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