musical education for several decades. The Hungarian Quartet toured within Europe and its members – who included the violinist János Temesváry and the cellist Jeno” Kerpely as well as several first-rate violists – were very influential. Sadly, no records were made of the ensemble.

In 1935 a New Hungarian Quartet was formed by violinists Sándor Végh and Peter Szervánsky, violist Dénes Koromzay and cellist Vilmos Palotai. Owing to clashes between the violinists, Szervánsky was soon replaced by László Halmos. The young men made a start on a classical repertoire but specialised in new music by the likes of the Pole Jerzy Fitelberg, the Englishman Alan Bush the Frenchman André Jolivet and the Swiss Wladimir Vogel, as well as young Hungarian composers from Kodály’s class such as Sándor Veress. One evening in 1935 Koromzay visited his old teacher Waldbauer with his friend the composer Pál Kadosa to play bridge. ‘When I entered his living room I saw that there on the piano lay a new Bartók manuscript,’ Koromzay reminisced to the cellist and writer Claude Kennison. It was the Fifth Quartet, which Waldbauer and his colleagues had to learn so as to give the first Hungarian performance. Koromzay asked to borrow the score for a few days and next morning appeared with it at his quartet’s rehearsal. Their composer friends Kadosa and Veress offered to copy the score and the quartet members wrote out their individual parts from this copy. Koromzay then returned the original to Waldbauer without comment. Having worked furiously on the piece for three or four weeks, the New Hungarian Quartet offered to play it for Bartók. He decided to coach them in it and after ten days, offered them the first Budapest performance. This piece of skulduggery set the young ensemble on their road to success, as the Fifth Quartet became their calling card and they gave the first Vienna performance on 18 February 1936. The New Hungarians also persuaded the ISCM to accept the Bartók work for the 1936 festival in Barcelona, a further stepping stone in their international career.

Extract from the booklet note © Tully Potter, 2010

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