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By 1972 the Hungarians had acquired legendary status, and after world-wide
tours including three New Zealand concert tours, the much-travelled quartet
disbanded. Banff Centre summer music director, Tom Rolston invited Székely
to live at the centre as permanent artist in residence and the veteran accepted
In the mid 90s as biographer Claude Kenneson recalls it , 'I asked Zoltán
what one wish he still had in life. "To have my quartet played,"
the ageing pedagogue replied.' The century was nearing its end and Székely
had never heard his quartet performed in concert. As a result Rolston chose
the Kiwi group to give its world première.
In 1995 the NZSQ toured for Chamber Music New Zealand, performing the
six Bartók Quartets in five centres. At the same time the ever-innovative
Hamilton Chamber Music Society (founded 1948) engaged the NZSQ to perform
all six works during three sessions in a single day.
'To gain insights into these quartets we went to Székely, the
dedicatee of several Bartók works', says Gjelsten. 'He is perhaps
the greatest living authority on this remarkable composer.'
Small wonder when one considers that on March 23, 1939 Székely
gave the world première of the 2nd Concerto with the Concertgebouw
Orchestra under Willem Mengelberg and later the Hungarian Quartet became
incomparable advocates for Bartók's quartet cycle.
More recently, like the NZSQ, the modern Takacs and Eder quartets also
gathered in Banff when studying Bartók's works.
Copyright © 1 March 2001
Howard Smith, Masterton, New Zealand
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