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HOWARD SMITH tells the story of the
New Zealand String Quartet's well-kept Hungarian secret


Members of the New Zealand String Quartet have been quietly hiding a trump card up their four bow arms. And now they're revealing their secret to musical cognoscenti throughout the world.

For over a year the Kiwi group has held sole performing rights to the long-neglected 1937 quartet by musical luminary, Zoltán Székely, former leader of the Hungarian Quartet, confidant of Béla Bartók, and dedicatee of his epoch-making Violin Concerto No.2.

They plan to tour Székely's muscular, highly distinctive work throughout Europe and the USA in 2001; and they hope to have it available on CD, stamped with their unique imprimatur, before NZSQ rights expire in 2002.

If the Quartet does record this long-ignored composition the results seem bound to prove definitive. One reason stands out; the foursome premièred the substantial eight-movement, 30-minute work at Banff Centre for the Arts, Alberta, where Székely, now aged 97, has lived for three decades.

NZSQ cellist, Rolf Gjelsten and violinist Douglas Beilman formerly studied with Székely and subsequently Banff Centre summer music director Tom Rolston visited New Zealand to produce the NZSQ's Bartók cycle for CD (Manu-BMG 1998 1551/3).

When the long-forgotten quartet was complete, Székely entered it in the Coolidge Competition (1937). Then, miffed at his 'failure' he promptly withdrew the score from circulation. Soon the passionate, vigorously rhythmic work was 'history', and that year Székely was invited to lead the Hungarian String Quartet, while Sandor Vegh stepped into the second violin chair.

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Copyright © 1 March 2001 Howard Smith, Masterton, New Zealand






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