The Music Treasury for 6 May 2018 – The Hungarian String Quartet

by | May 6, 2018 | Streams and Podcasts

The Hungarian String Quartet

For a significant portion of the 20th century, the Hungarian Quartet was a defining voice for string quartet literature.  In addition to the quartets of the classical and romantic periods, they were involved with the new music of the time, presenting the premier performance of Béla Bartók’s String Quartet No. 5.

The show, hosted by Dr Gary Lemco, can be heard in the Bay Area on radio station KZSU, as well throughout the Internet, at, Sunday 6 April 2018 from 19:00 to 21:00, PDT.

The show will feature works by Glazunov, Beethoven, Kodaly, and concludes with Schubert’s Death and the Maiden quartet.

History of the Hungarian String Quartet

The Hungarian String Quartet (founded 1935; disbanded 1972) was originally brought together with Sándor Végh (a pupil of Jenő Hubay and Zoltán Kodály at Budapest Academy) as the first violin, but achieved a balanced footing in 1937 when the virtuoso violinist Zoltán Székely (graduate of the same Academy, along with the Quartet’s violist, Dénes Koromzay (1913–2001) was recruited. At that point Sándor Végh moved to the second violin desk, and in 1940 he left to found the Végh Quartet. He was replaced by the Russian, Alexandre Moszkowsky. The Quartet had made its debut in 1935, and met with swift success. Székely was a friend of Béla Bartók’s, and the group became rapidly known by giving the Hungarian première performance of the Bartok Fifth Quartet, which it studied with the composer. By 1938, the group had been heard in every major city of Western Europe.

During the war they were trapped in the Netherlands, and devoted the period to the intensive study of the Beethoven quartets, which were subsequently launched upon the world in the brilliant career the group achieved after 1945. In 1950 they settled in the USA. In 1957, the newly configured Quartet performed in Boston for the Peabody Mason Concert series. In about 1956 the cello, and in about 1960, the second violin desk, were reassigned, and in this new form the Quartet continued to maintain its busy program of performances until 1972, while also undertaking teaching positions and coaching younger instrumentalists.

The 1966 issue recordings of the Beethoven cycle state that Székely plays the ‘Michelangelo’ Stradivarius (1718), Kuttner plays the ‘Santa Theresa’ Petrus Guarnerius (1704), Koromzay plays a 1766 viola by M. Decanet, and Magyar has a cello by Alessandro Gagliano of 1706.


Playlist for 6 May 2018:

Glazunov: Five Novellettes for String Quartet, Op. 15
Beethoven: String Quartet No. 9 in C Major, Op. 59, No. 3 “Rasumovsky”
Kodaly: String Quartet No. 2, Op. 10
Schubert: String Quartet No. 14 in D Minor, D. 810    “Death and the Maiden”

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